In this time of holiday joy, let's temporarily ban the word "ecumenical." I know that doesn't sound very tolerant. As we see one story after another about angry Christians who feel Christmas is being stolen by a new wave of litigious Grinches, or Jews feeling like minority religions are being insulted, or atheists feeling like they shouldn't have to be subjected to all this public religiosity, isn't this the time to emphasize tolerance?
Yes, but of a different sort. Despite having a different meaning originally, "ecumenical" has come to mean efforts to find religious common ground. But what's needed is not people neutering their faiths (or faith in general) to avoid disagreement but rather a culture which allows people to publicly and proudly display their faiths while being respectful of others.
People always look puzzled when I say Beliefnet.com, a website that welcomes all faiths, is "multifaith" rather than "ecumenical." We say that because we do not encourage people to submerge differences but strut their spiritual stuff positively, and without contempt for people who take different approaches. Later in life, John Adams, put it well: "Men ought (after they have examined with unbiased judgments every system of religion, and chosen one system, on their own authority, for themselves), to avow their opinions and defend them with boldness."
So instead of tearing down the Christmas trees, the Seattle airport should have added the menorah. Christians shouldn't have to neuter their faith, nor should other faiths have to feel like they don't count. Hopefully Christians' faith in Jesus is not so shaky that the site of a menorah would cause them to doubt His divinity.
By the way, our assessment is that the number of culture war clashes is actually down this year compare to last, and it only seems otherwise because political activists, radio hosts and 24 hour cable news shows want to stir it up.