Ah, the holiday season is upon us. Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men. Merry Christmas. Or Happy Holidays. But be VERY careful what you wish people. Some people will respond angrily if you get it wrong.
Let’s see. It’s always ok to say Merry Christmas to a Christian. It’s ok to say Happy Chanukah to a Jew. It’s ok to say Happy Kwanzaa to an African-American, but not if he’s an evangelical Christian. And wish your Muslim friends a Happy Muharram and Hindus a Happy Diwali. And if you’re not sure of the person’s religious beliefs, Happy Holidays covers all. Or Holiday Cheer.
That’s what retailer The Gap thought when it called its campaign Holiday Cheer. But the American Family Association has called for a boycott of Gap, along with Old Navy and Banana Republic for similar sacrileges. It turns out that in our land of religious freedom, you’ve got to watch your mouth.
And your step. Want to put up Christmas decorations? If you’d like to use the village green, or the nice lawn in front of City Hall you’ll risk a law suit from Church-State separation fanatics. And if you’re the music teacher make sure the December choral concert is multi-denominational. Or non-denominational. The only safe route is to hibernate all December. Oops, that’ll get you in trouble with the American Family Association.
What would an ethicist say about all this seasonal Bad Will Toward Men? All religions and secular ethicists teach us to treat others as we’d want to be treated. They all (now) teach tolerance toward people of other beliefs. Let Christians have their mangers and Christmas trees. Let Jews have their menorahs and eight days of presents. Let Muslims have their quiet reflection on the coming year. And let the lawyers take the month off.
As Rodney King asked, “Can we all get along?”