Truth About Ben Stein's Holiday Message

Today's Written Wisdom contains not a short quotation from a famous writer, but an essay from a man I personally admire for his intelligence, common sense, and his ability to articulate complex ideas.

Did you get the Confessions of Christmas by Ben Stein in your email box yet? I did. I'd read it before, but it seemed to contain paragraphs I didn't remember. Plus, the stuff I didn't recall didn't sound like something Mr. Stein would have said. I've read his books and his articles so I have a rudimentary knowledge of his voice, his style.

Of course, I immediately went to Snopes to check it out and found that it was, as I suspected, genuine - in part. They identified the suspect pieces as having been added by person or persons unknown.

Next I went to Ben Stein's website and found the original text.

If you haven't visited his site or read his books, you're missing out. Most of you probably know Mr. Stein from his television work, and many of you will always remember him for his deadpan expression and monotone voice calling out: "Bueller. Bueller. Bueller."

What you may not know is that he was a lawyer by training, a speechwriter for President Richard Nixon, an actor, and the author of many novels and nonfiction books. He writes editorials and columns for print and online publications and maintains a web presence on his own site and in partnership with others.

In December 2005, as part of a CBS News program hosted by Charles Osgood, Mr. Stein gave us the piece that has circulated ever since. Here's the original piece as posted on his website. (Note: at the time of the broadcast Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson were on the cover of People Magazine.)

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.

Takeaway Truth

No one should feel threatened because another has different religious beliefs. If your religion makes you a better person - if it enables you to help your fellow humans - then more power to you. Merry Christmas. Happy Hannakah. Happy Kwanzaa. Et al.

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