Thursday, December 20, 2012

Holiday Trees?

A Facebook friend posted a chain-letter-type status that was partly written by Ben Stein and partly written by some anonymous contributor who added his/her two cents to a forwarded email (though the post claims that Stein wrote it all).  I wanted so badly to hash out my problems with the post (there is faulty logic, generalizations and assumptions, troubling religious ideas, etc.) but I didn't want to start an argument with a friend on Facebook.  So, I'm posting my response here.

 Note: the original post is italicized, what I actually posted as a comment is bold, and the regular text is what I would have posted had I not cared about starting a fight.

Apparently the White House referred to Christmas Trees as “Holiday Trees” for the first time this year (not true) which prompted CBS presenter, Ben Stein, to present this piece which I would like to share with you. I think it applies just as much to m
any countries as it does to America . . .

The following was written by Ben Stein and recited by him on CBS Sunday Morning Commentary.

My confession:

I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejewelled trees, Christmas trees. I don't feel threatened. I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are, Christmas trees.

It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, “Merry Christmas” to me. I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu. If people want a crib, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians.
Sometimes Christians are legitimately pushed around, put I think most of the time when people complain about being "pushed around," it really means that their religious philosophy isn't being treated as the exclusive truth (that everyone must accept) and the official religion of America.   I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from, that America is an explicitly atheist country. It's not an atheist country.  But it's not a Christian country either.  It is a religiously neutral country, or at least the Constitution says it should be ("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion...").I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it being shoved down my throat.

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship celebrities and we aren't allowed to worship God?
No one (whom I agree with) says you can't worship God.  Anyone is allowed to worship the god of his or her choice.  The problem is that you don't get to force everyone to worship the same god that you do.  I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where these celebrities came from and where the America we knew went to.

In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different: This is not intended to be a joke; it's not funny, it's intended to get you thinking.

Billy Graham's daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her: “How could God let something like this happen?” (regarding Hurricane Katrina). Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response. She said: “I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out.
This is absolutely horrendous and ridiculous.  That is not a gentlemanly move.  God in His infinite wisdom would know that it would not benefit anyone to do that.  How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?”  Who is this "we" she's referring to?  Did everyone who suffered from Katrina personally ask God to back off?  No.  It doesn't make sense.  Innocent people would be punished for others' mistakes.  Everyone I've seen post this is Mormon, and one of the Articles of Faith states that "men shall be punished for their own sins".

In light of recent events... terrorists attack, school shootings, etc. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found a few years ago) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we said OK.   
  Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school. As far as I can tell from what I've read, the problem isn't that people pray in schools—anyone can privately pray to whomever they want.  What people fight against is having school-sponsored, official Bible study and prayer.  It would be exclusionary to those who practiced a different or no religion.  Religious clubs and groups are allowed on campuses and they can pray and read the Bible.  The Bible says thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbour as yourself. And we said OK.  1. That's not all the Bible says.  There's a lot about war, misogyny, and God-sanctioned murder too.  2. The Bible isn't the only text that says not to kill and to love your neighbor as yourself.  You don't need to believe in the Bible to believe in those two ideas.

Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave, because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem the author actually criticizing abstaining from using physical violence against children???  How does that even fit in with the rest of this?  And how is spanking explicitly related to religion???  (Dr. Spock's son committed suicide FALSE). We said an expert should know what he's talking about. And we said okay.

Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.  
All children have no conscience?  And all children who have gone on shooting sprees were raised by people who said there should be no prayer in schools?  Because no Christian has ever been a murderer.

Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with 'WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.'

Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world's going to hell.   Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says.
This part makes it so obvious that this is supposed to be a chain letter passed by email: Funny how you can send 'jokes' through e-mail and they spread like wildfire, but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing.  Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.

Are you laughing yet?

Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you're not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it.

Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us.

Pass it on if you think it has merit.

If not, then just discard it.... no one will know you did. But if you discard this thought process, don't sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in.

My Best Regards, Honestly and respectfully,

Ben Stein

Ben Stein only wrote part of this, just so's you know.  And some of the "facts" presented (like the White House calling them "holiday trees" and Dr. Spock's son committing suicide) are false (plus I think there is some reasoning that is faulty).

It seems to me that a lot of it (mainly the parts that Stein didn't write) contain unfair assumptions and generalizations (e.g. not reading the Bible in schools means not teaching about the immorality of murder and the importance of loving others and is the cause of increased violence).  Insisting that kids not participate in a certain religion in schools is not the same thing as turning your back on God—it simply means that you don't want one set of beliefs held as superior to others or to coerce children into believing in a certain religion. 

I find the part about God allowing Katrina to happen because he listened when people "told him to back off" troubling; it suggests that God would have prevented the hurricane if only more people praised him in public, which means that, by allowing the hurricane to happen (for the reason she suggests), he is punishing innocent people for the mistakes of others.  It also makes God sound arrogant and prideful because he will punish people for not praising and respecting him.  I don't think that backing away would be the "gentlemanly" move—it sounds more childish to me (it sounds like he's saying, "You don't want me?  Huh??  Huh??  Well, see how you like it when I just leave!  That'll show you!"

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