Steve's Soapbox

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

" Screwge ": Falwell, Donohue & O'Reilly ! Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas !

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...or else!

By Frank James and Jason George
Tribune staff reporters
Published November 29, 2005, 9:50 PM CST

Fair warning to any public official who renames a Christmas tree a "holiday tree": You may get a call from one of hundreds of lawyers lined up by Christian legal groups to defend Christmas against those they say are bent on purging it from the holiday season.
Two groups, Liberty Counsel, affiliated with Rev. Jerry Falwell, and the Alliance Defense Fund, say they have almost 1,600 lawyer-volunteers between them ready to battle what some conservative Christians view as a secular movement against nativity scenes, Christmas trees and even the greeting "Merry Christmas."
Started three years ago, this year's campaign will be the group's largest effort yet. But the lawyers may have their work cut out for them, if interviews with Chicagoans on Tuesday are any indication. According to them, public use of the phrase "Merry Christmas" is already going the way of the one-horse open sleigh.
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    CHRISTMAS UNDER ATTACK: A MANUFACTURED CRISIS

    Ah it's that festive time of the year again. Time to deck the halls with boughs of holly, put up the ol' Christmas Tree, and use all of that to score political points with your Christian Reich base. This has been pretty much ignored because of how stupid it is, but someone has to say it, now that the usual suspects are singing that ol' Christmas refrain about how they are not allowed to celebrate Christmas - it's a phony concern. This year its them bullying Wal-Mart into saying "Merry Christmas" in their displays instead of "Happy Holidays" in respect to those customers who don't celebrate Christmas. That's an easy one for them, this being Wal-Mart and all, and the other ones either have been doing mentioning Christmas for decades anyway or don't care what neo-cons are trying to pull. In the end, all of this is all about how much of your holiday dollars Jerry Falwell and William Donohue can get out of those that are scared the anti-Christmas left are getting ready to oppress them. More and more, it is getting to be so that no matter what happens any given year, this routine becomes the stupidest one we have to deal for the entire year - and the Terri Schaivo case happened this time round! Well, we just remind people to do what you normally do with fruitcakes this holiday season.
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    Note from Steve: Just finished reading an HEB flyers from the Abilene Reporter News (11.30.05) entitled "Happy Holidays" which includes descriptions of Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year, Three Kings Day, Las Posadas, Kwanzaa & Chinese New Year. I Guess Diversity of Celebrations is threatening to some folks in Brownwood ( listen to KXYL ) ! H.E.B. walking the walk .............
    H-E-B offers free community meal Tuesday at Abilene Civic Center
    December 5, 2005
    H-E-B, which has a grocery store at South 14th and Barrow streets in Abilene, brings its first Feast of Sharing community meal to the Abilene Civic Center, 1100 N. 6th St., from 3 to 7 p.m. Tuesday. Hundreds of volunteers are expected to serve more than 7,000 people.
    H-E-B says the Feast of Sharing Holiday Dinner is to bring the community together for a free meal. The event began in 1989 in Laredo and Corpus Christi, and has spread to 25 cities in Texas and five in Mexico this year.
    H-E-B donates most of the food, and any food left over will be donated to the Food Bank of West Central Texas.
    Jody Houston, the Food Bank's executive director, said H-E-B routinely provides significant donations of food.
    Other highlights are a children's area, Santa Claus, live music and social service booths.
    - Reporter-News staff report
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    Bill's "Corn Pone" is stale !
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    Posted on Sun, Dec. 04, 2005
    STAR-TELEGRAM/JIM ATHERTON
    Killing Christmas
    Believers have an annual opportunity to bestow a profound blessing upon society. But some seem more interested in calling down fire from heaven.
    By ED CHINN
    Special to the Star-Telegram

    As a Christian, I naturally see Christmas as more than a cultural tradition. It is also (or should be) the year's clearest display window for presenting that grand story of the long-ago O Holy Night.
    And what is that story? God stooped down to enter and live on the Earth. That "stooping down" is what we call the Incarnation -- God became one of us. Luke gives a revealing little vignette of what God-with-us must have looked like:
    As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out -- the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her.
    When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he . . . touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, "Young man, I say to you, get up!" The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
    They were all filled with awe and praised God. "A great prophet has appeared among us," they said. "God has come to help his people."
    -- Luke 7:12-16
    Think of it: People watched as God felt -- and then acted on -- compassion for an "Earthling." They saw him raise her son from the dead and then give the boy back to her. (He didn't try to recruit or exploit him for his "movement.") That did it -- they reached a conclusion that was both logical and astonishing: "God has come to help his people."
    Sadly, that story -- "God has come to help his people" -- has almost disappeared from Christmas. It has been replaced by torrential capitalism, unmerciful stress and (worst of all) an irrational, seething anger from Christians toward the very people God came to help.
    So it seems that every holiday season now carries another angry blast from prominent Christians. This year we have two (so far).
    The reliably nutty Pat Robertson recently told the people of Dover, Penn., that God is so angry about their recent school board vote that they can just forget about his mercy. Short version: "Go to hell."
    And Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, sniffed some anti-Christmas attitudes from Wal-Mart. He went a little berserk, demanding an "apology for insulting Christians" and calling a Wal-Mart statement "flatulent." He also asked 126 religious organizations to boycott the retailer. His news release went on to taunt Wal-Mart with: "Don't forget, we have the next six weeks to pull out all the stops, and we will."
    Wouldn't it seem reasonable for Christian leaders to consult the Bible in order to form responses to perceived insults? Had they done so, they might have discovered classic Christian disciplines and graces.
    For example, Jesus said, "Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me . . . Rejoice, and be glad." (Matthew 5:11-12)
    And, the apostle Paul wrote, "When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly." (1 Corinthians 4:12-13)
    Clearly, Robertson and Donohue did not rejoice, bless, endure or answer kindly.
    I find it incredible that many Christian leaders are essentially saying that the Bible, our "constitution," is irrelevant and not to be consulted on these matters. They are taking the same position toward the Bible that they often accuse liberals of taking toward the U.S. Constitution.
    Forget original intent. We cannot possibly know what Jesus and the other framers of our faith would do in these modern times. Therefore, the Bible ends up saying what we want it to say.
    Christians have an annual opportunity to bestow a profound blessing upon our society. Especially at this time of year, in the midst of so much pain, conflict and poverty, we Christians could display healing graces that come from another world.
    But some of us shoot right on past the heavenly attributes of love, blessing and kindness in our mad dash toward more modern tactics -- boycotts, marches, talk-show shouting matches, trading insults, etc. Many Christians now see themselves as merely another special-interest group, fighting for space on the airwaves, at funding troughs and at White House briefings.
    This is part of what is killing Christmas. Some things are too deep, too profound, too mysterious to talk about. In a very real sense, they are beyond language. That's why some Christmas carols seem aglow with holy and awesome silence.
    The woman at the heart of the Christmas story -- Mary, the mother of Jesus -- understood the silent interior rhythms of spiritual life. After glimpsing the spectacular majesties of that incredible "O holy night . . . of our Dear Savior's birth," she did not take to the streets to demand respect for Jesus; she didn't "engage the culture." She simply "kept and pondered these things in her heart" (Luke 2:19).
    Sadly, the quiet, meditative life is out of favor these days. Even President Bush, a follower of Jesus, often turns to the louder and more divisive Christian voices for counsel. (Yes, I am concerned about the effect of angry and reactionary Christians on our public policy.)
    I would like to read of him hosting a quiet dinner in the White House for the more insightful and contemplative "deep rivers" of spiritual leadership. I'd love to see a renaissance of "ponderers" such as Mary.
    Call me sentimental, but I hope I live to see another "silent night, holy night [where] all is calm, all is bright." Think of it: a post-marketing, stress-free, heart-deep Christmas. Kindness to strangers, generosity to the poor, good will toward the earth.
    To that end, it might be helpful if Christian leaders would go home to their families, read their Bibles and try to silently lay hold the exquisite truth of the Christmas story.
    As for me, I'm going to Wal-Mart. It's certainly the time, and that's probably the place to spread some old fashioned Christmas cheer.
    Ed Chinn is a consultant who lives in Fort Worth.
    Ed Chinn is a free-lance writer. ed@edchinn.com
    source : Fort Worth Star Telegram http://www.dfw.com/mld/dfw/news/opinion/13319306.htm
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    Abilene Reporter News Letter to the Editor

    Let us remember freedom of religion
    December 6, 2005

    Ms. Elam's argument, if we are to read it closely, is that businesses should be allowed to say ''Merry Christmas'' instead of ''Happy Holidays.'' She says that this is offensive to her and compares it to ''people dressed in gothic clothing'' and those who ''listen to music that is loud ...'' These are invalid argumentative points and have nothing to do with the purpose of why businesses are thoughtful enough to say ''Happy Holidays'' instead of ''Merry Christmas.''
    When I was growing up in Staten Island, N.Y., I went to school with kids who were Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, Buddhist, a few who were Islamic and some who belonged to no faith group at all. I learned a lot about Hanukkah, Advent, Bodhi Day and a few others.
    Ms. Elam speaks of freedom of religion. She apparently believes that freedom of religion pertains only to the Christian faith. While I, myself, am a Christian, I believe that it is more appropriate and more in accordance with the freedom that we have as Americans to celebrate our religious holidays in December with an inclusive greeting such as ''Happy Holidays.'' This way anyone celebrating a holiday in December may partake in the festive season.

    Happy Holidays to all, especially you, Ms. Elam!

    Susan Wright
    Abilene
    source: http://www.reporter-news.com/abil/op_letters_editor/article/0,1874,ABIL_7984_4291834,00.html
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    Pick a holiday
    November 30, 2005

    I would like to extend my greetings to you and your readers. I pray that I do not ''offend'' anyone. I have been told by many businesses that they are not allowed to say ''Merry Christmas'' they are to say ''happy holidays'' instead for fear that they will offend someone that does not celebrate the day our Lord was born. What about those of us that are offended by the people dressed in gothic clothing, or listen to music that is loud and that contain words that are offensive. What happened to our constitutional right of freedom of religion? Wasn't our country founded on the faith of God? Doesn't the currency that we all use say ''In God We Trust''? I do realize that there are people of another faith that celebrate their own holiday. That's what's great about our country. We should be allowed to celebrate as our faith allows us to and not be ashamed to say Merry Christmas or happy Hanukkah as the case may be. May god bless us all regardless how we celebrate.

    Merry Christmas
    Charline Elam
    Abilene
    source: http://www.reporter-news.com/abil/op_letters_editor/article/0,1874,ABIL_7984_4276232,00.html