HAPPY HOLIDAY EDITION 2006
A HOLIDAY GIFT FOR
"Say, is it okay if I'm
sworn in on this copy
of the Gun Owner's
Bible? I couldn't
find none of them
regular bibles around
All the news isn't cheerful
around the holiday season
By CHUCK McFADDEN
The Christmas season is once more upon us, and Bing Crosby, dead now for nearly 30 years, croons White Christmas into the ears of millions of shoppers. Actually, its been the Christmas season since a little before Halloween. At least thats when I noticed the first Christmas decorations in stores, closely followed by Der Bingle on their p.a. systems.
A Christmas season that extends over just about two-and-a-half months is going some. But if youre a CEO of a department store chain desperate to make your numbers before the year is out, I suppose youd like to see the season begin sometime in late July. Maybe June.
The Christmas season annually brings gifts to the nations reporters. Did you know that? Oh, yes, their stockings are full as they sit chortling at their keyboards.
This season, their biggest Christmas bauble appears to be the Keith Ellison matter.
Some fundamentalist Christians are up in arms about Keith Ellison. You dont know who he is? The good people of Minnesotas Fifth Congressional district elected Mr. Ellison to Congress in November. He is a Muslim. He wants to take his oath of office with his hand on the Koran.
Well, duh, you might be saying at this point. Of course he does. Hes a Muslim, after all.
Nope. Youd think he wanted to have calls for prayers issue from the top of the Capitol dome, so righteously outraged have some religious souls become. The American Family Association, based in Tupelo, Mississippi, has issued an action alert urging its members to write their presumably Christian members of Congress to pass a law that would forbid Ellison or anyone else from using anything but the Bible for swearing-in ceremonies.
If calling the Bible superior to the Koran in American tradition and culture is intolerant, then I plead guilty, said Tim Wildmon, the president of the association.
A Los Angeles talk radio host named Dennis Prager chimes in with this statement: America is interested in only one book, the Bible. If youre incapable of taking an oath on that book, dont serve in Congress.
Prager went on to say: So why are we allowing Keith Ellison to do what no other member of Congress has ever done--choose his own most revered book for his oath?
A Religion News Service Writer named Omar Sacirbey nailed Prager on that one. Sacirbey, writing in the Washington Post, pointed out that Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat from Florida, took her oath on a Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible, that Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle, a Republican, used the Tanakh, and Vermont Gov. Madeleine Kunin placed her hand on Jewish prayer books when she was sworn in. Furthermore, John Quincy Adams put his hand on a law book instead of a Bible when he took the presidential oath in 1825; Theodore Roosevelt used no Bible the first time he was sworn in as president in 1901.
On top of all that, no book, holy or otherwise, is used at the official, en masse swearing in of members. They may put their hands on the Bible afterward, in a private, unofficial, photo opportunity ceremony for family and friends.
Obviously, Mr. Prager hasnt the slightest idea in the world of what hes talking about. Given his vague grasp of history and America, it is no surprise that President Bush appointed him to the U. S. Holocaust Memorial Council, which oversees the U. S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. The museum hastened to issue a statement declaring that Mr. Prager was speaking only for himself.
Ah, well. In spite of Mr. Prager and the American Family Association, Christmas is still a wonderful time. It is, after all, a season when most of us at least pay lip service to peace on Earth, goodwill to man, and quite a few of us think about it and make internal vows to do better at that sort of thing during the year to come. We do exchange cheery greetings with strangers, and write old friends about our families doings. Most of us try to look on the good side of those we know. We get together with friends and neighbors, and have a good time. We think about the man whose birthday we commemorate, and the revolutionary message he brought to us--be good to one another. (Two thousand years ago, that truly was a new concept. Most previous religions didnt say much about being kind and loving.)
It may sometimes appear to be the silly season, thanks to people such as Mr. Prager, but its really quite special. Amid all the pressure and hassle and credit card bills, we need to remember that.
©2006 by Charles M. McFadden. The McFadden caricature is ©2001 by Jim Hummel. The illustration is from IMSI's Master Clips Collection, 1895 Francisco Blvd. East, San Rafael, CA, 94901-5506, USA. This column first posted Dec. 18, 2006.
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