BOB RAY SANDERS: A multifaith America is worth celebrating

December 23, 2011 

The annual controversy surrounding greetings for this season, "Merry Christmas" vs. "Happy holidays" is enough to make me say "Bah, humbug!"

Those who suggest that it is somehow disrespectful, anti-Christian or atheistic to say "Happy holidays" or "Season's greetings" this time of year are being pretty petty and, in some cases, very biased.

Individuals, retailers, corporations and organizations that choose a non-specific greeting are not trying to distance themselves from Jesus Christ, as some have claimed.

In many cases they simply are taking into account that there is more than one holiday during this "season," and some companies find it less complicated and less expensive to prepare advertising, marketing and signage that will endure from before Thanksgiving to New Year's.

And of course, there are years when both Hanukkah (Jewish) and Ramadan (Muslim) coincide with the Christian observance of Jesus' birth.

The hullabaloo over this issue is almost nonsensical, considering that Christmas has been so commercialized and distorted that the "true" meaning for many was lost a long time ago.

It is astounding that some of the same people who were upset that Jesus was being ignored by some department stores also were irate that a few schools had banned Santa from coming into classrooms.

What does Santa Claus have to do with Jesus? Or did I miss the part of the Bible that says, "Behold, a child is born ... and his name shall be called Santa, St. Nick, Kris Kringle and a Jolly Old Fellow?"

I don't mean to be cynical about this because I understand the irritation some feel that too many Christians don't give proper reverence to the day.

To them it is sacrilege that there are those who, to be "politically correct," would avoid uttering the word "Christmas" when greeting people even if they are of other faiths.

It's not a matter of political correctness. It is a demonstration of tolerance, a way to be considerate of others and their religions. In fact, it is being Christian.

People should do what is comfortable for them. Use whatever seasonal greeting is appropriate for you, and don't go out of the way to criticize others for doing the same.

Be secure enough in your own faith that you don't have to use Christmas as an excuse to put down others because they worship differently than you. Respect them, no matter how you greet them.

Besides, I don't think God is worried about what words we say to each other, as long as they are kind and heartfelt. Why don't we let him be the judge of our actions — during this and every other season?

Happy holidays, everybody. And I truly mean it.

Sanders is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. E-mail: bobray@star-telegram.com.

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