How Greetings Spawn Humbugs

Living outside the United States, I avoid being immersed in some of the silly, manufactured controversies that whip people into a talk radio-fueled frenzy. One of the big ones this time of year is the unbelievable anxiety some people get in over people saying “happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”.

Just the other day, a former schoolmate on Facebook posted how, with Hanukkah falling in November this year, there was no excuse for anyone not to say “Merry Christmas” because there are no other holidays.

“New Year’s is no longer a holiday?” I helpfully replied.


There are many Christians who feel that their religion is under attack. I can understand why they might feel that way, although considering that Christianity continues to be a growing religion worldwide, I’m not sure the threat is real. But when someone wishes you a “happy holiday,” feeling in any way insulted or under attack seems to be a very un-Christian response. Let’s turn to the Bible to understand why.

First, the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” When someone says “happy holidays” or “season’s greetings” to you, they are conveying a charitable wish, one offered with no malice. In fact, they are potentially being considerate by respecting the fact that you may not be Christian. (Not always easy to tell from outward appearances alone.) Back to the Golden Rule: you would probably want people to be warm, charitable, and respectful towards you and that’s precisely the motivation of someone who wishes you a secular seasonal greeting.

Second, Jesus admonished us to “turn the other cheek.” A secular seasonal greeting is rarely intended as an insult and certainly never causes any true injury. Follow Jesus’ teaching and move on. There are much worse insults than being given warm holiday wishes by someone. Jesus died for your sins, not because someone wished him “season’s greetings”.

Third, Jesus teaches us to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” This is considered one of the two greatest commandments, the other being to love God with all your heart. This teaching is about giving even when you are not receiving, about loving even when you are not loved. If someone wishes you a greeting that does not reflect your faith, surely your response should be a reflection of your faith. For a Christian, that means a response that is loving and giving, not one that is angry and spiteful.

Whatever your faith, the end of the year (especially in the wintry northern hemisphere) is a special time. May it find you healthy, happy, and surrounded by loved ones, regardless of your faith.


Religious Intolerance

Remember the pistachio pudding entry a week or two ago?  It was the one about how I bought powdered pudding mixes for some Christian missionary friends up in Chiang Mai.  After cross-posting that entry on facebook, one friend took a thinly-veiled swipe at organized religion, making a potentially hurtful comment on my profile page that could also be read by the missionary friends.  This bothered me.

After a conversation with the friend who made the anti-religion remarks, he apologized for any offense and asked me to remove the comments, which I did.  But I was left pondering his remarks in a broader context and wanted to put those thoughts down on paper, as it were.

Prophet Palin

There are many people who have suffered discrimination and persecution at the hands of organized religion.  As a gay man who continues to struggle for my right to be married to the person of my choice, I fully understand that there are people whose faith is pitted against my rights.

There are also many people who think that all organized religion, regardless of faith, is a sham.  Books such as Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” lay out a comprehensive argument why belief in a god is irrational and is bad for mankind.  Being a rational person, I fully appreciate the points people who argue against religion make.

There are also many people who have deep faith in one religion or another, people who are my friends, family members, and loved ones, whom I know to be good people who give deeply and generously of themselves, their talents, and their time, people who are not predisposed to impose their beliefs upon others, and who have been great supporters of Tawn and me and our struggle to have the same rights as any members of society.

There are many people who have a deep mistrust of people of faith whose faiths are different from, but as equally deep as, their own.  Hateful, ignorant comments fly from the mouths and the fingertips of Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, and Buddhists about members of other faiths.  Witness the recent fuss over the building of a mosque in close proximity to the former World Trade Center in New York City.

I am a person who was raised in a family of faith and who struggled with the contradictions between the teachings of that faith, the teachers of that faith, and my own position in the order of things.  I am a person who many years ago arrived at a comfortable answer to these contradictions, an answer I do not choose to share here on Xanga because I think it is a personal answer.  Most importantly, I am a person who believes deeply in the freedom both of speech and of religion.  So I find myself in a middle ground that I feel gives me the perspective and the right to say the following:

We need to rein in the religious intolerance. 

Regardless of your beliefs, whether they be for a particular religion or virulently against all religion, there is nothing to be gained and no benefit to berating another person for his or her beliefs or lack of belief.  Bashing others over the head will not win them over to your side of the argument.  It won’t even make them stop to reconsider their own side of the argument.  All it does is increase the level of hostility, vehemence, and distrust.

I encourage people to have serious, thoughtful discussions about ideas of importance.  Questioning one’s faith is a powerful way to make it stronger and is also a powerful way to come to new realizations about its failings.  Questioning others’ faith can be done in a way to both educates ourselves and creates shared connections with people of different ideas and backgrounds.  But I don’t see any point to blatant and often ignorant religious intolerance, except to further your own anger.

There, I’ve said my peace.  Back to writing about food.


“I am a Muslim”

Zakiah I think a number of you read Zakiah’s (ZSA_MD) blog, but if you don’t, I’d encourage you to stop by.  Not only does she write beautiful poetry and share stories of her fascinating childhood in India, she speaks eloquently about her beliefs as a Muslim. 

Most of my Muslim friends are not very devout, so I rarely get to hear them talk about their beliefs and how their beliefs measure up against the way they are represented in the western media.

Recently, Zakiah gave a speech in the community where she spent her career as a doctor, and in it she talks about the misconceptions surrounding Islam and, particularly, the term “jihad”.

I encourage you to stop by and read excerpts of that speech which is included in her entry here.