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St James AME Church, Elgin, Illinois St James AME Church, Elgin, Illinois

What's in a Name What's in a Name

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What's in a Name

Posted on Sat, Dec 8, 2007

Merry Christmas vs Happy Holidays

Many have taken to saying Merry Christmas to people instead of the politically-correct Happy Holidays, unless we know for sure that they're of some other faith.
 
We assume that most non-Christians will not be offended by an expression of good will. We also sense that many are a bit embarrassed that they feel they have to be politically correct about something as innocuous as holiday greetings.
 
In thinking about this, I tried to imagine myself in the shoes of non-Christians in America.  If I were living in Israel as a Christian, and a Jew greeted me with Happy Hanukkah, would I be offended?  I hope not; I'd like to think I'd be pleased, even honored.  It'd be the same if I were living in Saudi Arabia (not known for its tolerance of other religions), and a Muslim were to wish me Ramadan Mubarak.
 
In any of these cases, the seasonal greeting shouldn't be viewed as a symbol of oppression by a dominant culture.  That's the wrong way to look at it. 
 
Sure, there's always the possibility that the greeter is being sarcastic.  Perhaps he's trying to put me in my place, reminding me that I'm an outsider.  But really, how likely is that? 
No, the odds are far greater that the greeter intends nothing of the kind.  I should give him (or her) the benefit of the doubt. 
 
Think about it: What is the greeter's faith community doing?  Celebrating the Creator and man's relationship with Him.  On the occasion of that celebration, the greeter is reaching out, offering me good wishes, even though I'm "other," not a part of his community. 
 
To me, that sounds a lot like hospitality, like loving God above all and your neighbor as yourself, even when the neighbor is not of your tribe.  What's not to like?
 
So let's have all Christians (sincerely) saying Merry Christmas to everyone; all Jews, Happy Hanukkah; all Muslims, Ramadan Mubarak; and so on.
 
Merry Christmas
 
   Discussion: What's in a Name

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