A SENATOR DESTROYS A TOWN SQUARE’S NATIVITY AT CHRISTMAS. It started as a literal fire of wooden figures and grew into a virtual flame of controversy... igniting a national debate as the media and a civil liberties group descend upon a sleepy Texas town. Can one person's crime of arson be ignored when this becomes a separation of church and state issue? Actually that is the premise of Beyond The Farthest Star, a film being released in 2013, but could easily be ripped from today's headlines.
Just ask the residents in a town about 30 minutes from where the film was made. For the residents of Athens, Texas, the nativity controversy is all too real. Last year an organization based in Wisconsin, "Freedom from Religion", demanded the town remove their Nativity from the town square. The town refused to be bullied. This year they are being threatened with a lawsuit by an atheist from San Antonio. My prayer is that the people of Athens continue to defend their rights...especially since they are the ones who actually live in the town. I am much more alarmed that the rights of many are being threatened by the demands of a few.
In my hometown, public displays featuring Christian symbols are not only accepted, but usually expected around Christmas. Yet each year the lawsuits and complaints seem to draw nearer to home and people a little more divided. Separation of church and state is an issue that continues to be debated, but it appears that the majority of the protests seemed to be aimed at Christianity. Where I live in is not very culturally diverse; Baptist vs Methodists is more prevalent than Christian vs (fill in the blank). Am I simply not acknowledging protests of other faiths? I don't see Hanukkah, Kwanza, Festivus, or whatever winter holiday anyone else chooses to celebrate given any attention around here, but seldom hear of them protested anywhere else either. It would never cross my mind to demand they go unrecognized publicly, nor do I protest those who prefer to focus on Santa, reindeer, & presents. I believe the Establishment Clause is controversial and Santa Claus is mythical, but I won't go ballistic if you disagree. Excessive gifts and materialism are offensive to me, but I don't demand that stores remove their sales signs just because it offends my idea of how Christmas should be celebrated. For the record, neither am I an angry militant Christian who snarls the words, "Merry Christmas" when someone wishes me "Happy Holidays".
I realize that it is extremely doubtful that Jesus was born this time of year, but that is a side issue for me. I celebrate the fact that God came to earth as a man to sacrifice Himself in atonement for my sins every day. However, December 25th is when those who have placed their faith and trust in Him choose to celebrate His birth. I object to unfairly targeting symbols of the Christian faith during the time chosen (for whatever reason) to celebrate the birth of our Messiah. If you don't believe, just don't celebrate it......do not tell me that I can't merely because you disagree with my belief. I am daily offended by things I see that go against my personal values or attack my faith. I take the personal responsibility to avoid or ignore them.
This week a church in Arkansas cancelled matinee presentations of "Merry Christmas Charlie Brown" intended for school field trips because ONE person complained! Come on now! Charlie Brown? I admit the birth of Christ is told during that presentation, but it's not like children are being forced to repent and be baptized following the performance! I have refused to participate with things that do not line up with what I have learned through reading the Word of God. Too many within the church have become so afraid of offending either fellow believers or non-believers that we timidly huddle together in silence and allow others to trample over our constitutional rights. The presence or absence of a public Nativity display will not affect my beliefs, but I am not ready to simply cede my rights over with each protest by a bully...or a group of them. In the name of tolerance, we, as a nation, have become some of the most intolerant people on earth. I love those who do not worship Jesus Christ, and will respect their right to disagree with me, but I will not simply cower down and give in due to a few who want to obliterate all evidence of the faith and hope I celebrate.