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For Crying Out Loud About Christmas

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Let's keep it Jewish for a bit, since there are others already covering the alleged "War on Christmas." As Jon Stewart implies, the "protectors" suggest that they should be able to celebrate Christmas anywhere and in any manner they choose. So what's so Jewish about this? Exactly, so let's get started.

In current America, Orthodox Jews have by and large been supporting Republican candidates in the "one issue" voting phenomenon called Israel. This means that Obama will be even more excluded from votes than last time in what Jon Stewart has mentioned as the race to see which Republican candidate is most in love with Israel and thus deemed as deserving of the "Jewish" vote. Liberal Jews are still in the liberal camp but the fiercely Zionist Jews will be celebrating their Republican brothers and sisters for whom peace in Israel and Israeli domination are prerequisites for Christ's Second Coming. This, according to biblical texts, is the time when Jesus will give the Jews about a minute to decide to accept Him as their Savior before exterminating them if they decide otherwise. If "exterminating" is too harsh a word for your taste, do you prefer "sending them to the fires of Hell" in its stead?

Either way most Orthodox Jews who accept Christian zealots' money, prayers and general support, seem to feel there is no reason to quibble about underlying motivations for the Christian generosity, being that they don't believe in Jesus or in any Christian version of Hell. Since this way of "thinking" apparently produces no great crisis of integrity regarding the ends justifying the means, why then would the obsession about Jesus all over Christmas all over every aspect of our nation be a problem? Exactly, since this reliance on Christian support may discourage any very loud Jewish uproar about the pervasive presence of religious imagery for Christmas. Is this a matter of "Don't bite the hand that feeds you?" And does it add to the silence of large numbers of Jews, among others, about the national obsession with whether our President mentions an obviously Christian God in his Thanksgiving or any other blessings to a nation allegedly based in diversity and tolerance?

Jon Stewart cannot be the only one crying out loud, though aside from being so visible, he has the dual advantage of mocking religious mania with a Jewish twist, and a sometimes Jewish sense of irony and true humor. He also knows how many Jews, as I include myself, have come to embrace or to covet Christmas with its symbolism of peace, joy and general enchantment. We have had one of our "own," Irving Berlin, who wrote "White Christmas," which has only helped to add to the sense, true or false, that Christmas can be magical for everyone.

It is terribly important to be crying out loud about the implications, and Christmas seems as good a time as any, since the question is already in the air so to speak. Religious freedom doesn't mean per se the obligation to worship in a particular way. It doesn't mean that religious beliefs come before laws created to hold our people safe physically and mentally.

If the notion of freedom doesn't include the freedom to think, we lose the capacity to consider the facts before us that have to do with climate change, with poverty, with human need. The danger in an atmosphere where religious zealotry cancels and demeans and discounts scientific evidence comes close to psychological imprisonment. If people of some faiths so look forward to the "Rapture" which will mean the end of the world as we know it and their views dominate the public ideology, we are in a serious crisis in terms of including scientific evidence and just as importantly, caring about it at all.

The crisis goes way beyond the President's use of the Christian (let's face it) God in his prayers, or the right to say and sing "Jesus" all over our country in time for Christmas. It's actually becoming a crisis of information with the most orthodox of religious believers rejecting fact and research and insisting that what has been written down by a religious authority cancels any other word.

There is no freedom without considering alternatives: considering what we believe and what makes sense to us. There is no freedom without the capacity and permission to think. I vote for crying out loud about collaborating to search for ways, whether through laughter, song, art, research, communicating, that will help. Will help us reach the wish for and the actualization, of a liberation that lives somewhere in all of us.