And God rolled His eyes
: There is a debate supposedly emerging — even raging — in this country:
One side says that religion is under attack in America.
Another side says America is under attack from religion.
I say both sides are trivializing faith and the First Amendment. And what would God say? I think He would roll His eyes.
There are too many places on this earth today where religion is most certainly under attack: start with China. There are many nations under attack from religion: start with Iran and Saudi Arabia. And, Lord knows, there are too many places where people are attacked because of their religion: try being a Jew or a Christian in the wrong place; try being the wrong flavor of Muslim in the other guy’s turf.
Here in America, we are fortunate enough to have a First Amendment that guarantees our freedom to worship — or not — without government interference, a guarantee millions around the world would die — yes, die — to enjoy. And yet we squander that fortune, that blessing, with silly, egotistical, show-off squabbles.
Here in America, some people think a fight over a creche in the town square is a fight over religion. No, it’s a fight for the sake of a fight. On the one hand, we do enforce separation of church and state — to guarantee freedom of religion from government — and so there is no divine right to put a creche in front of the city hall; I want to tell those folks, put it anywhere else. On the other hand, the bureacrats who stop it as if they are standing between America and jihad are being just as ridiculous; a creche or a Christmas tree next to a mennorah is harmless and is part of the diverse culture of America. Similarly, it’s right for a school to prohibit proselytizing but it’s silly to disallow an instrumental version of a Christmas ditty, as recently occurred in New Jersey. You want to slap both sides in these annual squabbles and just tell them to grow up and count their blessings.
Then there are those in the so-called Parents Television Council who argue that any joke that mentions God is an attack on religion. That’s just crap. Freedom of speech goes hand-in-hand with freedom of religion — that’s why they are both protected in the First Amendment — and there’s nothing with a joke about God. It’s not a sign of a war on God.
And then there are those who say that America has been taken over by a red-state religious jihad because the other side won the election and because a bogus made the insulting presumption that some of us don’t have moral values and because the afore-dismissed PTC manufactured complaints about pop culture the way Tootsie makes Rolls. The truth, as I proved, it that it is a phantom army of the few on the fringe.
I want to slap them all back to their senses. But I also want to slap the media who act as if all these alleged religious wars are real news, worthwhile stories, true trends. No, the truth is that once a year, we get the fake stories about wars over Christmas carols; whenever the PTC puts out another press release or the FCC another fine, we get the fake stories about religious outrage at indecency; whenever the right wins an election, we get the fake stories about the revolt of the religious conservatives. All these stories act as if America — you, me, and your neighbors — changed overnight into surburban Sunnis vs. Shiites.
There is no religous war in America. That ended more than two centuries ago. And now we enjoy the benefits of that struggle. We should be grateful for that and stop squandering it with squabbles.
: There is plenty of reading material on the topic from just the last few days:
: Here is The New York Times Week in Review asking whether Christmas needs to be saved:
But the demands to bring back Christmas are not simply part of an age-old culture war, with the A.C.L.U. in one corner and evangelicals in the other. There is also a more moderate force, asking whether the country has gone too far in its quest to be inclusive of all faiths. Why, they ask, must a Christmas tree become a holiday tree? And is singing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” in a school performance more offensive than singing “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel”? “It’s political correctness run amok,” said Lynn Mistretta, who with another mother in Scarborough, Me., started BringBackChristmas.org. “I’m not for offending anyone, but we’re excluding everyone, and everyone feels rotten about it.”
: Frank Rich in the same edition of The Times argues soberly that there is a more serious religous confrontation brewing:
As we close the books on 2004, and not a moment too soon, it’s clear that, as far as the culture goes, this year belonged to Mel Gibson’s mammoth hit. Its prurient and interminable wallow in the Crucifixion, to the point where Jesus’ actual teachings become mere passing footnotes to the sumptuously depicted mutilation of his flesh, is as representative of our time as “Godspell” was of terminal-stage hippiedom 30 years ago. The Gibson conflation of religion with violence reflects the universal order of the day