by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
December 18, 2007
LIONS: 0, CHRISTIANS: 100
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- Christ is still in Christmas. They have tried to "X" him out for a couple of generations, but this year it's Merry Christmas all over again. There may be more Santa Claus than Baby Jesus displays, but it's still all about one solitary birth.
It's such a strange phenomenon that I just don't get it. Religion is all about love but it brings out hate and recrimination. Why? Why should anyone care what I voice in my heart? Why were the Christians thrown to the lions? Why were the Jews slain by the Nazis? The Muslims by the Hindus? The Hibdus by the Buddhists? The Buddhists by the Sikhs?
It obviously has become less personal than it used to be; today, people are asked what they believe and why they believe it. That question has always been uncouth.
But, Christians have been scrutinized from the beginning. In early Rome, the Emperor in that region and not in others accepted them in some quarters. They stayed to themselves so were looked on as anti-social. The non-Christians felt snubbed and at the same time wondered why the Christians would believe in one God when the Romans included worship and offering sacrifices to many gods, like Jupiter and Juno and all the others we've learned about in Roman mythology.
This integration into society by the growing number of Christians impacted the security of society at large. The Christians would not serve in the army because they could not kill a man. This would offend the Roman gods, the emperors felt, and the Christians were labeled unpatriotic. Already considered impious and antireligious, they were now against the state religion,which included the gods as part of it and thus posed a danger to the whole population.
Or, so it was thought. Granted, they refused to take any government jobs that could be considered contributing to a corrupt system. I would associate that protest to the modern day tax protester who gives up some privileges to exercise his rights. To those protesting today, it is a constitutional right to do so; in Rome, security of the country was an edict of the gods.
So, the protesting Christians had to be punished. They could either have a formal execution or be thrown to lions in the arena - accompanied by the shouts of hate from the crowds attending the game.
Those at the games wondered why those Christians would suffer so much rather than offer some small sacrifice for their Emperor. All it would have taken was enlisting in the army or sprinkling some herbs over candle-lit altars. The Emperor wanted to be treated like a god and have incense burned at his feet in homage. The Christians weren't going to burn anything or give honor and glory to anyone but Jesus Christ. To the Romans, the Christians were indeed puzzling.
They were considered the scum of the earth, and if it wasn't the lions mauling them it was being at the center of the arena, dying in a public display at the hands and feet of well-armed gladiators.
"The glory that was Rome" was not during the first 300years of Christianity. But, the Christians prevailed. And, except for their very public March for Life in defense of the unborn child, they pretty much mind their own business.
When someone comes along and wants to take religious symbols out of public squares, we wonder about their motivation. When a non-custodial father protests his daughter's having to say "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, we question the source of his bitterness. It's never about God. When Madelyn Murray O'Hair started the ball rolling until the momentum it gained is evidenced in at least one headline story a day, it wasn't about her rights as an atheist. Each of these stories had impact but didn't change the Christians. Their belief is set and they don't interfere with your beliefs.
For the last few years, "Happy Holiday" was the greeting of the season. That was all right, we know what it's all about. We can read what it says on the calendar, and it isn't marked "holiday." As we walk the malls, we can appreciate the celebrations of our Jewish friends. Jesus and all his disciples were devout Jews, and Chanukah marks the Jewish victory of Greek religious oppression. We have more in common than would appear.
Sometimes, though, we don't think. We just don't think that what we consider an innocent remark or gesture could be offensive to someone else. In 1962, when my first-born was four, I was coffee klatching with another young mother. The conversation went to the movie, "The Wizard of Oz."
"Oh, I love that movie," I said enthusiastically.
"I hate it," she answered disgustedly.
"Why?" I asked in disbelief.
"Remember when Auntie Em is confronting Miss Gulch because she's trying to take Toto away from Dorothy?"
"Yes, I do. That's when Dorothy calls her a wicked old witch."
"Well, Auntie Em gets angry and says: 'if I weren't a Christian woman, I'd say...."
"Oh, dear, I can see where you're going, Elaine."
"Yes, how did the writer think a Jewish woman would act? Why say 'a Christian woman?'"
That conversation stayed with me over the years. It was an instant course in sensitivity training. While I can understand her feelings and I do condemn the writer's lack of sensitivity, it was the exact way Auntie Em would have spoken. A letter to Hollywood might have been persuasive but it wouldn't have changed Auntie Em.
I like seeing Christ back in Christmas. I like the idea of "Live and Let Live" and I sincerely wish the curmudgeons would just let it go. I live where I live and will continue to live here whether there is a stone tablet of the Ten Commandments on the courthouse steps or not. Those old symbols are more illustrations of architecture then they are proselytizing tenets of someone else's statement of belief.
This subject is thrust upon us lately as we wend our way through the biographies and character studies of those potential candidates professing allegiance to a particular religion. Frankly, when I settle on the candidate of my choice, I will look at how well the building blocks of character were forged into his being.
They all say they read the Bible. I resent that they were asked. I don't care if they read the Torah, the Lotus Sutra, the Koran, the Book of Mormon, the King James Version of the Bible or, my own choice, the Catholic Bible. It's irrelevant.
I only want to know if the candidate is responsible, caring, fair, honest, trustworthy, respectable - and will smile back whether I say Merry Christmas or Happy Chanukah.