Friday, December 11, 2009

Religion 101

I'm probably going to get some flak for this one, but I think it's time for me to dive into it.

There's been a lot of controversy and anger over the "news" that Walsh Elementary School principal Erik Brown has supposedly banned Christmas (he hasn't). According to the Republican-American, he has received hate mail from people all over the country. This raises my first point: if you are upset by the idea of Christmas being banned in a public school, the correct Christian response is not one of hatred. Sending threatening or hate-filled letters or calling to swear at Principal Brown is the exact opposite of the spirit of Christmas.

Second point: Principal Brown has not banned Christmas. He has instead assessed the demographics of his school and determined that overloading the kids with Santa Claus and other trappings of Christmas would be a problem for many of them. For example, many of the children at Walsh come from Jehovah's Witnesses families who are deeply offended by the commercialization of the Holy Day. Let's also not forget that not everyone in Waterbury is a Christian--we have, for example, many Jews and Muslims who might not appreciate having their children indoctrinated in another religion. Principal Brown's course of action, to have a winter celebration that is inclusive of more than one holiday tradition and to discourage the teachers from placing too much emphasis on a single interpretation of one religion's traditions, is a very good way to show respect towards the religious sensibilities of all the children in his school.

John Theriault has been up in arms over the issue, apparently thinking that Brown is somehow being unfair to the children at Walsh school because the other schools all have Christmas parties. I can only assume that he is forgetting about the children whose parents do not allow them to attend Christmas parties, and is oblivious to the fact that Brown is simply showing respect towards those children and their families.

I guess I am blogging about this topic because I am shocked at the level of public outcry over it. In every instance, it seems that people with no children at Walsh are reacting as if they personally have been prevented from enjoying their own Christmas celebrations and have forgotten just how much religious diversity there is in the world, in the United States, in Connecticut and in Waterbury. I guess I am also struck by how some of the people who are angry at Principal Brown are behaving far more like the Grinch than he is.

Come to think of it, let's take the metaphor of the Grinch one step further. The point to The Grinch was that the trappings of Christmas, the gifts, the trees, the roast beast, are completely unnecessary. Christmas exists in our hearts and is celebrated in the way we treat one another. Everything else is superfluous.


Anonymous said...

You are absolutly right. I wish everyone could be as open minded as you Eric and I.

some Christians Do not practice Christianity.

Anonymous said...

Agreed that this is being blown out of proportion.
This is one of those issues that seems to grab people's attention, because they typically take a strong stance on either side, as you have here. The media has a way of twisting these things to exploit those feelings in order to boost ratings. It's also a useful distraction from what's really going on in City Hall, Hartford and D.C.