Shalom and Merry Christmas,
I want to wish my Christian friends a happy and healthy Christmas. While I personally will not be celebrating the birth of Jesus I will engage in activities common to many gatherings that weekend – singing classic songs around a fireplace, barbecuing, and throwing back a few drinks in merriment. I will not be putting milk and cookies out as many Jews are lactose intolerant and if a bearded man with an odd hat tries to break in I assure you, I will call Homeland Security.
All joking aside, Christmas time for me has always been a time of relaxation but also examination. Looking past the commercialization of the central holiday of the world’s preeminent religion, Christmas is an amazing time. When else do over 2 billion of the worlds almost 7 billion gather with their family and friends? Taken in that context, away from commercial jingles and toy sales, it is a truly powerful time which all Americans can appreciate.
As a nation of liberties and laws it is important for us to realize that Christianity has both helped spread liberty and has been helped by its spread. To paraphrase Pope Benedict XVI, monotheism has been one of the important pillars of the Western tradition of liberty. Indeed, the founding fathers of our nation knew that a democracy without god would quickly become a nation ruled by the tyranny of the majority. The founding fathers were a diverse lot – all were Christians but of different and varied sects and some were of a Christian belief that can be called idiosyncratic to say the least. Still even the Deists amongst them believed that “all men were created equal and imbued by their creator with certain inalienable rights”.
This Christmas I ask you, whether you are Christian or not, nominal or devout to think about those around the world celebrating Christmas in those dark corners of the world were they may be censured, arrested, or killed for doing so. My people, the Jews are known as the “people of the book”, but we have also been described as a canary in the coal mine. Jews, often legally disenfranchised and in precarious socio-political positions, have been among the first to be affected by negative developments in many a nations history. Both European and Middle Eastern history bear this unfortunate truth out. As the famous poem by Pastor Martin Niemoller says:
First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.
But in the modern world, when most Jews live in the United State or Israel it isn’t the Jews they are coming for first. In many places, in particular the Islamic world and China, it is the Christians that are facing brutal and inhumane treatment. From church burnings, to arrests, torture, and murder, the freedom of religion is unknown for far too many people around the world. The plight of Christian martyrs whether in our client states in the Middle East or in the Middle Kingdom goes uncovered by the news and ignored by our political leadership. That they rant and rave about religious freedom in our nation, going so far as to force the unhappy phrase “happy holidays” upon a mostly Christian society is ironic since they do nothing for those seeking religious freedom in nations that are actually engaging in religious persecution.
This anti-Christian double standard that uses the guise of freedom of religion to diminish Christianity’s role in public discourse at the same time tacitly supports the persecution of Christians around the world is sadly no surprise. The question is what can we, those who seek true freedom of religion, do? On both large and small scales the answer is simple. First we must stop the whitewashed seasons greeting “happy holidays” and go back to wishing one another a Merry Christmas. All our nation’s religious minorities know we live in a majority and culturally Christian nation and none of us are under the impression that the shopping sales, time off from work, or massive traffic is for or caused by people celebrating Chanukah. Christianity is a part of our nation’s national identity. Rather than something to be ashamed of it is something to be celebrated.
Secondly, and vastly more controversially, all Americans should support proselytizing efforts by Christian groups in the Muslim Middle East, China, and even Western Europe. The Middle East is fast becoming a homogenized Muslim only region. The once rich history of Jews, Christians, and heterodox Muslims has been replaced by ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, and the death penalty for converts. The ancient community of Iraqi Christians is almost non-existent, the pre-Arab Coptic Christians of Egypt suffer abuse and murder almost daily, and once Maronite Lebanon is now controlled by radical Shiite Muslims. In the Far East, the revered leaders of the Peoples Republic overreact to any gathering of people over 2 people and doubly so when any hint of un-vetted ideology or faith is involved. Yet in the country which Mao once ruled (mostly) Protestant house churches continue to spring up like wild fire. Finally, in Western Europe we have seen a reinvigorated Holy See reaching out to the community of Christian believers reviled by the amoral left wing swing of European progressive churches.
Whether it is against the PC European thought police, the anti-religious thugs of the Communist Party, or genocidal Islamo-facists, the bright light of religious freedom – of the consistency of morals and of ones relationship with god can not be stomped out. These totalitarian regimes are engaged in a game of wack-a-mole they can not win, for every convert to Christianity is a man or woman who realizes that the government they live under does not have a monopoly on morality and is not the ultimate source of information.
It is up to us, in mostly Christian America, to prop up those who bravely stand up in these rough areas of the world for the rights we take for granted. Moreover, we must support their efforts to gain converts. Europe will not be free of anti-Christian discrimination, Chinese Christians will not be free from arrest and torture, and the Middle East’s Christians (what few remain) will not be free from ethnic cleansing until their numbers are high enough to stand up and say enough. Only when the population of Christians and other minority groups reach a critical level will they be able to stand up to the illiberal forces persecuting them and make their societies truly free.