Note to a friend, Rabbi Douglas

The mixed meaning of religious tolerance

        “You’ll be interested in this. Most late afternoons I sit with Mom during her early dinner at the nearby assisted living facility where she resides. On Monday a combined Brownie-Girl Scout group came caroling. Two of the pieces they sang were Chanukah songs, one I hadn’t heard, about the miraculous oil lamp, the other a popular dreidel song.

        “The fact that such music is employed in caroling, especially here in the South, is a pretty interesting phenomenon. The other interesting thing is that none of the other songs were about the Christmas nativity, but about Frosty, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, white-Christmas-dreaming, etc. Except for the finale, a lovely preadolescent rendition of ‘Silent Night.’

        “I think it’s a good thing, at least in the short run, that Chanukah has filtered down into civil society holiday traditions. Maybe we’re finally emerging from that ugly current in the Protestant Reformation, as when Martin Luther penned The Jews and their lies. Though, even given the uptick in violence against Muslims in this country, FBI statistics reveal that 59% of hate crimes are against Jews.

        “In the long run, though, I’m not sure if this growing civil tolerance is a good thing. Your story runs the risk of being domesticated as much as ours already has been.

        “We watch, and wonder, ever waiting for a sign.” —Ken

Douglas responses. “Events are not without complications. Jews are freer than we have ever been and accepted in places where Jews were not welcome when I was growing up. We are in an era of an African American President and the rise of Trump.

            “We are in an era of hyper-capitalism that is appalling.  We lost Chanukah and Christmas a long time ago. The majestic defiance of human beings who, when it is really dark, light lights, has become about gifts. So very sad to me.”

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©Ken Sehested @