A very unusual thing happened to me this afternoon. A woman I worked with started crying over her conversion to Jesus. At least I think that’s what it was. I was so stunned while wrapping up copies of “Curious George” that I really didn’t know what was going on. This was after her complaining about not being allowed to put a Christmas tree in her room anymore, and after she’d popped on a decently religious Christmas CD.
And all this is weird enough, but it’s made weirder by something I was thinking on recently. We are, in the majority, a Christian nation. I know when I was a Christian, I had no idea how freaking rude I was about it, but I was really milk toast compared to most fervently religious people.
Let me first start by making clear my position and the position of a vast majority of my friends: we aren’t Christian, we don’t want to be Christian, and we don’t want to hear about how great Jesus is. We don’t want prayer in our schools. We don’t want prayer in our advertisements. We don’t want to hear about how God is the source of all morality, because it implies – whether it’s meant to or not – that we somehow AREN’T moral. Usually the exact opposite is true. Religion skews morality in horrifying and dangerous ways, but when you are vested in the religion, you just can’t see it. I know that if you’re Christian, you just can’t see WHY we don’t want any of these things, but that’s why you should hear me out.
This is not meant to blast all Christians. I’ve met some lovely, lovely Christians in my day that are truly tolerant and open-minded. But mostly….I haven’t. As an ex-Christian, Christmas is a little awkward for me. My favorite carols are the old religious ones; “The First Noel” and “Do You Hear What I Hear?” and all those old good ones (but not sung by pop stars, STOP RUINING EVERYTHING GOOD IN LIFE). I certainly don’t mind that it is a religious holiday. But I celebrate it in a secular fashion, and many, many people do.
And this can be baffling if you’re a Christian. For me – and I think for most people – it was a concept of “But why WOULDN’T you want baby Jesus everywhere? He saves the world, it’s a very good thing!” So if I proselytized or gave religious gifts, it was never meant in a spirit to offend, but as a gift of love. “I want to give you the best thing in the world, Jesus!”
It is a REALLY hard mind-set to get out of if you are religious. It really, really is. Because you are surrounded by those who think similarly, you simply CANNOT see how offensive it is to tell someone they’re a sinner and will burn in hell, but it’s okay, Jesus loves you whether you love him or not. When you are religious, it seems like the most innocent thing in the world. I’ve certainly done my share of it, so I apologize to anyone who reads this and I offended you in the past. And I guess I apologize if I offend you now, but not so much.
Of course it is very easy to demonstrate the logical fallacy of this if we replace one dogmatic tradition with another. Being the racist bunch of bastards that we are, there would be a fire storm if we had images that are meaningful to Islam everywhere. To them it is sacred, but to Western culture it is offensive. I find Islam far more innocuous than Christianity, though, so I wouldn’t mind it. Mainly because I have never, ever, EVER had a Muslim try to convert me. Christians do it to fellow Christians constantly. It’s a little pointless to compare the two issues, though, because invariably a fundamentalist Christian will simply respond “…..but they’re bad, and I’m right. Therefore, you should not be offended.”
I am certainly not one in favor of political correctness, but I wouldn’t want a Christmas tree in my kid’s pre-school class, even if I have one at home, and I probably would. That’s my private thing. They have no business foisting that on my child or anyone else’s. They have no business making a cultural minority feel inferior. Because the effect on kids can be enormous; when I went to a Baptist church, I begged my mother to let me be baptized again, so I could fit in and prove my worth. Anyone who thinks children won’t notice is a fool.
So radio, play “Silent Night,” I’ll sing along. It’s awkward for me, because I don’t believe a virgin had a baby, but that’s just a part of my upbringing I can’t escape, and I’m not always sure I want to. By all means, world, put stars and angels and stuff like that all over everything, that’s just darling.
But don’t you dare come up to me, any of you, and try to tell me my way of life is wrong, or that of any of my friends. Because I will turn on you so fast it will make your head spin. One thing I learn, as I finally reach adulthood, is that I don’t need to justify myself to anyone. And I don’t need to be any kind of “better” person, because I’m already damn good enough. So fuck off.
And have a merry Christmas.