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December 03, 2004

Christmas in Denver

It started with taking the Columbus out of Columbus Day. You knew it would come to this.

Denver has one of the most garish but beloved Christmas lights displays in the country. Included is a sign that says - gasp - "Merry Christmas." Naturally, the mayor thought it would be a good idea to replace that with "Happy Holidays." Evidently, that tremor they picked up at the earthquake center in Golden was the Wrath of Nordlinger, because today, the mayor has, ahem, clarified his position. "Merry Christmas" stays; "Happy Holidays" is turned away at the goal line.

In an example of moral clarity that is the hallmark of contemporary mainstream Christianity...

...Philip Wogaman, president of the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, wasn't so sure.

Wogaman said as a mayor representing a diverse citizenry, allowing a phrase that is decidedly centered toward one faith - as "Merry Christmas" is - could be considered somewhat exclusionary to those who aren't Christian.

"On that score, I would have to say it's not proper for a political figure to imply that the entire community is of any one faith," Wogaman said. "On the other hand, I could understand a political figure extending the same kind of courtesy to all different faith groups."

In fact, the mayor is scheduled to be at the Federation's menorah lighting, so Mr. Wogaman needn't lose any sleep over any implied exclusivity.

(Aside: one of the annoyances of Messianic Judaism's presence is handling clerks who say, "Merry Christmas" without looking to see the yarmulke perched on my head. I've never had any use for the snarkier comebacks some people spend time perfecting. Good grief, these people are just being nice, and you want to punish them for not being PC-nice? I always just smile and say something like, "Thanks, you too." If they notice, they're usually a little embarassed, and hopefully they'll look next time, but at least I wasn't the one who embarassed them. The problem is, with Christians wearing yarmulkes lurking around, they may think I mean it.)

Now, the lights display is clearly Christmassy. It's got reindeer, a Santa, Frosty, and... a creche. Yes, it's legal, but it still bothers Mike Littwin. Littwin's pretty much of the same mind on Public Christmas as I am (except that he's married to a Christian). I have to agree that I find the creche a little bit jarring, but probably because we've been - protected - from religious imagery for so long that it looks out of place. I pretty much just look past it. Like the Greeks in the Greek Orthodox Church across the street look past the menorah.

But to drop a line claiming that we are, "clinging, and at times tenuously, to the concept of separation of church and state" is just absurd. I suppose it's possible that the secular side of the argument really believes it's under siege, but then why is the ACLU able to systematically remove public displays of the Ten Commandments from around the country? The ADL actually puts out a little pamphlet advising cities and schools how they can avoid the marauding bands of civil rights attorneys this year.

Which brings us to The Parade. Each year, for 30 years, Denver has had a Parade of Lights. This year,

[Pastor George] Morrison wanted to enter a float featuring multicultural Christian themes and a Merry Christmas message. Parade officials told a representative from Morrison's church, the 4,000-member Faith Bible Chapel in Arvada, that religious messages aren't allowed because they might offend others.

You just roll your eyes at this sort of thing. When some moron of a pastor decided to do a little co-branding with a certain movie earlier this year, and put up a marquee saying that the "Jews Killed Jesus," probably a dozen FBC members trekked down from Arvada to join us in protesting. They're there for every pro-Israel event. They paid for bringing Bus 19 to Colorado on its US tour. They're the Church Voted Least Likely to Object to a Truck-Driven Menorah. The Downtown Denver Partnership missed the bus here, because they had a chance to open it up to everyone and instead alienated a lot of people.

So instead of shouting "Silent Night" over a V-8 powering an F-150, they'll just come down to sing carols ahead of the parade start time. (No word on whether the hot chocolate will have a hechsher.)

Still, there are a lot of tall buildings downtown, and they might want to scope out the area ahead of time:

And you thought the Target CEO was the Grinch.

Posted by joshuasharf at December 3, 2004 12:47 PM | TrackBack

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