Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Is It Really Inclusive?

Did you ever see that episode of Seinfeld, where Elaine and Jerry and George decide that instead of saying “G*d bless you!” when someone sneezed, they would instead say, “You are soooo good looking!”?

It’s a great episode (aren’t they all?) and it’s also a nice reminder that what some of us find comforting, others are offended by.

But when is being considerate taking things too far? And at the same time, when is being offended an excuse to be hyper sensitive and to just have something to gripe about?

Christmas seems to bring out the sensitivity in all of us. I was raised Unitarian, and while I don’t really consider myself a Unitarian now (Belief-O-Matic says I’m a Quaker…go figure), one nice thing I took from that upbringing was a respect for other religions. I’m pretty darn tolerant, unless someone is cramming their beliefs – whatever they may be – down my gullet, and then I become a bit of a B.

In college, there was a very tight group of students who attended a nearby church and they were out to recruit as many members as possible. While skipping class and sunning myself on the lawn behind McMicken, my sunshine was suddenly eclipsed by a few of these students. I squintily looked up at their silhouettes and raised my head from my backpack which was doubling as a pillow.

“Can I help you?” I asked, shielding my eyes.

“Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?” the girl silhouette asked.

“I’m sorry?”

“Do you have a personal relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ?” the boy asked.

Now I’m getting up. Something about talking about Jesus while reclining with my jeans shorts rolled up extra high and my midriff showing for optimum tanning made me kind of uncomfortable. I unrolled, adjusted my tee shirt and brushed the grass from my butt. “Do I have a personal relationship with Jesus? Is that what you’re asking me?”

“Yes. Because we’re from the…”

“I know where you’re from,” I interrupted. My face was hot and it wasn’t from the sunburn I was working on. “Didn’t you just ask me about a personal relationship…operative word being personal?”

“If you’re a BELIEVER, then you should be proud to say yes,” the boy said, extending a pamphlet toward me.

“It’s really none of your business what my beliefs are. What kind of underwear are you wearing? Boxers? Briefs?”

I have never seen two people zip away so quickly. And I didn’t notice that anyone was listening to our conversation until about a half dozen of my fellow sunbathers began applauding.

So, I do get it. But there is a big difference, at least in my happy logic, between impeding on someone’s privacy or religion and putting up a tree.

I am all about sensitivity and consideration, but I just don’t understand how a lighted, decorated tree is offensive. We have a ginormous one at my workplace and I honestly don’t think of anything religious when I see it. I just think, “How pretty…” And then as soon as January 1 hits, I think, “Good gosh, let’s take all this Holiday stuff DOWN!” because I’m completely over it (as well as the snow and cold) once the festivities have officially passed.

Steinvic and I were watching something on the History Channel or the Discovery Channel or some other brainy channel over the snowy weekend and it was all about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. And then there was a show right after that featured former American citizens who had defected and joined terrorist organizations, now hating America and all it stands for, as well as Christianity.

It boggles my tangled little brain because while I certainly have my hot buttons and convictions, unless someone’s religious beliefs include killing or hurting sentient beings for pleasure, I don’t know how anyone can get ticked off about how someone else chooses to worship. It’s a personal belief. Keep it personal! Or discuss it civilly, just because it's interesting to share ideas and hear other viewpoints, peacfully. (Some of the comments after the article are perfect.) And let others keep their beliefs personal. And then everyone can be personal and personable and we can all get along because we’re not impeding on anybody.

I guess it’s a mixed message to be careful but also lighten up…and maybe have some egg nog or peppermint hot chocolate with Bailey’s (or ice water or whatever your drink of choice is) and appreciate the lights, whatever they mean to you.

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