Last week, a guerrilla war was under way in the well-kept streets of Santa Monica, CA.
Recently, Santa Monica has been at the forefront of the secularist war against the public commemoration of religious holidays. While normally portrayed as a “War on Christmas,” the campaign has also affected other holidays such as Hanukah. After years of displaying Christian and Jewish symbols on public property in the holiday season(s), the city has now succumbed to legal pressure from atheist and secularist groups. The familiar Nativity scenes are no more.
That is one story, and it’s a depressing one. More cheerful has been the response of the Jewish movement Chabad, who have demonstrated great ingenuity in displaying their menorahs on a hit and run basis. Although unattended permanent displays are not permitted, there seems to be nothing wrong with temporary ad hoc symbols. Politely and peacefully, Chabad’s guerrillas transport their menorahs in pickup trucks, set them up to light in various public places, while groups of supporters remain in attendance as long as needed.
Christians should also note these tactics for future years.
It’s a pleasure to see the menorahs, with all the effort and devotion that goes into making them available to public view. Apart from Hanukah’s intrinsic significance to Judaism, the feast also features at a deeply evocative moment in the Christian story. In John 10, we hear that “it was at Jerusalem the feast of the Dedication, and it was Winter. And Jesus walked in the Temple, in Solomon’s porch.” That Hanukah scene is the setting for some of Jesus’s most astonishing discourses.
For present purposes though, I leave the last word to Judaism, and we should recognize the clear and present danger posed by Chabad’s activities. They stand a real risk of spreading a blessing through the whole city, and if that happened, then where would we all be?