The following was written by Ben Stein and recited by him on CBS Sunday Morning Commentary.
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, bejeweled 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 Nativity Scene, 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. 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. 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 as we understand Him? 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 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. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?'
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. The Bible says "Thou Shalt not Kill, thou Shalt not Steal", and "Love your Neighbor as Yourself." And we said OK.
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 (Dr Spock's son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he's talking about. And we said OK.
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. 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. 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,
COMMENT #1 Now let me just make a few personal comments. Here we go: First, I am an atheist and I never spanked my kids. I've had some success at being a decent parent and human being finding myself fairly nonjudgmental and open-minded. I celebrate holidays with a universal love and enjoyment of family and friends. It is very hard for me to believe that atheism can be blamed for the damaged world in which we live. We need to take responsibility for our own mess. God isn't going to solve our problems. We have to do that. I, like Ben Stein do not take offense with caring,
loving religions and religious practices, but to say that the world has gone to hell in a hand basket because we no longer pray in school is a bit far fetched. I'm usually very quiet about my beliefs Now let me just make a few personal comments. Here we go: First, I am an atheist and I never spanked my kids. I've had some success at being a decent parent and human being finding myself fairly nonjudgmental and open-minded. I celebrate holidays with a universal love and enjoyment of family and friends. It is very hard for me to believe that atheism can be blamed for the damaged world in which we live. We need to take responsibility for our own mess. God isn't going to solve our problems. We have to do that. I, like Ben Stein do not take offense but I think this kind of message needs to be examined. Now without being deemed a communist as well as atheist I would like to suggest that our unsustainable capitalistic ways and compromised political system may be more to blame for our problems. Years of ignoring our environment and taking more than our share of the world's resources may be more responsible for our current situation than not allowing people to pray in school. Just for the record, I'm not a communist and fully embrace democracy and capitalism. I am once again very optimistic about the future of this country and getting back to the roots of these two ideals. I think we will see a lot of changes in the next few years. Some will be hard to understand in the short term but may play a significant roll in the future of the country and the world.
With all that said, I hope you can understand why I felt a need to take a closer look at this particular article and not take my comments as a personal affront. You are a dear friend and I would not want anything to happen to our friendship.
COMMENT #2 Thanks...Now I'm interested to hear other reactions to this Ben Stein piece.
I was pleased to have a non-Christian with a public platform say they are NOT offended or threatened by Christmas trees and/or being wished a Merry Christmas, a term which seemed to have become as generic as "Kleenex" or "Formica" - until some one(s) decided to force it into the politically incorrect column. I have always assumed when someone wishes me a Merry Christmas that they are spontaneously using a term within their value system to wish me well; not that it is a sign of them assuming I am Christian, but a sign of them thinking of me as an equal.
I have particular sensitivity about the public decorations thing. It is so two faced. I retired from a company with 13,000 employees. Attending "X" number of sensitivity classes per year was mandatory. We learned about non-Christian religions (never a class on Christian religions tho) and national customs and ethnic behaviors and regional differences and sexual preferences and terms to avoid - all of which was well worth the time. BUT - as these learnings were applied to customers and workforce alike, there was a major difference: Employees desks could be 'decorated' with rainbows, Rasta flags, dream catchers, Star of David, Kwanzaa colors, whatever, but absolutely no Christian decorations because someone may be offended.
I could shrug off this 'both-sides-of-the-mouth' attitude by considering the corporate Rule Makers rather shallow and pompous, until a co-worker who had studied to be a priest expressed how he felt discriminated against by the anti-Christian stance as he felt he was equally (if not more so) entrenched in his beliefs as any of the groups allowed to display symbols of their religion, heritage, preference, etc. Was this ridiculous or what....all this sensitivity training/awareness and then the bigwigs intentionally discriminate
I like to read opinion type essays such as Ben Stein's - whether I agree with any portion of it or not - there's always something to make you think.
COMMENT #3 Ben Stein is a pompous ass. I question his agenda every time he opens his mouth. I am a Christian who tends to keep my attitudes about religion to myself because I think it a deeply personal thing. By the way, I don't know much about Anne Graham but I had the great good fortune to attend a Billy Graham gathering at the LA Coliseum when I was ten or eleven years old. He was profoundly moving; so much so I have always believed him to be a man of genuine faith when most other evangelists come off as self-serving or worse.
I will say that I was taught to believe that when Adam and Eve chose to defy God by eating from the tree of wisdom, it was a choice God gave them. In other words, God doesn't make things happen, people make things happen. We can do good or we can do evil. It is our choice.
I'd like to believe we are all free to worship as we please and I think Christmas is the loveliest time of year even if the bulk of it is commercial. Most of my friends, growing up, were Jewish or Catholic. Nobody seemed to worry about any of this stuff. I think our parents did but we kids did not. In fact, one of my closest friends, whose father took an Irish name to cover his his Jewish heritage in order to avoid anti-Semitic backlash in the Hollywood of the thirties & forties, celebrates both Hanukkah & Christmas each year. His boys were bar mitzvah'ed (SP) but they still enjoy a Christmas tree, presents & good food as well as the lighting of the Menorah & the eight days of presents. He seems to represent the enjoyment and spirit of both and I've attended temple with him.
Enjoy the holidays and the decorations and the food and the merry making. Things are moving away from the excesses of the last twenty years and we will probably soon find ourselves more and more grateful for what little we have. Ho Ho Ho! Merry Christmas!
Would anyone else like to weigh in?