Monday night, my friend Nancy wished me a Merry Christmas. This meant a great deal to me because of what happened last weekend.
I had invited Nancy and her husband Paul to meet me for lunch. I was going to be in their neighborhood getting my hair cut. What we didn't realize was that their neighborhood was having its holiday festival. Certain streets and parking lots were closed for Santa, ice sculptures, wine tasting, etc. Nancy couldn't find a place to park and this had her in a very bad mood.
She started ranting about Christmas. How it disrupts everything. How, as a Jew, she feels alienated in her own country. How she feels like "less than 1%"* and all the lights and decorations just emphasize this.
I was shocked. She knows I am a Christian. She knows I celebrate Christmas.
It turns out Nancy was very upset and threatened by the continuing popularity of Donald Trump, even after he dined with Nick Fuentes and Kanye. Anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers are welcome at Mar-a-Lago, and Donald Trump -- former President and current nominee -- is just as popular as he was six months ago. This makes her heart ache and tells her hate is on the rise.
I countered that this has nothing to do with Christmas. When people hang their lights, they are not actively trying to exclude her or make her feel unwelcome in her own country. They are celebrating the season of love. I pointed out to her that some of us -- like me -- are trying to get through this season without screaming. I didn't detail all that is going on with Henry, but knowing this Christmas will be our last together is weighing very heavily on me. I told her that sometimes the lights and the carols feel like a balm.
But she has a point. "Christian Conservatives" seem to reject that America was founded on religious freedom. Nancy's Jewish faith is just as valid as my Christian faith. Or the spirituality of those who don't worship at all. Or Muslims, Hindus, etc. Legislating Christianity is dangerous and anti-American (don't get me started on abortion; how many Christians explored how other religions regard when life begins before applauding this activist Supreme Court?). Thomas Jefferson, one of our Founding Fathers, insisted that political freedom and free thought would be at risk
if we did not keep government out of the church and church out of
government. James Madison, who wrote the Constitution, believed that worshiping if, when, and where we choose is unalienable and protected, and no faith is more legitimate in this country than any other. But what did Madison and Jefferson know about what the United States should stand for?
When Nancy and Paul invited me to dinner last night, I was apprehensive.
I don't want to defend my faith, and I don't want her to feel compelled to defend hers. I knew the restaurant she chose would have lights in the window, a tree in front, and holly in each booth.
It wasn't an issue. We talked about Paul's daughter and her on again/off again marriage. We talked about Nancy's project at work. We talked about my Cousin Rose inviting me to Tampa for spring training ... and ANTHONY RIZZO! We talked about Harry and Meghan's Netflix series, and how it reminds me of Joe Maddon's memoir. (Paul loves that I can somehow tie everything back to the Cubs.)
As we slid out of the booth, I saw the shopping bag Nancy had brought along. On the way to the restaurant she had stopped at a gift shop for chocolates to give as part of her office Secret Snowman gift exchange. She actually seemed into it.
As we parted, she wished me a Merry Christmas. We hugged. I will treasure that.
*I don't know where she got this stat.