The following was written by Ben Stein and recited by him on CBS Sunday Morning Commentary.
I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees Christmas trees. I don't feel threatened. I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are: Christmas trees.
It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, "Merry Christmas" to me. I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu . If people want a crèche, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.
I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it being shoved down my throat.
Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship Nick and Jessica and we aren't allowed to worship God as we understand Him? I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where Nick and Jessica came from and where the America we knew went to.
In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different: This is not intended to be a joke; it's not funny, it's intended to get you thinking.
Billy Graham's daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her "How could God let something like this happen?" (regarding Katrina) Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response. She said, "I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are,but for years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?"
In light of recent events...terrorists attack, school shootings, etc. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found recently) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we said OK.
Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school. The Bible says thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said OK.
Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock's son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he's talking about. And we said OK.
Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.
Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with "WE REAP WHAT WE SOW."
Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world's going to hell. Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says. Funny how you can send 'jokes' through e-mail and they spread like wildfire but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing. Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.
Are you laughing?
Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you're not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it.
Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us.
Pass it on if you think it has merit. If not then just discard it... No one will know you did. But, if you discard this thought process, don't sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in. My Best Regards.
Honestly and respectfully,
Being a parent is the hardest thing ever, but the most meaningful, joyful thing ever. There is no handbook on how to be a good parent, we go with our gut. Children, as well as adults, need to know right from wrong and be held accountable. Parents have to remember what they went through as children and understand their own children when they do the same things. I believe you can be a friend to your children, as long as you know where to draw the line and be their parent first and foremost. The best thing in the world is to have a wonderful and close, caring relationship with your children. Lead by example. And make sure your example is pretty damn good. Believe in yourselves, go with your gut, you will know what's right!
Shouldn't we stop the people in power from trying to make this a Christian nation?
Thanks for the article; it touches on many subjects which split the USA in half. Stein is a mouthpiece for the Republican Party, Richard Nixon, and the Right To Life movement (getting an award from them a few years ago), so I'm surprised this was on CBS instead of Fox. He taught at Pepperdine Law School, led by Kenneth Starr, who should be prosecuting Bush and Cheney for high crimes and misdemeanors.
Here's my advice to Ben Stein. If you're worried about the direction of our country, get more involved in politics. Donate your time and money to your cause. If you're worried about the moral character of our children, get involved in tutoring programs, or be a Big Brother. Donate your time and money to our children. If you're worried about religion, get more involved in your synagogue.
in regard to the commentary, i think it's well written and thought provoking,
but i don't believe that the absence of God in our lives can light a candle to halo III and george w. bush--just sayin'
I see God as the one infinite, loving Principle of the universe – the essence of everything that is real and good. I think God is no less God to the atheist than to the religious person. I think God is equally and eternally the cause and creator of every single one of us.
Now, it does seem that some people and even some generations are more God-centered than others, and I think that can make a difference in our quality of life. My life, for one, has benefitted greatly from increased prayer. So I understand the perspective of the Ben Stein email where it suggests that less focus on God leads to less harmony in our country.
But I don’t believe God would ever leave or abandon a country, anymore than I believe the principle of math would abandon a kid that didn’t do his math homework. I think anybody is able to turn to turn to God at anytime and, to the extent that they are willing to be transformed by God, receive the blessings of infinite Love in their daily lives.
I think this is one of the more peaceful and poignant points made on this subject in a long time. It was a pleasure to read and truly made you think - which is why it has taken me several days to write on it.
I absolutely love his discussion of not being offended by Christmas trees, etc. as I feel the same way. Why should a Jew be upset when wished a Merry Christmas? In this day and age it basically means Happy Holidays. I do understand that the context is Christian, but with some melancholy for Christians, it has become more universal and not as much religious. I personally think it's great when someone who doesn't celebrate Jewish Holidays tries and says "Happy Yum Kiper!" rather than pronouncing it correctly. You don't always have to understand what a holiday is about to show some love to someone else. I think it's about inclusion rather than exclusion.
Now the God thing. I am a very spiritual person, but far less religious in the typical sense. I think that God (or the universe, Mother Nature, or whatever higher power you choose - if you do at all - I choose God) has a way of balancing the universe. When we get too powerful or too cocky it's time for some balance. I don't think it has much to anything to do with not believing in God. I think overall you'll find more people who are truly religous and/or spiritual today than you did 60 years ago. I think (like has been mentioned in past emails) it has to do with parenting, outside influences, and in terms of Katrina (or other distasters) a feeling that is time for the world to unite in some fashion and stop paying attention to Britney, Jessica or whoever. There are bigger things going on in this world than them. Don't get me wrong, I like my US Weekly, but after reading it I try to remember that the important stuff is the stuff that wasn't in there. Like raising my son and helping to create a great and peaceful world.
I found Ben Stein’s essay very disturbing—as I find Ben Stein generally to be!
Of course I don’t like anyone who is religious, of any religion, to be discriminated against!
Then again, my understanding is that our US government is not based on lack of belief in God, but not in the practice of one religion over another. That is why we mandate our government, schools and publicly based institutions to refrain from using the symbols of one religion or another.
Can I enjoy Christmas decorations? Sure, as someone else’s symbol.
Do I want those decorations/declarations from my government—no!
Do I feel that I need my own holiday symbols out there to compete with Christmas decorations? No, and I would actually prefer they weren’t set up as a “compliment” to other holiday scenes. That gives legitimacy to those of only two groups as approved religions. I have friends and associates that are Hindu, Buddhist, Baha’i, Muslim, etc. Why should any private religious symbols be paraded as public icons?
There is no restriction for putting these displays on private property or on the grounds of a religious institution, nor should there be—it is where they belong. If you do put up those decorations, then I can enjoy sharing them with you as your symbols and enjoy the artistry and creativity (if there is any) of the display itself.
No one has ever told parents to stop teaching ethics to their children—but when we see evidence that parents are not doing this, those on the right insist that the schools are responsible but won’t let them teach ethics or even practical prevention! And even stranger is when parents then complain that the schools are taking away their job of teaching ethics, when obviously many aren’t doing that job. Instead, let the folks on the right work with parents to get them to teach their children right from wrong—don’t damn the children to a life without any guidance because you cannot agree on who should be the teacher! You just cannot have it both ways.
I haven’t ever heard anyone who says that there should not be mandated prayer in schools say that children who would like to pray quietly/silently to themselves cannot do so. Instead we continue to insist that prayer is a private matter and not a rule to be made to follow. There is no reason that the practice of religion in public school needs to a participatory sport.
Religious schools are accessible to almost anyone—whether it is a full time day school, a CCD class once a week, Hebrew school weekly, or any of the other forms of religious education. And religious institutions usually will make education affordable to everyone needing it in one way or another.
Ben Stein says that there is suppression of talk about God and that the world is going to hell. Ben Stein’s conclusions that we now have terrorism and murders and totally deterioration of civilization due to the lack of God in our lives is a scare tactic well known to the religious right—I don’t care if it is Bush and the Christian right or the Jewish right wing with Ben Stein leading the way! It is absurd. There has been murder and forms of terrorism and all sorts of debased behavior noted throughout history. Sometimes the tactics of one are more pronounced than others, but we unfortunately don’t all seem to learn from history too well to have avoided them once again. Armageddon is only coming for those that believe in it—the rest of us need to be committed to working in the world to make it a better place, day by day.
And for Ben Stein to blame Dr. Spock for the moral decay of our civilization is the most ridiculous of all! It is as absurd as insinuating that because Madeline Murray was against prayer in the schools that she was murdered. How dare he!
There are plenty of ways that parents can discipline their children other than with beatings! Many of us parents have raised incredible children that are socially conscious, morally upstanding (with small “falls from grace” periodically-they are human after all), and have strong character that are making contributions to our world. It is an insult all of us who work hard at parenting to lay the blame of society on folks like Dr. Spock.And that Ben Stein stating that what he is saying and thinking has anything to do with God is an insult to us all!!