“Hi Neighbor, I don’t like you the way you are.”

david_w“Hi Neighbor, you have a nice display of lights,” the anonymous note begins. “This love note explains how that pagan tradition began.”

The unsolicited lecture “love note” was distributed to residents of a Michigan neighborhood:

For thousands of years, Sun-worshippers have celebrated the Sungod’s rebirth after Solstice. Pagans honored the birth of the “invincible sun” with a “festival of lights.” They used big bonfires, pigs fat tallow candle lights, and today, billions of colored christmass lights. Rome’s seven-day December Saturnalia was religious revelry with decadent drunkenness outrageous adultery and giving Saturn’s nativity birth gifts to the children. The Norseman’s yuletide solstice carousal used sexual soliciting mistletoe, Yule-log bonfires, and decorated evergreen wreaths and tree worship. None of this honors Yeshua the Christ… [the published image cuts off the note at this point. -Ed.]

During the two-plus years of the ongoing Loudoun Festival of Holiday Free Speech and Vandalism, I don’t recall anyone from any community attempting to dictate the content of other people’s displays on private property. We can be thankful for that, at least.

It doesn’t extend to respect for the personal appearance of our neighbors, though. A Muslim friend reports this experience: A fellow customer at a local business made a point of returning (after bravely starting her car), to sneer “Merry Christmas!” at my friend in a tone that was not jolly, or loving, or inspired by good will toward all people. And this was not an isolated incident. What has happened to us?

I bet this Christmanukah Treenora wouldn’t pass inspection by any of these folks, either. I’m sure this must violate some religious authority’s notion of appropriateness. And that’s unfortunate, because the only people in the Bible who Jesus really expressed anger toward were those who – in the name of God – put their own dogma of cultural conformity above being loving toward other human beings (a thank you to John Shore for pointing this out so compellingly). In other words, people who for some reason think they have the authority to make exceptions to what Jesus clearly says is the most important thing of all: Love your neighbor as yourself.

David Weintraub is an Elder at St. James United Church of Christ, Lovettsville.

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