Okay, I may have really done it good this time. I just fired off a letter to the editor of the Albany Times Union in response to this piece written by Kate Gurnett. I proofed it as much as was safe in the short period I had to click [Send] before I changed my mind. Shoot, maybe they’ll offer me a job? That’d be par for my last 72 hours or so… during which I’ve been tossed into contention for touring Turkey in a music group, working in Bible translation in either Orlando or Southeast Asia (pretty similar regions, eh?), starting a web development business… and on two seperate instances people asked me about giving guitar lessons!?
To the Editor,
I must take exception to the December 19th piece by Kate Gurnett on the so-called Christmas Controversy, which I found to be slanted and deceptive. In lieu of the exhaustive exposition required to address all of the piece’s faulty assertions I’ll try to keep this down to a low, pithy roar.
Having some (just a little) knowledge of the events surrounding the controversy over singing Christmas Carols in Colonie Center Mall, I found myself reading Ms. Gurnett’s piece with some dismay. It was probably less suited for its front page splash than it was suited for the editorial page, the more appropriate haven for opinion and general subjectivity. While reading the piece I found it describing the leadership of Loudonville Community Church as bullying, stubborn, overbearing men trying to push around a poor, helpless female mall official. Ms. Gurnett eloquently painted the mall official as a brave heroine standing strong in the face of heckling church-goers incited by their un-budging leadership who would seek to extend their evil grip onto the entire universe. I almost shed a tear at the end when our heroine deftly tamed the beastly pastors into acquiescing to her firm, yet fair conditions of Yuletide performance.
Now, Ms. Gurnett and I both know she didn’t use any of those specific words above. We also both know that smart journalists inject their opinion (under the guise of reporting) using concealed morsels of charged language in order to connote their actual message. The church leadership’s actions were described with verbs like “refused” and “claimed”, connoting stubbornness and contentiousness. It was said Pastor Stan Key sent a “missive”, connoting intentional indignation. It was also very bluntly implied that the entire church was completely mistaken in its concern over the allowance to sing Christmas Carols… perhaps even deliberately misled on that perception. And Ms. Gurnett very cleverly paralleled the church members’ honest concerns about Christmas with the efforts of a nationally known and controversial religious figure, perhaps intending to impugn their motives or validity.
Let me clear up something. Telling a church choir that they can sing traditional Christmas Carols but they can’t sing anything with overt religious content is a bit like telling an embedded journalist in Iraq that they can report on the war but they can’t mention anything about the fighting or the effect the conflict is having on anybody over there. While we’re at it let’s recite the Gettysburg Address under the paltry restriction of not quoting anything Abraham Lincoln ever said. And I always wanted to see the Grand Canyon with the mild stipulation that I wouldn’t be allowed to look at any rock formations or the sky.
I’d be more inclined to believe that, after several sincere phone calls from legitimately concerned citizens who patronize Colonie Center Mall, the aforementioned official (who I honestly believe, in all fairness, was caught in a personalized situation she didn’t invite onto herself) decided to embrace a broad, new interpretation of “overt religious content” that included such covert lyrical verse as: “Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let Earth receive her King”, “Come to Bethlehem and see Him whose birth the angels sing. Come, adore on bended knee, Christ, the Lord, the new-born King”, “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see. Hail the incarnate Deity, pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel”. Perhaps “Gloria in excelsis Deo” could be considered as “not overt”, but that’s Latin for ya’.
If we want to talk about this so-called Christmas Controversy, let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about “overt religious content”. Is there anything wrong with it? I hear a lot of frightful pleas against exclusive endorsements of organized religion. I hear a lot of “Happy Holidays”, which seems the de facto standard of socially correct and inclusive greetings. Can we really say “Happy Holidays”, though? What about groups that prefer not to celebrate holidays, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses? Isn’t “Happy Holidays” offensive and non-inclusive towards them? And doesn’t “Happy New Year” offend people who don’t believe in time?
The comedian Brad Stine asks which part of Christmas is so offensive anyway? Is it the “Peace on Earth” or the “Goodwill towards Men” rhetoric? And what reasonable soul standing on US soil would see a holiday greeting that applies to the peaceful celebration of 80% of the country’s population and want to have it silenced? What perceived “tyranny of the majority” does “Merry Christmas” hold? How many does it take to be offended or uncomfortable with something before it must be expunged to preserve some imaginary national harmony? Must every aspect of every facet of American life fit the unanimous whim of the country’s entire citizenship? Since when are the whims of US citizens in complete agreement? By the very act of doing you are in real danger of offending someone. Even doing nothing is still doing something, and will probably offend even more people than before. That’s life, which is one of our inalienable rights. Freedom from being offended is not one of those rights.
And when it’s all said and done, I hold nothing against Ms. Gurnett or the so-called Christmas Controversy, because in the end there’s a bigger meaning to it all. So let’s not forget the reason that the brave and speech-challenged little trooper from the famed and treasured secular holiday classic wanted his front incisors. It was to wish you Merry Christmas.
Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.