Writer, actor, and TV personality Ben Stein loves Christmas. What makes this noteworthy, if you didn’t know, is that Ben is Jewish. Ben has written and spoken on the topic of Christmas many times over the years. Internet e-mail and social network forwarding chains have distorted some of what he has said. Here is what he said straight from the man himself.
The following is a transcript of one of Ben’s earliest commentaries about Christmas. This is from his appearance on the CBS Sunday Morning program that aired on December 18, 2005.
[blockquote cite=”Ben Stein, CBS Sunday Morning, 12/18/2005″]
Herewith at this happy time of year, a few confessions from my beating heart:
I have no freaking clue who Nick and Jessica are. I see them on the cover of People and Us constantly when I am buying my dog biscuits and kitty litter. I often ask the checkers at the grocery stores. They never know who Nick and Jessica are either. Who are they? Will it change my life if I know who they are and why they have broken up? Why are they so important? I don’t know who Lindsay Lohan is, either, and I do not care at all about Tom Cruise’s wife.
Am I going to be called before a Senate committee and asked if I am a subversive? Maybe, but I just have no clue who Nick and Jessica are. Is this what it means to be no longer young. It’s not so bad.
Next confession: I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees Christmas trees. I don’t feel threatened. I don’t feel discriminated against. That’s what they are: Christmas trees. It doesn’t bother me a bit when people say, “Merry Christmas” to me. I don’t think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn’t bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu. If people want a creche, it’s just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.
I don’t like getting pushed around for being a Jew and I don’t think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can’t find it in the Constitution and I don’t like it being shoved down my throat.
Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship Nick and Jessica and we aren’t allowed to worship God as we understand Him?
I guess that’s a sign that I’m getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where Nick and Jessica came from and where the America we knew went to.
On December 23, 2011 Ben made a similar commentary, once again on the CBS Sunday Morning program. This time admitting a bit more about his personal life.
[blockquote cite=”Ben Stein, CBS Sunday Morning, 12/23/2011″]
My wife and I celebrate Christmas, big-time. I am sure we have more decorations than anyone within miles of here has.
On a superficial level, it’s because the lights and tree and fire are festive. That’s innate. Man loves colored lights and fires. When I was a child in Maryland, the Gentiles had festive lights and we Jews didn’t. I didn’t like that. I saw no reason why the Gentiles should have all the fun and I still don’t. Having those lights and a tree — that’s what I always wanted — to have colored lights and to be a part of the dominant culture.
But I love Christmas for much more basic reasons. Christmas is about something huge. You can be saved if you simply make a contract to believe in God and (some add) if you act right. It has nothing to do with how you were born or into what tribe.
This is a revolutionary, stupendous freeing of the human spirit. This is why Christmas is such a joyous time for people, whether Jews or Christians, or anyone else, who want to believe that we humans can be forgiven and go on to lead lives of triumph no matter what has happened in our past.
That, and not shopping at all, not the retail numbers, is why Christmas is such a great time.
The lights are nice and the tree is nice and the shopping is nice. But a dominant culture that says that love and peace are the highest values — that’s what I want to honor.
We don’t honor retail sales numbers. We honor the spirit of forgiveness and love. That’s Christmas for me.
Ben Stein has spoken and written on many different topics. You can find a comprehensive list of his work on his official web site at http://www.benstein.com/writing.html.
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