Look what happens when I am out with Lizzy the Niece all day.So many comments and so little time!And yes, this is LONG LONG LONG...
Actually, it's interesting how polarizing the topic of whether you should say "Christmas
" or use some other generic holiday term is. It's also interesting that in all the comments that I got, there was only one about how wonderful the evening was. It seemed that in spite of how 100% wonderful the evening was, the thing that overshadowed the whole evening was my somewhat facetious and off the cuff remark about being able to say "Christmas" without looking over one's shoulder or feeling impolitic or afraid of offending someone. It's very interesting.
A little background for a little perspective.
I am Korean. Duh...
I was not raised in a Christian house.
And I would have to agree with Cher who pointed this out. I am Christian in that I believe in The Christ. I am sort of on the "fringe of Christian"
because I do not believe that Jesus is the only way to Salvation.
Having said that, I didn't know what "church"
was until I was in the 10th grade, and a friend of mine took me to her Episcopal Church so I could get a good look inside. I thought the building was beautiful and wanted a peek. The whole idea of G-d and what other people believed about G-d also made me curious since we didn't discuss G-d at home. Afterwards I went to church with her almost every weekend. After months of this, my father finally asked where I went every Sunday morning and when I simply said, "church,"
this very non-religious man just nodded and didn't say a word.
My second full exposure to religion was "religion as a way of life."
One of my best friends in college was a Jew. We were so close that I even joined her as a "Little Sister" at a predominantly Jewish fraternity. I have enjoyed Jewish weddings, and shared the Passover Meal and celebrated The Seder, even taking my turn reading from the Haggadah - English translated version, while everyone else read from it in Hebrew. I identified so much from the richness of that heritage that even today I spend "G-d" as "G-d" because who am I use his name with more familiarity than that?
I was raised by my father who embraced no religion outwardly. He was a product of a country awash in thousands of years of Confucianism and Buddhism. His parents were Confucian and when he was a young boy, the missionaries arrived from America. They converted his village and his parents, and tried to make him go to a Christian Church. I once asked him why we didn't go to church, he told me that story and finished by saying that he "hated sitting there on his knees for hours, praying to a god that he couldn't
'feel' just because someone told [him] that [he] should".
I think I was 10 years old. We never discussed it again.
My father was a very spiritual man, but I don't think that he realized that. In fact, I myself didn't realize it until I came home one winter break and we had a chance to sit on the couch, in front of a roaring fire in our over-the-top gigantical fireplace in the family room, sipping a fine malt whiskey (yes, I was an underage drinker and he condoned it and neither one of us cared), he sat playing Korean solitaire, and I sat jabbering on and on in my usual way. We took that opportunity to really really talk and listen and exchange ideas and philosophies. In fact, I don't think I had ever heard him talk so much before. It turned out that he and I, although we never knew, thought much alike. I mean, he did raise me, right? Go figure. The biggest surprise for me was that he
would be so surprised. The conversation focused on Soul, or Chi, and our souls, that we both thought also has a soul, and what G-d is and who He is and Everyman's search for G-d, and Truth and Hope and Love and what all of that means for all of us in this universe - and the next five universes that are out there - although a seventh one was found recently (this is a longer story).
And when he looked up, finally, and asked me how I knew all this... I just looked back and said... don't know... feels right
... and when I think of it my whole core just vibrates with
"something." And then when I told him that when I was two years old, I wanted to be a monk and to that day, I still held the belief that that was one of my rightful paths, he looked surprised, then thoughtful but didn't say a word.
I approach religion in an academic way. I know that religion is shaped by social, economic and political events during which that religion was born and continues throughout history. But the basic belief has a core that contains "G-d". I know what I believe and what is religion to me. My religion is shaped by what my personal studies have brought me to, regardless of how amateurish those efforts might be and even though I know that there are large gaps. And if I were to explain the whole spectrum of what I believe, some people will implode, others will think my soul needed saving, and more than a few might actually think I was crazy. But I suspect that a few people out there might agree with some of what I had to say - and I also think they would be from a full spectrum of different belief systems. I know it sounds like a paradox - academia and religion? But as my brother says, who is one of the smartest scientific people I know, "with all that I have done and with all that I have seen, how can I NOT believe that there is G-d?"
I believe that there is one G-d. And He doesn't care how we get to him. Whether it's through Islam, Hindu, Buddhism, Confucius, The Pope, Jesus, okay... going out on a limb here
... even though Joseph Smith. But regardless of how He would like us to find Him, I am interested in all the religions.
I have celebrated the richness of Hindu and with half my staff being Hindu, I have a whole wealth of information right outside my door!
I was always drawn to Buddhism and when I went to Korean a few years ago, I visited 100 temples. Okay. Slight exaggeration. But I visited a LOT and learned first hand what my heart longed for.
And sometimes, I go to Church at lunch - I am baptised and confirmed Episcopal - that "that heathen church" as a couple of my born again Christian friends call it. And as I sit there, in a pew - half way up, on the aisle in case of fire - I watch people come and go, some in prayer, some to warmup or cool down depending on the season and think about the lives that G-d looks after. Then I look up at the alter and I see G-d. I smile at Him, and He smiles back at me, and I know that regardless of everything that is cold and sad and unseemly outside, there is Rightness, Goodness, and Hope, and that all is well with the world.
So, I guess this is a long way to saying, there is nothing wrong with Christmas. I want to wish people Merry Christmas. I want the freedom to wish people Happy Ramadan, or Happy Kwanzaa, or Happy Diwali, or Happy Hannakuh. I don't think there is anything wrong with that. I believe that all people should learn about various religions and beliefs. It is a way to gain knowledge. And Knowledge gains Wisdom, and with Wisdom, all prejudice disappears. Yes, I am an optimist.
Oh, and I believe it's a Christmas Tree, not a Holiday Tree. Just like the Dreidl is associated with Hannakuh, the Christmas Tree is associated with Christmas. And it's not a religious symbol, it's secular - well... if you are Mormon, you would consider it to be "pagan."
Regardless, I think that someone mentioned the "in your face nature"
of Christmas. I blame that on commercialism. When I was younger, I remember going into tastefully decorated stores, and decorations didn't go up until December. Now they are going up before Thanksgiving and I am just waiting for the day when they go up the week after Independence Day. It's getting to be ridiculous. So I can see where the irritation might stem from. And someone was right. I only hear about these issues on the news. So, let's see. They are spread by the media because it seems negativity is news. So glad I got out of journalism when I did - even though my journalism degree is from one of the best journalism schools in the country. Sigh...
I guess what I am really trying to say is that instead of trying to "vanilla-ize", genericize, ignore in the name of atheism, what is a very important holiday in one of the major religions around the world, we should understand and celebrate the richness. We should help each other celebrate the richness of all the religions that we all believe in. And if it's the "in your face
" commercialism (which I am also sick and tired of), that is at the root of all evils, then let's just eradicate that - no idea how so don't ask. And let's embrace knowledge, and gain wisdom so that we can all be "free" before G-d.
So, I say to all the people out there whether they agree or disagree with me - Peace. Peace to you and the world in this season of Holy Days - whether it is is Christian or Jewish or Hindu or any other religion I don't know about yet. May you gain knowledge and discover wisdom in the process. But most of all, may you find Peace.