The whole idea of a free society is based on a very simple idea that is very hard to live by: People have the right to be wrong.
.. In the “modern” era, its status as one of the defining ideas of Western civilization can be traced to the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. After a century of bloody religious wars between Catholics and Protestants — with Jews often getting caught in the crossfire — the exhausted rulers of Europe reluctantly agreed to a fragile truce. While every nation would still officially follow the faith of the ruler, it was understood that religious minorities would be afforded some tolerance.
.. Cromwell’s Puritan-dominated parliament declared a real “war on Christmas,” banning celebration of the holiday. The Colonial city of Boston followed a similar practice, imposing a fine on anyone who celebrated Christmas.
.. If he thought he could get away with it, he would have made mandatory compliance with his faith the law of the land. But Cromwell recognized that he had to compromise with reality if he was going to end the religious conflicts plaguing his country.
.. The religious conflicts of the past were ultimately about which values, rituals, customs, and ideas should be imposed on everybody.
.. We are a long way off from putting beliefs of the mind to the judgment of the sword, but that is the logical destination of the path we are on, because we have lost faith in the utility of upholding the right to be wrong.
I don’t suspect that anything about Bethlehem that night was actually silent: people teeming and bustling along as they search for accommodations or catching up with old family friends as they wait to be registered; animals bleating and braying.
.. I’d like to think that God breaking into the world would be noticeable, that it would be obvious. Surely God-loving people can’t miss God breaking into our midst, right? And yet here God enters with the glorious cry of a newborn baby, requiring bouncing and burping, feeding and cleaning
Your entire enterprise exists to supply presents one day a year, yet everyone is on the payroll for 365 days. You will not even extend your franchise to Black Friday, which is a blatant missed opportunity. Meanwhile, you insist on delivering down chimneys, ignoring the fact that only one segment of your target demographic lives in a house. What is wrong with doors?
In short, St Nicholas is one of the least innovative companies I have ever encountered. It is as fat and happy as its chief executive, sticking religiously to an ageing business formula that exposes it to being disrupted.
.. Your lack of interest in profitability struck the traditionalist in me as foolish but I have come to understand the virtues of reinvesting revenues over several centuries in order to dominate your market and entrench your monopoly.
Before radio, before a real record industry, the sheet-music business couldn’t see the point of working a song that would be dead on 26 December. The notion that it might be a seasonal insurance policy, returning year after year for decade after decade, never occurred to them.
.. Had America entered the war in Europe in 1939, ‘White Christmas’ might have been just a hit record from a so-so movie. Instead, 1942 was the American serviceman’s first Christmas away, in the Pacific, under glorious sunny skies that only made home seem even more distant. In Operation Shylock, Philip Roth wrote:
‘God gave Moses the Ten Commandments and then He gave Irving Berlin ‘Easter Parade’ and ‘White Christmas’. The two holidays that celebrate the divinity of Christ – the divinity that’s the very heart of the Jewish rejection of Christmas – and what does Irving Berlin brilliantly do? He de-Christs them both! Easter turns into a fashion show and Christmas into a holiday about snow… He turns their religion into schlock. But nicely!’