Denying the Obvious

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There really is a flat-earth society. It is headquartered in California, as you might suspect, and extols a remarkable interpretation of the Bible, which, according to the believers, mandates a belief in a flat earth.

The ancient Greeks knew that the earth wasn’t flat. I recall one of their proofs as especially persuasive: watch a ship sail towards the horizon. It will disappear from the hull up, with the tip of the mast being the last thing seen. It’s going "downhill," in other words. And, of course, no one has ever come to the edge of the earth, much less fallen off.

The flat-earth people are simply funny. Their ideas harm no one, no matter the vituperation they might heap upon "non-believers." They have not yet sought relief from government from those people who ridicule them; nor do they insist that the flat-earth idea be taught in school, as required by some law which they demand be enacted.

Some denials of the obvious, however, are not so humorous. There has been, for the last thirty years, a Parade of Lights in Denver at Christmastime. The local authorities have refused a parade permit to a Christian group that wants to put a float in the parade, with the message "Merry Christmas," and the sound of Christmas carols. "We want to avoid that specific religious message out of respect for other religions in the region," said one of those authorities. "It could be construed as disrespectful to other people who enjoy a parade each year." The parade will include, however at least one Santa Claus. (Hey, isn’t that Saint Nicholas, a fifth century Turkish Bishop? Gosh, I bet a lot of people would construe that as disrespectful if they knew it!) There will be a float from the Two Spirit Society, honoring gay and lesbian American Indians (both of them!) as well as Chinese performing the Lion Dance, meant to chase away evil spirits. But who could object to those, in a country where 85% of the population is said to be Christian? It’s a democracy, right? The majority rules — unless they’re celebrating Christmas.

We’ve read of stores that are forbidding their clerks from saying "Merry Christmas" to customers. Rather, "Happy Holidays" is the greeting, not of choice, but coercion. Public grounds may not display crèches, although, in some instances, Menorahs are OK. And, in a veritable frenzy of absurdity, the temporal designation AD (anno domini) is being replaced with CE (common [Christian!!!] era).

What is the obvious fact being denied? When the clerk wishes you a happy holiday, ask him, with a big smile, "What holiday? Do we just have generic holidays?" (Do those who regret our break with England in 1776 insist that the 4th of July be designated Summer Holiday?) The holiday we’re celebrating is the birth of Jesus Christ! That is the fact. Deny it until you’re blue in the face; that’s what the "happy holiday" is all about. A holiday is a secularized Holy Day. The day in question is Christ’s birth, whether you regard the day as holy or merely holi-!

OK, we’ll accept, for the sake of argument, that this isn’t 2004 AD, but 2004 CE. But when did the "common era" begin? What happened 2004 years ago to inaugurate it? Wiggle as you will, you acknowledge the birth of Christ every time you write 2004 CE!! You can sing about having a Sleigh Ride, or put candy canes and twinkle-lights up as decorations, but what are you celebrating? Why don’t you do it on April 7, or February 19 — both important dates!! No, the obvious fact is that Dec. 25 marks the birth of Christ, and you attempt to ignore it only at risk of appearing a fool or a bigot, whatever weasel-words you employ to attempt to disguise the fact of His birth!

Merry Christmas!

Dr. Hein [send him mail] is a retired ophthalmologist in St. Louis, and the author of All Work & No Pay.

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