Posts Tagged “bethlehem”

The mayor argues that this Nativity scene celebrates the town's origins. / KOAT-TVAccording to Fox News, it’s on, folks! That’s right, Christianists’ annual paranoid whining about an imagined effort to abolish the celebration of Christmas in the US has resumed early — in August! (Even so, that’s not as early as back in 2013.) This story involves the town of Belen, NM which has a nativity in a city park year-round (“Belen” is the Spanish equivalent of “Bethelehem,” so Christians there appear to believe this is somehow necessary). KOAT-TV in Albuquerque reports on this particular little controversy (WebCite cached article):

It’s an iconic symbol for Christians everywhere — the birth of Jesus Christ, known as the Nativity scene — and it’s on display in a Belen city park. But now a Wisconsin advocacy group is warning the city to take it down.

“My first reaction was seething anger,” Belen Mayor Jerah Cordova said.

It’s an iconic symbol for Christians everywhere — the birth of Jesus Christ, known as the Nativity scene — and it’s on display in a Belen city park. But now a Wisconsin advocacy group is warning the city to take it down.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation says it was contacted by a concerned local resident and, after reviewing the situation, it agrees: the Nativity scene on government property is unconstitutional because it’s not a separation of church and state.

But Cordova doesn’t see it like that. He says the scene is more historic than religious, as “Belen” is Spanish for Bethlehem.

“Our town was named Belen for a reason, because our founders wanted it to be named after Bethlehem and of course, what happened in Bethlehem was the birth of Christ, which is something we’ve expressed since our founding,” he said.

I love the editorial reference to the FFRF as “a Wisconsin advocacy group.” As though they’re a bunch of meddling outsiders trying to tell these fine upstanding locals what to do, and who have no place in New Mexico. It turns out this is a common refrain, particularly regarding the FFRF, when they intervene anywhere in the South. “How dare these ‘outsiders’ come down here and order us around?” is a frequent complaint by Christianists offended by being confronted with the law. As noted in the story, though, the FFRF had been notified of this by locals who’d requested their assistance. Besides, the FFRF’s status as “outsiders” to Belen is irrelevant. If they’re breaking the law, then they’re breaking the law, and being told so by out-of-staters cannot and will never change that fact.

As KOAT-TV relates, mayor Cordova used an appeal to the slippery slope in order to justify keeping the nativity on city property:

“Where does it stop?” Cordova asked. “If we don’t stand up for the Nativity scene in the heart of Belen, next will they be asking us to change our name?”

For the record, I know of no effort anywhere in the country to force any municipality to change its name. It has never happened. To assume it will happen merely because one imagines it might happen, is irrational and illogical. At any rate, fuelled by his sanctimonious rage and standing on a foundation of fallacy and paranoia, Cordova promised his city will defy the FFRF and take the case to court. The odds are very good that they’ll lose. What’s more, a court battle is likely to cost them a good deal of money, even if some Christofascist legal outfit promises to represent them pro bono, because after the court case is over and they’ve lost, Belen will end up having to pay the plaintiffs’ legal costs. And that won’t be cheap.

I can’t help but wonder why any of this is even necessary. First, why must this nativity — reflecting Belen’s heritage as a New World “Bethlehem” — be placed only on municipal property? Is there any reason it can’t be moved to private property? Will it somehow lose all its magical power unless it’s in a city park? Is there any reason it can’t be moved to some church’s front lawn or something?

Second, why are Christians even erecting idols to their deity — which is essentially what a nativity is — in the first place? As I point out in my page on Decalogue monuments, idolatry is forbidden to Christians, as recorded in both the Old and New Testaments:

You shall not make for yourselves idols, nor shall you set up for yourselves an image or a sacred pillar, nor shall you place a figured stone in your land to bow down to it; for I am the Lord your God. (Lv 26:1)

Those who regard vain idols forsake their faithfulness (Jon 2:8)

Let all those be ashamed who serve graven images, who boast themselves of idols; worship Him, all you gods. (Ps 97:7)

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. (1 Cor 10:14)

Little children, guard yourselves from idols. (1 Jn 5:21)

On top of this, though, a nativity put up prominently on public property is most certainly a form of public piety, which also was explicitly forbidden by none other than Jesus himself:

Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:1-6)

How, exactly, is a public nativity scene even an appropriate way to worship a deity who not only prohibited the construction of idols, but also public piety of any kind or at any time? Maybe it’s because I’m a cold-hearted, cynical, godless agnostic heathen and haven’t been granted the special sacred insight required to explain the illogic inherent in all of this, but I really and truly don’t get it.

Photo credit: KOAT-TV.

Hat tip: Raw Story.

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Comments Comments Off on War On Christmas 2015, Part 1

A member from the Greek Orthodox clergy (L) and a Palestinian use diesel to scrub the floor and columns of the Church of the Nativity, the site revered as the birthplace of Jesus, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem December 28, 2011. REUTERS/Ammar AwadIt seems Christians have a hard time dealing with the fact that — for the most part — the legendary founder of their religion was an avowed pacifist. This is indisputable, and can easily be found in the pages of any Christian Bible (e.g. Mt 5:38-39 and Lk 6:29, just to name two citations quoting him directly on the matter). He’s even known to many Christians as “the Prince of Peace.” Unfortunately, many Christians purposely ignore Jesus’ overt pacifism, paying closer attention to another of his quotations (i.e. Mt 10:34), and they freely exhibit as much violence as they wish.

It’s particularly ironic that a bunch of Christian clergy — men who ought to know better than other Christians that Jesus had been a pacifist — decided to duke it out with one another, in the place where it’s long been presumed he was born. The AP reports via USA Today‘s On Deadline blog on this idiotic debacle (WebCite cached article):

Up to 100 Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic priests and monks swinging brooms clashed inside the Church of Nativity today in Bethlehem in a frenzied turf battle, the Associated Press reports. …

The fighting broke out during cleaning of the West Bank church in preparation for Orthodox Christmas celebrations in early January, as each side jealously guards its territory.

Sounds like these guys have a little growing up to do. It also sounds like this is the sort of jurisdictional conflict that ought to have been resolved long ago.

I was amused by the fact that Palestinian authorities — who have secular jurisdiction over the premises — have opted not to take any criminal action:

“It was a trivial problem that … occurs every year,” police Lieutenant-Colonel Khaled al-Tamimi tells Reuters. “Everything is all right and things have returned to normal.

He tells the news agency that there were no arrests “because all those involved were men of God.”

That’s right, folks. No crime apparently occurred here, because the people involved in the incident were “men of God.” This sort of reasoning sounds suspiciously like the same line of thinking that made it possible for so many priests and nuns to abuse so many children around the world for decades or centuries. Hmm. Maybe it’s time for a new mindset … one that admits the possibility that “men of God” may not actually be as perfect as others might wish they were?

Photo credit: Reuters/Ammar Awad (cached).

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