A few days ago, I was having an interesting conversation with a small group of people at a holiday cocktail reception. From the conversation, I gathered that one person was Catholic, and I imagine he noticed that I was Jewish. As we parted, I turned to him and (in a politically incorrect way) said, “Have a merry Christmas and a good holiday season.” He immediately replied, “Thank you and a happy Hanukah to you.”
We both felt good about expressing our wishes for the holidays in a way that respects the faiths we both follow. It was not surprising that after this short exchange, there was no thunder from heaven, and the earth did not stand still. None of the others present in our small group felt threatened in the slightest. After all, most intelligent people understood that hearing a prayer or the mention of a religious celebration is not a cause for concern. In fact, it’s a sign of maturity in a nation where our founding fathers made sure to include “freedom of religion” in the Bill of Rights.
All this is a preface for my own rejection of all the lawsuits we see that condemn any practice of religious belief in public spaces. If a football player kneels in the end zone after scoring a touchdown, how can that be bad? If a coach wants to inspire his players with a pregame prayer, what damage can that cause?
Today, there are fanatics around the world who use force to compel “non-believers” to convert to their faith. But every major religion — including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism — condemns violence in the strongest possible terms. Instead, they echo the Golden Rule or ethic of reciprocity that is a moral maxim or principle of altruism found in nearly every human culture and religion, “Do not impose on others what you do not wish for yourself.”
So, let’s go back to the fundamentals and cultivate a spirit of tolerance and acceptance of our religious and cultural diversity.
So, to all of you:
And I have special message for those who do not celebrate (or believe in these types of celebrations): Give thanks to those that do believe for your annual holiday vacation!