Thoughts on Christmas – Just Me and Ben Stein

9 12 2012

Hello Dear Readers,

Sorry for the ever-increasing gaps between posts.  I work in retail and, well, ‘tis the season.  So right now I am all about work and sleep and trying to remember to eat something other than fast food.  So this post does not contain a recipe nor any gratuitous pictures of anything – I just don’t have time.  I will be coming up for air soon, after all the bows have been tied and gift baskets have been delivered.  Perhaps then you will wish I was still busy at work.  Hah.

For now, I will reprint a couple of quotes from Ben Stein, neither of them recent, but both of them excellent points of view to which I wholeheartedly subscribe.  I am neither a Christian nor a Jew, but I am a believer in a power greater than myself.  I think Ben has captured the essence of this season (for me) in his comments, so I wanted to share them with you.  Why try to say it myself when someone else has already said it so well?

Oh, and what refreshed my memory on his perspective was a misquote I saw come across my Facebook page.  Someone had taken what Ben said (the original text of which is below) and embellished it with parts of what Anne Graham (evangelist Billy Graham’s daughter) said right after the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks, put them in a blender with some lies about Dr. Benjamin Spock’s son committing suicide and came up with a whole new version of Ben’s commentary that was not Ben’s commentary.  Imagine that – something on the internet was not true.  I’m shocked.

I, too, like to celebrate the spirit of this season even though I am not a practicing member of any religion.  As Ben so aptly put it, and I paraphrase, it’s all about the love, forgiveness, hope, humility, and kindness that we seem to lose track of during the rest of the year.  So Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanzaa, and Merry Nothing (for my atheist friends) to all of you.  Consider it an excuse for a party and have one – invite some people over who might be lonely and play scrabble or something.  I’ll join you just as soon as the last bow is tied.

Ben Stein’s actual comments about Christmas from December 2005 (courtesy www.benstein.com):

Herewith at this happy time of year, a few confessions from my beating heart:

I have no freaking clue who Nick and Jessica are. I see them on the cover of People and Us constantly when I am buying my dog biscuits and kitty litter. I often ask the checkers at the grocery stores. They never know who Nick and Jessica are either. Who are they? Will it change my life if I know who they are and why they have broken up? Why are they so important? I don’t know who Lindsay Lohan is, either, and I do not care at all about Tom Cruise’s wife.

Am I going to be called before a Senate committee and asked if I am a subversive? Maybe, but I just have no clue who Nick and Jessica are. Is this what it means to be no longer young?  It’s not so bad.

Next confession: I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees Christmas trees. I don’t feel threatened. I don’t feel discriminated against. That’s what they are: Christmas trees. It doesn’t bother me a bit when people say, “Merry Christmas” to me. I don’t think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn’t bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu. If people want a creche, it’s just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

I don’t like getting pushed around for being a Jew and I don’t think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can’t find it in the Constitution and I don’t like it being shoved down my throat.

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship Nick and Jessica and we aren’t allowed to worship God as we understand Him?

I guess that’s a sign that I’m getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where Nick and Jessica came from and where the America we knew went to.

A Ben Stein Christmas, December 2011 (from www.cbsnews.com):

My wife and I celebrate Christmas, big-time. I am sure we have more decorations than anyone within miles of here has.

Why?

On a superficial level, it’s because the lights and tree and fire are festive. That’s innate. Man loves colored lights and fires. When I was a child in Maryland, the Gentiles had festive lights and we Jews didn’t. I didn’t like that. I saw no reason why the Gentiles should have all the fun and I still don’t. Having those lights and a tree — that’s what I always wanted — to have colored lights and to be a part of the dominant culture.

But I love Christmas for much more basic reasons. Christmas is about something huge. You can be saved if you simply make a contract to believe in God and (some add) if you act right. It has nothing to do with how you were born or into what tribe.

This is a revolutionary, stupendous freeing of the human spirit. This is why Christmas is such a joyous time for people, whether Jews or Christians, or anyone else, who want to believe that we humans can be forgiven and go on to lead lives of triumph no matter what has happened in our past.

That, and not shopping at all, not the retail numbers, is why Christmas is such a great time.

The lights are nice and the tree is nice and the shopping is nice. But a dominant culture that says that love and peace are the highest values — that’s what I want to honor.

We don’t honor retail sales numbers. We honor the spirit of forgiveness and love. That’s Christmas for me.

Merry Christmas.

 








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