This is a guest post by Luis Granados. Granados is the director of Humanist Press.
Last week was a banner one for “War on Christmas” books. First we had Sarah Palin’s Good Tidings and Great Joy, emphatically on the “put Christ back in politician-run Christmas” side. Then came John G. Rodwan Jr.’s Holidays and Other Disasters, a wistful plea for a world where Christmas and other holidays are not rammed down people’s throats. (Disclosure: Rodwan’s book was published by Humanist Press, for which I serve as director.)
Rodwan complains at length about God experts co-opting holidays, even those as non-religious as Labor Day. If he’d been able to read Palin’s book first, though, he surely would have had something insightful to say about has-been politicians trying to resurrect their own careers by forcing their religious beliefs on the rest of us.
Palin and Rodwan agree on one point, however. Neither has any use for what Palin bashes as the “secular winter holiday” version of Christmas, and what Rodwan considers as a fake veneer over an irredeemably religious event. The part of Christmas, in other words, than many people (maybe even most people?) actually like.
The difference, though, is that Rodwan doesn’t really care whether some of us enjoy a Bible-free “Jingle Bells” and eggnog gift exchange or not — but Palin does. “If I’m for Christmas,” she tells us, “it’s only because I’m for Christ… it is Christ who empowers every act of ‘goodwill toward men’ in our otherwise fallen hearts.” “Without faith,” she adds later, “I doubt we’d have the love in our hearts that compels one to give, to volunteer, to be kind and loving to our neighbors, and to aspire to live the Golden Rule.”
What an extraordinary insult — aimed straight at me! I give. I volunteer. I’m kind to neighbors. I follow the Golden Rule as well as anyone I know. Who the hell is Sarah Palin to say otherwise?
Palin quotes her Fox News boss, Roger Ailes: “What the h-ll is so offensive about putting up a plastic Jewish family on my lawn at Christmastime?” The answer, of course, is “Nothing at all. Just don’t put it up on my lawn — or our lawn, a.k.a. the public park, for which I pay the maintenance.” Palin blithely ignores the whole distinction between private religious expression, which is perfectly OK, and government religious expression, which some of us believe is not.
In Palin’s world, though, the brave handful who doggedly resist the efforts of politicians to promote their own god version using non-believers’ tax money are “Scrooges.” Here’s my ultimate contrarian view: Ebenezer Scrooge was a guy who worked hard, who resisted being harassed by politically correct God experts, who thought back over his life one night and then performed a spontaneous act of one-on-one compassion toward Tiny Tim, not filtered through a God expert bureaucracy that keeps 30 percent for “expenses” while aggrandizing its own political power.
Scrooge committed the sin of thinking for himself. So does Rodwan, when he objects to “the willingness to do, in some form or another, what others have always done because of foundationless teachings that that is what we’re all supposed to do.” He’s not against holidays — he’s against mindlessness. Take Thanksgiving. Instead of a day of being “thankful” — to whom? — Rodwan proposes reviving “Evacuation Day” (November 25), the day the last British troops pulled out of their former American colonies. The end of divine right monarchy, and the beginning of humans governing themselves. A little more sensible to celebrate than imaginary Puritans and imaginary Indians thanking an imaginary spirit, isn’t it?
One Scrooge is worth a hundred whiny politicians. So is one John Rodwan, marching to the beat of his own quirky drum.