A Thing Called Politeness

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I do not understand this “war against Christmas” nonsense. Nor do I understand the claim that somehow American society is “anti-Christian.” I don’t see it. I guess that might be true if your idea of Christianity is somehow tribal, or that you believe God and Caesar need to constantly validate one another, or you believe in Christendom and have the expectation that you should live in a “Christian society,” whatever that is.

We no longer live in Christendom. That is not a bad thing, it is a good thing. It allows those of us who truly believe in the Gospel and a calling to live the Gospel to disentangle it from social rules, expectations, coersion as well as social and political authority. Besides, this “war against Christmas” nonsense is all about Conservatives keeping their popular base motivated and resentful. Because resentment is all Conservatives have, and have ever really had.

Another point re “Happy Holidays” versus “Merry Christmas.” There is something called manners or politeness — being kind and thoughtful — which are very important and easy to acquire and cultivate, especially in a society where social relationships are not easily discernable by appearance. I do not know who shares my faith when I meet them, and I don’t much care. I know I am not entitled to expect that everyone in the world will cater to me. Why offend people needlessly, especially when the real significant Christian occasion is not the birth of Christ, but rather his crucifixion and ressurection? Why care about what trees are called or what cards or even stores say? Why on earth does any of it matter?

When I was in Saudi Arabia two years ago, religious authorities in the eastern city of Dahran issued a fatwa forbidding all Muslims from giving good tidings to non-Muslims celebrating religious holidays. Or forbidding merchants from selling items intended to be given as gifts or used in religious ceremonies or even offering such items at a discount. You could shake your head at that, and say “what an awful thing.” But remember — the ulema would not have issued such a decree had it not been happening. People were being kind to each other, Muslims were being nice to their neighbors, Muslim merchants were taking a small risk, when they didn’t have to.

It is a sign, small but very gladdening, that mercy and kindness can triumph over law and ideology.

9:55 am on December 9, 2005