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Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

It’s that time of year again.

Peace on Earth and good will toward all?

Unfortunately, no, not for everyone.  For some conspiracy-minded conservative Christians, both pious and merely political, it’s time to resurrect the dead horse they refer to as “The War on Christmas”.

In the last few days on Facebook, I’ve seen a particular meme repeatedly that expresses the sentiment:  “It’s not Happy Holidays, It’s Merry Christmas!!!!!”   Such posts are accompanied by typical comments expressing the view that to give the greeting “Happy Holidays” or its cousin “Season’s Greetings” is to somehow take Christ out of Christmas and to persecute Christians who wish to celebrate Christmas.  They assert that Jesus’ birthday is the (sole) reason for the season.  They also take great umbrage at anyone who dares to refer to a Christmas tree as a “holiday tree”.  Some relate anecdotes of how they loudly proclaimed the sentiment in the meme above to unsuspecting cashiers in stores who had the effrontery to wish them Happy Holidays.  One, presumably young, woman expressed this sentiment, “” I don’t live my life to please others and if I offend you then oh well. ”

Seriously?  Is this what they think the season is all about; arguing about word choice when wishing someone the joy of the season?  Do they think that such a childish and peevish attitude accurately reflects the Jesus Christ they claim to champion? Don’t they know that such an attitude totally defeats the purpose of giving such a greeting, which is meant to wish joy and goodwill to the recipient?  Do they think anyone will want to become a Christian after being berated in such a petty manner?

“Love thy neighbor”, indeed.  Pardon me for a moment while I roll my eyes.

Some young and not so young people apparently have the mistaken impression that the terms Happy Holidays and Seasons’ Greetings were recently invented within the last ten years just to annoy Christians, which couldn’t be further from the truth. These greetings have existed all during my 54 years on the planet  and existed well before I was born.

These terms simply acknowledge that there is more than one holiday at this time of year and they were meant to cover them all.   When I was a kid in the 6os, “Happy Holidays” and “Season’s Greetings” were commonly used as a catch-all term to give wishes for both Christmas and New Year’s Day together and were often seen on greeting cards.  In public situations with strangers or those one did not know well, it was a handy way to wish the goodwill of the season when one didn’t know which religious holidays an individual might celebrate, if any.   Among family, friends, and those whom one knew reasonably well, one said Merry/Happy Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Solstice, or whatever applied and, again, no one got offended if they got the “wrong” greeting.

For those who think “Happy Holidays” is a bit of  “political correctness”, let me point out that no one was politically correct in the mid 60s or before.  Back then, it was simply known as “good manners” and “common courtesy”.

No nefarious purposes were intended, and no one at all was offended by such greetings, even conservative Christians.  People graciously accepted such wishes of goodwill in the spirit they were intended.

To those who assert that the season has “always” been about Christmas and that the birth of Jesus is the sole reason for the season, most Christian scholars agree that Jesus was not born on December 25th, but rather in the spring or summer.  Pagans had long celebrated the winter solstice at this time in December, so early church leaders picked this time to celebrate the birth of Christ and  re-purposed the Pagan celebration by appropriating several Pagan traditions along the way, hoping it would make it easier to convert Pagans to Christianity.  Decorated evergreen trees, holly, mistletoe, Yule logs, giving and receiving holiday gifts, the dinner feast, are all borrowed from Pagans. The original “reason for the season”, then,  was the Earth’s axial tilt; the solstice.
It’s also interesting to note that Puritans in Colonial America even banned the celebration of Christmas from 1659 to 1681, well cognizant of the Pagan roots of many Christmas traditions.

Personally, I don’t care which greeting anyone uses with me, as long as it’s sincere and meant to wish me goodwill.  I’m just happy that someone took the time to give me the good wishes of the season.   This time of year isn’t just about me; it’s about everyone.

There are real problems in this world. Whether a person says Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays isn’t one of them — it’s a petty, first world “problem”. There are people in this world who don’t have enough to eat, a home to live in, and are dying of curable diseases. People need to take a moment and think about what really matters.  A little bit of tolerance and goodwill goes a long way this time of year.

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I recommend this excellent blog post written by a Christian in response to those Christians who are offended by the use of “Happy Holidays”:  Happy Holidays and Other Four Letter Words.

 

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Rush Limbaugh’s recent example of foot-in-mouth disease, where he referred to Sandra Fluke as a “slut”, is a classic example of the Madonna/Whore complex.   This is probably one of the most schizophrenic types of sexism, in my view, because men who display this attitude are ultimately screwing themselves.

It would be safe to say that nearly all heterosexual men enjoy having frequent sex with women.  Yet, through religion and other means, they have stigmatized women who are as eager as they and who approach sexual matters in the same fashion as most men do.

For thousands of years, women have been divided into two categories.  There were the “good” women who restrained themselves sexually and who were celibate when single.  These are the type of women such men seek to marry and whom they bestow what they consider to be respect.  The problem with this has traditionally been that many such women who have played by the rules and squashed their sexual desires have often, in years past, remained inhibited even after marriage.  Quite a few women found it difficult to “flip the switch” once they had that magical marriage license in hand. Many saw sex mainly as a duty; something that’s necessary to have children and to keep their husbands appeased.   Though much less prevalent now than in centuries past, it still exists often enough to  be worth commenting on.  This phenomenon is the source of the trite, sexist quotation, “Women give sex to get love; men give love to get sex”.

Then there were the “bad” women; basically the ones who have approached sex like men do and enjoy it for its own sake and those who openly viewed it as a commodity. These are the women who have engaged in non-marital sex, whether or not there is a possibility of a future marriage with their partners. For a sizable minority of men who bought  into the Madonna/Whore complex in centuries past, this even included married women who initiated sex with their husbands instead of  following his lead and seemed to enjoy it “too much”.  Most “bad” women were typically the prostitutes and mistresses and married women who had affairs.  But even women who had been raped or those who had been seduced by  their suitors who then declined to marry them, were considered “ruined” and no longer marriageable.

The original reasons for restricting the sexual expression of women are correlated with religion, but probably were for mostly practical reasons relating to ancient humans settling down into farming communities and the introduction of the ideas of private property and inheritance.

That is, ancient men wanted to make sure that the children they passed their property down to were actually theirs.  Because there was no reliable method for determining paternity in the ancient world, the only way to do this was to restrict the sexuality of women.  This is why women have traditionally been punished for having sex with any man but her legal husband and men have been mostly winked at for straying from their marriage vows.

Naturally, such a system had drawbacks for men, too.   With wives culturally required to regard sex as a duty and with no reliable birth control, horny men who wanted more sex, more lusty sex, and/or who wanted to limit their family size, for whatever reason, had to find other outlets.  Add to this, that many men had the idea that it was wrong to subject their wives, the ones they respected, to passionate sex.   Single men who wished to avoid “ruining” a “respectable” woman also had to find an alternative as well.

Thus, they turned to prostitutes and mistresses.

And this is where the schizophrenia comes in.  These were the women who provided a service for men, who provided a release from the corner they’d painted themselves into when they’d imposed rules to restrain the sexuality of women.  One would think that they would have been grateful to such women for providing a ready sexual outlet.

But, instead, they have reviled and scorned these women; women who gave them what they wanted, even knowing that the alternative would mean much less sex for them.  On the flip side, they “respected” the “good” women, but that didn’t stop them from dallying with the “bad” ones.  It’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation.

One would also think that the fact that the original reason for restricting the sexuality of women no longer exists, now that we have effective birth control and can reliably determine paternity, would have extinguished the Madonna/Whore complex.  Granted, it has lessened to a great degree since the 2oth century.   And it would seem that men with any sense at all would fervently support the wide availability of cheap birth control, not wanting to ever return to the days where every sexual encounter with a woman was playing baby Russian Roulette.

But Limbaugh and others of his ilk, have proven that the Madonna/Whore complex still has a lot of life in it yet, despite its utter lack of logic and sense for both sexes.

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Recently, the actress Cynthia Nixon, from Sex and the City, made the comment that she has chosen to be gay.  She said:

“I gave a speech recently, an empowerment speech to a gay audience, and it included the line ‘I’ve been straight and I’ve been gay, and gay is better.’ And they tried to get me to change it, because they said it implies that homosexuality can be a choice. And for me, it is a choice. I understand that for many people it’s not, but for me it’s a choice, and you don’t get to define my gayness for me.”

This has predictably angered many gay rights activists, who believe that being gay is not at all matter of choice; that it’s an inborn trait.  Reactions from the gay community pointed out that Ms Nixon’s comments played into the hands of right-wing anti-gay activists, who believe that being gay is always a choice — and that it’s a choice that a person can and should “correct”.  Some have made the observation that after having been in relationships with both men and women that Ms Nixon is actually bisexual.

This all may be so, and I’m inclined to agree with the notion that being gay is largely inborn, but it’s beside the point of this blog entry.

I believe that in putting the focus on the idea that being gay is inborn, gay rights activists are operating from a defensive position and that they are allowing the right to frame the terms of the issue.  They are offering a reason to justify why they are gay, when they really don’t owe anyone an explanation at all in order to deserve equal rights in our society.

Let’s compare it to religion.  What one believes, if they choose to believe in anything at all, is completely a choice, and the right to this choice is guaranteed in this country.  No one has to justify why they chose one religion over another, or not to believe; it’s a private matter.

So it should be with sexual orientation.  It’s a private matter that does not affect the rights of others to do differently.

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