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For all of the smoke and furor from the Christian community about the city of Chicago’s recent decision to ban promotional clips of the upcoming movie The Nativity Story from its Christmas festival in Daley Plaza1, I have yet to hear any of these same people running to the defense of Colorado homeowner, Lisa Jensen2. While Chicago battles a public relations nightmare in full view of the media, Jensen has been battling her Gestapo homeowners association with little fanfare. Apparently Jensen’s right to display her “peace wreath” is not as interesting or equitable as film clips of Mary and Joseph. Let me explain.
Sometime during the week of Thanksgiving, Jensen—like many others around the country—began to decorate her house for Christmas. One of her unfortunate choices of decorating apparel for her home was the aforementioned “peace wreath,” an evergreen ensemble of green and red, wound into the familiar visual reminder of the sixties. Upon seeing the wreath adorning the Jensen abode, her homeowners association went certifiably bonkers. Declaring it “politically divisive” and a “symbol of Satanism,” the board threatened Jensen with a $25/day fine until she removed the “offensive” wreath. It wasn’t that the association banned wreaths or outdoor decorations of any kind; they viewed Jensen’s wreath as a political—or even worse—a religious, statement. The peace wreath was deemed “divisive,” and since the association “doesn’t allow flags or signs that are considered divisive,” the obvious decision was to demand removal of the festive monstrosity.
To her credit, Jensen was not put off by the association. A past president herself, Jensen knew her rights and stood her ground. She insisted the wreath was neither a political, anti-war statement nor a shrine to the “evil one.” She said the wreath was simply a way to proclaim the hope that she shares with every Miss America contestant: world peace. After she received overwhelming support from the Pagosa Springs community, the homeowners association backed off and claimed that the whole affair was a misunderstanding. I guess it was…and it still is. By caving in and allowing the wreath to stay, the association is revealing just how out of touch they are with the rest of the country.
Perhaps the residents of Pagosa Springs aren’t aware that all things Christian are at the top of the short list of things sure to offend at least one person. Michael Newdow is offended by the national motto emblazoned on our currency. The ACLU is offended for everyone else by anything resembling a biblical command in plain view. Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, et al, are intellectually offended by the mind-constricting power of religion in general, but Christianity specifically. And of course our friends in Chicago who do not want to offend their residents by implying that Christmas has anything to do with Jesus Christ.
No, Pagosa Springs must not be aware of any of this, because they are allowing the peace wreath to stay. Why you ask? I’m glad you did. Listen to Lisa Jensen explain it: “It seems whenever someone tries to say ‘Peace on Earth’ it is met with so much resistance. The incredible amount of support we have received over the last couple of days really is proof to us of how many people believe in peace and in our right to say it.” Whoa, hold it a minute. Did you catch that? Jensen said that her wreath’s message is “Peace on Earth.” For those of you who haven’t watched the Charlie Brown Christmas special in a while, let me remind you where this little catch phrase originates. “And straightaway there was with the Angel a multitude of heavenly soldiers, praising God, and saying, Glory be to God in the high heavens, and peace in earth, and toward men good will” (Luke 2:13-14, 1599 Geneva Bible). A heavenly host proclaimed the Messiah’s birth and “Peace on Earth” to a band of lowly shepherds two thousand years ago. For something to be this closely tied to Christianity and not be offensive to modern (or is it postmodern) sensibilities flies in the face of just about everything else that is being reported. If Chicago can’t promote The Nativity Story in its winter festival due to possibly offending someone, then the peace wreath must come down. I call on the ACLU and Michael Newdow to personally channel their efforts into getting the wreath off the Jensen home to protect anyone who might unwittingly drive through the neighborhood and be reminded of the angelic proclamation.
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And before you contend that the two are not the same because one is public property and the other private, remember that the whole point of the homeowners association is to enforce and conform each private property to an agreed upon public standard of “un-offensiveness” for the whole neighborhood. Their stated rule was not to “allow flags or signs that are considered divisive.” If we’ve learned anything over the last few years, we should know by now that the Bible and Christianity are indeed “divisive” and usually “offensive.” If Satanism would have been considered “divisive” then its polar opposite must be considered “divisive” as well, even if only to the group of people who would not have been offended by Satanic symbols.
Those vocal Christian leaders who are bothered by the Chicago ban should consider trying the Lisa Jensen tactic. Instead of arguing till you’re blue that Christmas is all about Christ, try telling the Shy-town festival organizers that it’s about “peace on earth, man.” Maybe even offer a few peace wreaths to hang around Daley Plaza. Then you can remind them that only cold-hearted war-mongering Christian fundamentalists—or at least the ones caricatured in the mainstream press—could possibly be offended by peace. Once they realize that they’ll only be offending “Christians”, you’ll be able to play all the movies clips that you want.