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Separation of Church and State: A Festivus Perspective

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Holidays can be hard enough as it is, but sometimes a person perpetrates an act so uncaring and thoughtless, so blatant in its disregard for his fellow humans, that it leaves one in a state of crestfallen despair. It makes me want to go up to that person and say, "Hey, buddy, what in the world are you thinking? How could you do something like that? Do you like to sow discord and sadness, do you delight in sucking the joy out of the holiday season, is that it?"

This week, Chaz Stevens of Deerfield Beach, Florida perpetrated such an act. Mr. Stevens has constructed a six-foot high "Festivus Pole" out of empty Pabst Blue Ribbon beer cans. He has successfully applied to the Florida Department of Management Services to have his Festivus Pole displayed in the state rotunda of the Florida Capitol Building where it will share space with a traditional nativity scene.

Mr. Stevens, a proclaimed Atheist, contended that the display of the nativity scene in a governmental space funded by taxpayer dollars violates the constitutional guideline regarding the separation of church and state. He next declared his intention to sue his hometown of Deerfield Beach for similarly displaying a nativity scene on municipal property.

Mr. Steven's actions have naturally provoked a firestorm of controversy on the social media cyber-waves. "Yes, he has as much right to display his beliefs as anybody else!" "No, he is just setting out to ruin a well-meaning celebration of spirit and good cheer!" "You're both wrong, nobody should have the right to religious display on public property!" It does not help matters that, in a Youtube video, Mr. Stevens uses quite disrespectful language (some might even call it abusive) as he takes us on a walking tour of the nativity scene in Deerfield Beech. His words seem intended to provoke and inflame -- and so they have.

Well you can certainly count me as provoked and inflamed... only not by Mr. Stevens. Well, okay, yes, by Mr. Stevens, but I am also quite put out that all of YOU seem to be missing the point! No offense, but this is just so typical of our dumbed-down, out-of-touch citizenry.

I cite this comment from an online debate thread: "While Mr. Stevens may express himself crudely and rudely, his point is a valid one. The very fiber of our nation's great democracy is sustained by the vigilant observation of the separation between church and state. It is long since time to remove any and all religious displays on publicly funded lands."

Do you see what I'm getting at here? I mean, all right, "Church and state, blah, blah, blah. " Whatever. But wake up! A far more heinous transgression has been committed.

You see, I am an Orthodox Festivusian. We are not many, but we are steadfast in our devotion. We have been holding our celebration, our "Festivus for the rest-of-us", for six years and going strong. We solemnly partake in the "Airing of Grievances." We faithfully engage in the "Feats of Strength" culminating with, of course, the Wrestling of the Host. And, above all, as the accusations fly and the tears flow, sitting in the middle of our living room is the UNADORNED aluminum Festivus Pole.

As you are no doubt aware (or, at least, you should be!), the Gospel of F. Costanza: Chapter 1, Verse 1 reads: "The pole shall be aluminum, and it shall be unadorned, dull and plain so that it may inspire none who gaze upon it."

I don't know about you, but a Festivus Pole made of Pabst Blue Ribbon empties does not sound unadorned, dull and plain to me. No sir, not by a long shot. I mean, PBR has even become the brand of choice for Hipsters. And I know what you're saying: "Dude, chill out. What's the big deal? It's not like they're using Heineken or some fancy micro-brew."

Really? Really?! This is how it all starts, you know -- the road to perdition. It may not seem important to you, especially those of you who have never attended an Orthodox Festivus gathering. In fact, do yourself a favor; next year make a point of attending. There's room in our living room. Bring a friend while you're at it. Surely there are some grievances you would like to air. Perhaps your friend has bad breath or shows up late to movies. Let him or her know it -- it's Festivus!

And as you twist and shout, avoiding the sweaty, grunting body of the chosen guest as he attempts to wrestle the host to the ground, perhaps your gaze will fall upon The Pole. Of course, it will not rest there; it is far too dull and plain to capture your attention for longer than a microsecond. But in that microsecond it may occur to you, "THIS is real! Upon THIS I can depend, for now and forever." And then, you will understand.

Mr. Stevens, I implore you... tear down that Pole!