Dick Baynton: A Little Tolerance For Christmas

Dick Baynton

Christmas is a holiday. All around our country and the wider world vast sums of money are spent on ‘Christmas’ trees and other decorations. In Germany, tannenbaum means ‘O fir tree’ and there is a song often sung around Christmas time entitled, ‘Oh Tannenbaum.’

One of the important components of Christmas is gift giving. While giving has become commercialized, one characteristic that is contagious is the thrill of giving. When a gift is placed in the hands of a recipient, the reward for the giver is often an ear-to-ear smile flashing ivory white teeth beneath dancing eyes. The smile of a recipient is the simple act of receiving something of unknown value from someone considered a friend.

Even if a person is not a ‘believer’, one of the most precious virtues of mankind is tolerance. Tolerance should be assumed but sometimes becomes entangled in politics, religion, race or economic standing. When anyone is affected by intolerance, the lives of others are often influenced negatively.

The baker in Colorado is just as intolerant of the non-typical couple that wanted him to bake them a wedding cake as the couple that wanted the cake. Why should the baker have concerns regarding their sexual orientation? And the couple could drive a few miles away and find someone else to bake their cake. It is shocking that this issue is on the Supreme Court docket.

The farmer and his wife in Charlotte, Michigan refused a same-sex couple from having their wedding ceremony on their picturesque farm. The farmer and the couple share the shame of acting like spoiled children. The couple that wanted to be married on the farm could surely find another venue to satisfy their needs; and the farmers could allow the couple the use of a small section of their farm and drive to Traverse City for the weekend.

Recently I heard a man calling a radio host mentioning that he had been listening to the program since it started. He emphasized that he was an American and he added that although he was Black, he was not African-American as he had no ties whatsoever to that great continent in the southern hemisphere. What I heard in that conversation was tolerance and magnanimity; this man was the epitome of the kind of person who was positively magnetically charged.

A recent issue of the Wall Street Journal carried an article entitled, “An Atheist Can Respect Prayer” authored by a man named Andy Ngo. The writer said he was gay and was visiting a church in Portland, OR where a pastor was debating a local atheist. He said he felt uncomfortable entering the church and kept to himself. Noticing him, a lady church member came to him with a soft drink and a piece of pizza. Her son, standing nearby was introduced to Mr. Ngo.

A few weeks later, Ngo returned for another debate when the same lady greeted him, this time without her son at her side. Asking about the son, the lady took Ngo aside and explained that her son had taken his own life recently. Mentioning that prayers and her faith in God was all she had to keep her afloat, saying, “It’s all I have.” Hearing this, an atheist man walking by issued words of insult and denigration. Mr. Ngo vowed ’never to be that type of atheist again.’

In a statement several years ago, Ben Stein who is an author, attorney, actor, professor and humorist said the following according to journalist Christina Robb-Dover. “My confession: 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.” He adds, “If people want a crèche, it’s just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.”

Anyone can create hatred by convincing themselves that a statue, a plaque of the Ten Commandments, a man dressed as a bulging Santa Claus or a sign that proclaims, “Jesus Saves” is insulting but tolerance is way beyond the egocentric, self-imposed rebuff. Seek joy; reject alienation. We all seek the same tolerance, liberty, freedom and security.

Dick Baynton

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