December 17, 2006

Sunday musings

I am behind on my top albums of the year. I will catch up and am actually listening to a couple of recent albums that might make the list--The Be Good Tanyas album is quite impressive.

I am also neck deep in grading and really regretting some of those written assignments.


Had a recent conversation about this issue of Christmas in the public square. That is essentially how I framed it--that Christians had enjoyed a false sense of ownership of the public square for much of our history. Of course, they belong in the public square, but just as conservatives do not own the flag, Christians do not own our public square, and that is how conservatives are acting now that others want in. Nothing, of course, is stopping any conservative (or liberal) Christian from participating in Christmas as a form of worship. Not one thing. nothing stopping them from having Christmas services, Festivals, Parties, huge, lavish programs, etc.

Just some people suggesting that in the public square, the rest of us--liberal Christians, non-Christians, etc.,--have just as much right. I made this point to my friend, as well as noting that the loudest people at this time, were not some mythical liberal secular Jew offended by the phrase, "Merry Christmas"--but rather actual and numerous conservative Christians offended that someone wished them a nice Holiday, or "Happy Holidays."

This is a nice take on it:
How the Jews and Secularists Did Not Steal Christmas: The assault has been led by Bill O'Reilly, the most popular cable newscaster, who told millions of viewers that there was a systematic assault on Christmas by secularists. When challenged by a Jewish caller who said he felt uncomfortable being subject to frequent attempts to convert him by Christians at his college, O'Reilly responded: "All right. Well, what I'm tellin' you is, I think you're takin' it too seriously. You have a predominantly Christian nation. You have a federal holiday based on the philosopher Jesus. And you don't wanna hear about it? Come on -- if you are really offended, you gotta go to Israel then.''

I told O'Reilly that my grandfather didn't come here from Russia to be in a "Christian country," but rather in a country that welcomes many different faith traditions and officially privileges none.


"Yet, this transformation is not a result of Jewish parents wanting to protect their children from being forced to sing Christmas carols in public school, or secularists sending Season's Greeting cards. It derives, instead, from the power of the capitalist marketplace, operating through television, movies and marketers, to drum into everyone's mind the notion that the only way to be a decent human being at this time of year is to buy and buy more. Thus, the altruistic instinct to give, which could take the form of giving of our time, our skills and our loving energies to people we care about, gets transformed and subverted into a competitive frenzy of consumption.

Not surprisingly, the Christian Right is unwilling to challenge the capitalist marketplace -- because their uncritical support for corporate power is precisely what they had to offer the Right to become part of the conservative coalition. Their loyalty to conservative capitalist economics trumps for them their commitment to serving God. But for those of us who want to prevent a new surge of anti-Semitism and assaults on the First Amendment, our most effective path is to acknowledge what is legitimate in the Christians' concern -- and lead it into a powerful spiritual critique of the ethos of selfishness and materialism fostered by our economic arrangements. It's time for our liberal and progressive Christian leaders and neighbors to stand up again on behalf of Jews and on behalf of their own highest spiritual vision -- and challenge the real Christmas and Hannukah thieves! "

I think he is correct in two ways--that capitalism really doesn't want this to be about sacrifice and love--unless that can be commodified (which, as we saw, Lifeway Stores are more than willing to do). And, he is doubly correct that the conservative evangelicals have been unwilling to challenge capitalism. Not remove capitalism and replace it with something else--that has never been the only option. But to simply criticize and recognize that the market values things that Christians do not.


Second musing for today was I wonder how Bush and Cheney will respond to
Colin Powell saying that our Army is broken and that they broke it.:
"POWELL: Let’s be clear about something else, Bob, that gets a little confusing. There are really no additional troops. All we would be doing is keeping some of the troops who were there there longer and escalating or accelerating the arrival of other troops.

SCHIEFFER: Let me just ask you about that because… do we have the troops? You seem to be suggesting that we don’t.

POWELL: I’m suggesting that what general Shoemaker said the other day before a committee looking at the reserve and national guard, That the active army is about broken. General Shoemaker is absolutely right. All of my contacts within the army suggest that the army has a serious problem in the active force.


SCHIEFFER: Let’s… you’ve talked about… I take it you think that the 160,000 troops are not going to be any more successful than 140,000.

POWELL: Nobody has made the case to me that 140,000… I have not seen a case that persuades me that it would be better at 150 and 160. Frankly, that would take a surge that you have to pay for later by not having troops that can come in and replace some of the 140,000 there. "

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