Is Jesus the Reason for the Season?
sjamar at LAW.HOWARD.EDU
Tue Dec 17 21:16:44 PST 1996
Back in my Christian days we had long and serious and annual discussions
about moving the commercial aspects of Christmas to New Year's Day so as to
focus attention properly on the religious meaning of Christmas. We (those
of us in the discussion) usually came to the uncomfortable conclusion that
moving the commerce from December 25 would even further bury the religious
holiday - a sort of "half a piece is better than none at all" approach.
I understand the positions of Rick and Brad quite well I think. But I
don't agree with them and their perspective and the idea that they or any
self-selected subset of Christians gets to determine what are "Christian"
pointers and what are not. Santa and reindeer may not be Biblical, but
they are certainly pointers to the holy-day and the argument that they are
not seems like quite an uphill battle. Everyone (or nearly everyone) knows
that Christmas is, at root, a Christian holy day. And everyone understands
that pointers to it are, well, pointers to it, howsoever "secular" they may
be. They are also, to some people, pointers away from the *meaning* of
it. Hence the identification of 2 holidays and such.
But whose perspective is to drive the understanding here? The Christians?
The minority religion adherents? Whose interest is being protected and are
we concerned with protecting? 5 Christmas "pointer" songs, 1 Christmas
song with religious text, 1 song from the Jewish tradition, and one other
song. And this is "balanced"?
There are plenty of other solutions. The elementary school has moved its
winter program into January. The Middle School program tonight had a
Christian pointer song or two, a Chanukah song, and several which were of
the "peace on earth" variety from the old and new pop charts. There are
church choirs. We have private sports teams, private drama experiences -
surely some Christian groups could easily put together a Christian choir
But, having said all this, I want to reiterate that I think that this is an
area where schools can do much more than they sometimes do and that they
ought to be able to do more than courts have allowed them to do. And if
the courts feel the need to use this secular/religious content distinction
to be able to find room for majority communal celebration, so be it,
despite how tarnished and disingenuous as I find it to be.
The real problem for me is not the performance - unless there is compelled
attendance. The only significant problem seems to be the child who wants
to participate in choir or band, but does not want to do religiously themed
music. And this could be the Christian objecting to doing a Jewish song as
much as the other way around.
"Neither law nor human nature is an exact science."
George W. Keeton, ed., "Harris's Hints on
Steven D. Jamar
Professor of Law & Dir. Legal Research & Writing Program
Howard University School of Law
2900 Van Ness Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20008
voice: 202-806-8017 fax: 202-806-8428 email:
sjamar at law.howard.edu
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