19 November 2004
Regular readers, assuming any remain, will be familiar with Dawn Eden, from whom I crib a great deal of material; beyond the simple fact that more often than not I approach this screen with absolutely no idea what I'm going to type and therefore need all the inspiration I can get, I can count on her for a thoughtful, if occasionally heated, consideration of whatever issue has drawn her attention, and very often we find ourselves thinking along parallel if not necessarily identical lines. (This is not to say that I'm trying to bring myself more into line with her dating desiderata or anything; it's simply a fact.)
Her New York Post op-ed on the decision by Columbia High School administration to reduce its holiday-music program to the lowest common denominator is of course critical, but there's one paragraph in the middle that really struck a chord. Describing her own days at Columbia, she writes:
Performing in front of the townspeople, I also learned something about the power of inspirational music to bring people together. I knew that the lyrics about the Messiah weren't about my religion's Messiah. Yet I couldn't help but be moved at how Handel's intensely beautiful music, sung by teenagers in intricate four-part harmony, had such an uplifting effect on the listerners, many also not Christian. It was an awesome thing to sing the opening notes of the "Hallelujah Chorus" and see the entire audience rise as one.
This was in the 1980s. Today, the default assumption is that any reference to some religion other than your own if any is somehow exclusionary, even coercive. What have we gained? Is anyone other than Michael Newdow happy at the prospect of confining everyone to his own personal spiritual pigeonhole, lest he be exposed to Something Unfamiliar? When did we become the (Sort Of) United Solipsists of America?
Once again, the nebulous desire for "diversity" brings us closer to cultural Balkanization. The melting pot has been replaced, not with a salad bar, but with a row of safety-deposit boxes. And we are the poorer for it.
(Update, 8:15 am: My favorite atheist understands just fine.)
(Update, 11:00 am: The Barista of Bloomfield Ave. digs up the official policy of the South Orange/Maplewood school district [link requires Adobe Reader; the pertinent section is 2270, starting on page 12].)
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» Religion's Place in the Public Sphere, Holidays Edition from Notes & Musings
Michele and CG Hill have excellent posts on this topic, along the lines of: "lighten up, Francis". Both are based on this op-ed by Dawn Eden, "The Grinch Who Stole 'Messiah', describing a school district in New Jersey that has......[read more]