Like Anna Quindlen, I am amazed by the lack of empathy my fellow Christians show to followers of other faiths in this country ("The SSpirit of the Season," Jan. 3). Christ was executed for preaching a minority faith, dozens of saints were martyred fo rspreading it, the Pilgrims were exiled for following it, and yet we begrudge today's minority religions the respect that was denied to us so long ago. We've survived a legacy of arrests and executions and backdoor prayer meetings in ancienct Rome, the Soviet Union and the Middle East, yet we have the gall to play the victim in America, claiming that Christmas has been banned when there's a tree in every store, carols on every radio station, and "very special" Christmas episodes on TV. We have extraordinary freedom in America. We're free to celebrate openly in our homes, in our yards, at our churches; we have concerts and vacations at our schools; even the White House itself has an enormous tree. Must we turn this time of love and good will into an opportunity to ostracize non-believers? Let's keep the Christ in Christmas and start loving our neighbors enough to include them in our joy, whatever holidays they observe.
-- Steve Anderson, Mechanicsburg, PA
The Pilgrims were exiled for following their particular flavor of Christianity (by other Christians,) but otherwise that letter is exactly on target. So is the next one:
Anna Quindlen could take a lesson from my Hindu friend, who found her son's school "holiday" program boringly sanitized because the word "Christmas" and all songs that dared include it were banned. Though not Christian, she missed the traditional religious songs. If one is secure in her beliefs, then expressions of another faith--in private or in public--should not offend. If, as Quindlen frets, non-Christians feel like "second-class spiritual citizens" after exposure to well-known Christmas traditions in a country tha tis predominantly Christian, then those people suffer from personal weakness. They're certainly not "victims" by virtue of the sad feelings Quindlen presumes they wallow in. Saying "Merry Christmas" is not "an exercise in smug superiority disguised as faith," it's simply a holiday greeting.
-- Sandra J. Britt, Cumberland Furnace, TN
(That logic, "If one is secure in her beliefs..." applies to a lot more than just religion, too. You can substitute "sexuality" or "ethnicity" for starters.)