The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Notes from the Bible Belt

For Xmas Christmas, Bunny gave me a subscription to the Transylvania Times, the newspaper of Brevard, NC (and not a taboid following the exploits of Vlad Ţepeş).

I like Brevard; it has that small town, “Mayberry” feeling. The downtown is easily walkable and has some excellent restaurants despite its small size. And every time I'm there I take the time to buy the local newspaper (published twice weekly) as it's more entertaining than any local newspaper here in Lower Sheol.

For instance, this letter to the Editor:

Who are they? Are you one of them?

Why are they taking God out of our country, out of our schools, off our highways and anywhere else they can?

They took prayer out of our schools. Now our children are being killed.

They stopped parents from correcting our children. They call it abuse.

Yes, I have to remind myself that North Carolina is part of the Bible Belt, so there's some level of craziness to contend with. And except for the highway bit (odd—I don't recall God ever being involved with the US road system) this type of letter is something one would expect from the Bible Belt.

Then we get to the real craziness—

They took Christ out of Christmas by putting Xmas and crossing him out.

On our highways, I see signs, “Deer Xing.” It's taking the cross out of crossing, the cross where Jesus shed his blood to forgive our sins.

The star that shone brightly in the sky, showing where Jesus was born, is not on the top of our Christmas trees. In its place is a ribbon or something else.

Um … what?

Wow. Just wow.

First off, the use of “Xmas” for “Christmas” isn't a recent phenomenon, nor is it part of a conspiracy to secularize Christmas. Xmas has a long history going back to 1755; further if you accept “Xp̄es mæsse” as a precedent (circa 1100). And using “X” as shorthand for “Christ” goes back to 1485.

And that's exactly what it was used for—shorthand. “They” took the “Christ” out of Christ a long time ago.

And that bit about deer crossings—funny, I don't recall Jesus dying on the cross for the sins of ungulates. As far as I can tell, the FHWA requires a picture of a deer for a “Deer Xing” sign, but North Carolina might use alternative signage, so blame North Carolina for Jesus' inability to save ungulates.

And then we have the next letter to the editor …

More notes from the Bible Belt

Not all people who live in the Bible Belt are Fundamentalist fruit baskets; no, sometimes they're clueless progressives who slept through civics class.

Why, in violation of the Constitution, has Rosman [Rosman being the only other town in Transylvania County, and is even smaller than Brevard. —Editor] allowed a local church to present a live Nativity scene on public property?

What local official is responsible for enforcing the law of the land in this situation?

The author might be thinking of the “separation of church and state,” but that phrase nevers appears in the Declaration of Independence nor in the Constitution of the United States of America (it comes from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson).

The only strictions placed upon the Federal Government is the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …

and this bit in Article VI:

… no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

It says nothing about banning religious displays. In fact, until the Fourteenth Amendment, it might have passed Constitutional muster for a state (for example, Utah had it been admitted as a state prior to 1868) to legislate an establishment of religion, under the Tenth Amendment (as the First Amendment only applies to Congress, not a state). The Fourteenth Amendment pushes the restrictions the Constitution placed on the Federal government to the State governments (so there goes any State-level mandated religion) but even then, it still says nothing about a government displaying Nativity scenes.

Knowing nothing more about the “Rosman Nativity Scandal of 2012” than what's presented in the opinion letter, it wouldn't surprise me if the said local church didn't fill out the appropriate forms and pay the appropriate fees to host a public display on public property, allowing the church members to exercise the other part of the First Amendment:

… or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

I'm sure that had a group wanted to present a Kwanzaa celebration on public property they could fill out the proper forms and paid the proper fees just like the church members probably did.

Sheesh! It's not like the Constitution is hard to read.

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