Reader Writes

I feel so blessed to live in a country where we are free to speak our minds
and worship or not worship according to our own tradition, conscience, and
spirit. These freedoms are part of the very foundation of this country.

Although that statement might be controversial and contestable to some,
one fact is incontestable: Today, freedom of speech and religion are guaranteed
rights under the law.

The vast majority of us are originally the descendants of nonnative people,
the descendants of immigrants or slaves. If from immigrants, our people
came here seeking freedom, safety, and a better life. Thank goodness they
found it.

I respect the right of everyone to follow their own conscience. This we are
guaranteed as long as our beliefs don’t impinge on someone else’s well-being
and rights. Unlike some countries in this world, we are all free to pray where
we want and to whom we want or choose not to pray at all.

I respect Mr. Wilson and Mr. Marsh’s right to speak their minds in a personal
ad and letter to The Blount Countian respectively, as is their right.
However, I am also a citizen of this country and Blount County and am
Jewish. In a county and country where Christianity predominates among
worshippers, I expect to be exposed to lots about Christmas as I have been
all my life. I don’t expect the diversity one finds in an urban environment,
but I do expect our laws to be respected and upheld, e.g. not only having
Christmas activities at school. Exposure to the rich diversity of other cultures
and other beliefs provides a way towards tolerance, understanding, and
peace among us.

Although the debate as to whether America was founded as a Christian
nation rages on, I have never seen evidence that it was. The words “Creator”
and “G-d” are mentioned in our founding documents, but nowhere is
Christianity mentioned. Although I revere many of Jesus’s teachings, I am
thankful there is no national religion.

The first settlers arrived to escape religious persecution. As our melting
pot expands, exclusion is harmful to all of us. So when I read that “It is
time…to reclaim America for Christ,” though probably not their intentions, it
struck fear in my heart as I felt threatened. Through history Jews and many
others because of skin color, sexual orientation, disability, country of origin,
or religion, etc. have experienced exclusion, persecution, and murder. Some
of it perpetrated in the name of religion, some in the name of Christianity.

Have we not had enough destruction in our lifetimes because of intolerance?
We all know different things. This I know, our G-d is the same, & I know the
Creator is more concerned with what is in our hearts and souls and minds
than about decorations. How this manifests in our treatment of each other
and this miraculous planet Earth is what is “golden” as in the “rule”.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays
Debra Gordon-Hellman