Sunday, February 14, 2010

The United States, A Christian Country

I grew up in mid-Twentieth Century United States.  I always lived in areas which were mostly Jewish, but I never had a doubt, no doubt at all that the United States was at heart, mind and media a Christian country.

As I remember, the early history and its stories of religious freedom were about various Christian groups, not full religious rights for all religions, Hindus, Muslims, Jews and any others.  We lived with other Jews to feel more comfortable.  The local New York City public schools were closed Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur.  No other Jewish Holidays seemed to be known.  We weren't religiously observant. 

In neighborhoods like ours, the schools kept the "winter holiday celebrations" pretty G-dless and sans Jesus, too.  We sang about snow, Santa and dreidles.  The only "religious" song was "Silent Night," which most of us Jews didn't quite understand.   Easter,  I associated with bonnets and decorated eggs.  I never caught onto any religious message about it from the TV shows; it remains an enigma.  Yes, television was the great educator and assimilation tool.

May father learned English in school and both my parents learned American customs and values there.  But I learned from the TV.

As a teen I felt that I had to choose between being Jewish and being an American,  Being American meant accepting christian customs and priorities.  In Great Neck North, NY, I had a teacher who would complain that the Jews ruined things for Great Neck.  I was amazed and asked what she had meant:
"Before the Jews came, we had such beautiful Christmas pageants."

Every once in a while I hear or read discussion about the place of Christianity in America.  I accept it as the dominant ruling religion.  That's why I strengthened my Judaism, became Orthodox (Torah observant) and moved to Israel.


Hadassa said...

Every nation has its own land. That's the way G-d created the world. Jews have Israel. I suppose the other 69 nations and their lands won't be sorted out until the Mashiah comes.
My school (private) used to have a Christmas pageant every year also. The number of Jews didn't change, but the number of other minorities did so the pageant was eventually replaced by something else; I forget with what. I don't remember whether on not the latke and dreidle morning in the cafeteria is still held. Perhaps the school has adopted a day of Ramamdan?

Bryan said...

Most Christians don't understand Easter, either. Theologically, it celebrates the day Christians believe that Jesus rose from the dead, on the third day after Good Friday, when he was crucified. How it got associated with an egg-dispensing rabbit and other such bizarre customs, I have no idea.

Actually, when I was at shul yesterday, we had a discussion on whether America was a Christian country or not. Most of us agreed that it was, and is, and in all likelihood will remain, a Christian country.

Hadassa said...

P.S. or should that be "the other 70 nations"?

Anonymous said...

yep. america is a great country, best thats ever been.
but right now im in the us on business and im itching to get back home.

Kevin said...

I have to say as a Christian I take offense at that. I too must choose as an American to be first and foremost an American Citizen or a Citizen of the Kingdom of God. Which I gladly choose the later while trying to not neglect the previous. I love my country but I love my God all the more so and worship Him in the manner he choose. That being said I respect the Jewish people and their traditions. I just with the respect was mutual? You can contact me through my website if you would like to finish this discussion.
I hope to hear from you soon.

Batya said...

Hadassa, Bryan, a and b, "Sunday blue laws" were still very strong when I was a kid.

Hadassa, I had no idea about your education/background.

Bryan, number-wise no doubt. We used to read a Biblical passage at various school events in NYC. My schools took only from the Jewish Bible.

a, "best" no way

b, what's there to be offended about?

Hadassa said...

The private secular school was totally mixed, in every way possible. In the being that meant 99 percent Protestants (broadly defined) and Jews, probably because the Catholics wouldn't attend a school that had so many Jews. Over the years more minorities moved into the area and with everyone wanting to be PC, the school became as multi-cultural as possible. It seems like America is going the same way my school did. America wasn't founded as a categorically Christian country. Most of the early settlers were Christian, G-d is certainly mentioned quite frequently by the Founding Fathers, but can we really classify America as a Christian country?

Batya said...

Hadassa, have you forgotten the missionaries? non-denominational meaning various chrisians accepted. their "freedom of religion" rather myopic, not even realizing that there are other religions. Your America is multicultural. Mine wasn't and the colonies even less so.

Hadassa said...

Batya, are you saying that America has changed and is no longer a Christian country?

It really never was officially Christian. America has no official religion, unlike many (most?) countries of the world. There are no religious barriers to any position of government. A friend from Argentina was surprised to hear that a Jew could be elected US president because there only a Christian (Catholic?) could reach the highest office.
Being as even the Constitution can be amended, there's nothing to stop any - or no - religion from legally dominating America.
In twenty years, if there are any Jews left, perhaps they'll say, "Being American meant accepting Muslim customs and priorities."

Batya said...

No, I guess I wasn't clear. IN my day it was big news for JFK to be elected, because the presidency was WASP not Irish Catholic. Multi-cultural if the term had existed then would mean tolerant of Baptists, not just Episcopalians.