Monday, December 12, 2011

The Parable of the Creche Scene


This is the time of year when some folks get upset about other folks saying "Happy Holidays!" rather than "Merry Christmas!"   What makes this particularly ironic is that in my experience the biggest offenders are the church ladies at Roxborough Baptist Church.  I've had them wish me "Happy Holidays!" in church on Christmas Eve.

Why?  Because they're Christians and they don't want to inadvertently hurt anybody's feelings or make them feel excluded.

People are complicated and nobody could with justice claim that we're a logically consistent bunch.  Here's a true story.  I call it . . .

The Parable of the Creche Scene

When I first came to Roxborough, thirty years ago, I was amazed to discover that every year a creche scene was erected in Gorgas Park.  It was privately funded, I believe, but Gorgas Park belongs to the City of Philadelphia, so the creche was an obvious violation of the principle of the separation of church and state.  "Sooner or later," I said at the time, "somebody's going to complain."

And, sure enough, several years later, somebody did.  So the city, knowing which side the courts would take, announced that they would not allow the creche to be placed in the park.

This got almost everybody upset.  The creche was one of those things that had "always" been done and people looked forward to it.  There were angry mutterings and intemperate words. 

In the midst of this storm of bad feelings, Leverington Presbyterian Church, which was located directly across the street from Gorgas Park, stepped in to save the day.  They found out who actually owned the creche, and arranged for it to be displayed throughout the Christmas season on the lawn in front of the church.  Now the creche could be experienced by the community just like before.  The only difference was that it was located a few dozen feet away from its original location.  It was an act of wisdom worthy of Solomon.

But were people happy?

No.  The local weekly paper was flooded with letters complaining that the church had hijacked the creche scene and was trying to use it for their own religious purposes.

And so . . .

Happy Holidays, everybody!  And, since I enjoy saying it, Merry Christmas too!  I don't give a damn who that offends.

Above:  There's the creche scene as it exists today in front of Leverington Presbyterian.  It was good of them to adopt it, and I'm always happy to see it come back.



Ken Houghton said...

"But were people happy?

No. The local weekly paper was flooded with letters complaining that the church had hijacked the creche scene and was trying to use it for their own religious purposes."

I wish this were surprising.

(Apparently, in The Sequel, Paul's bitter, nasty letters of prescription are more important than the teachings of that nice Jewish boy. It's like reading about the Genesis and the Exodus, but deciding Deuteronomy and Leviticus are the Important Parts. Oh, wait...)

Happy Holidays, Michael! (Dec 12 seems a bit early for "Merry Xmas," so just assume that phrase shortly after Channukah starts.)

Michael Swanwick said...

Let's focus on the Baptist ladies who are so filled with the Spirit that they'll say "Happy Holidays" in church on Christmas just because they don't want to exclude anybody from their goodwill.

When our son Sean was an infant, Marianne and I wandered into a church bazaar in New Hope and discovered an enormous box of Duplos being offered for three bucks. The church ladies running the sale tried very hard to argue down the price for us.

Yeah, church folk can be a real pain when you're on the same committee as them, month after month. But credit where credit is due. Blue-haired church ladies can definitely ROCK.