Our View: practice religious inclusion during holiday season

As Winter Break approaches, the Truman State University community started its holiday season celebrations — or at least as much celebration as finals allow. But because we live in a country where the dominant religion is Christianity, our cultural practices risk alienating those who celebrate holidays other than Christmas. We, the Truman Media Network Editorial Board, believe members of the Truman community should be mindful of religious differences and work toward an inclusive environment for everyone. We have made much progress on this front, but the struggle has not yet vanished.

You might have seen Christmas trees, “winter shrubs,” around campus, the Nativity scene in Ryle’s dining hall or the light display on The Quad. These decorations are undoubtedly related to the Christian holiday Christmas, even when secularized. Non-Christians who see these symbols are reminded constantly that they are not in the majority — for some, this can cause a lot of distress. We, the Truman Media Network Editorial Board, believe holiday campus decorations should either be balanced with non-Christian symbols, or that there shouldn’t be any holiday symbols favoring one religion.

We prefer celebrating more religions, as at least an educational opportunity and reflection of our diversity. Much can be gained by talking to someone from another religion about their holidays and beliefs. Many religions have fundamentally different views of the world, which leads to fundamentally different types of celebrations. Gift giving, fasting, prayer, meditation, light displays and paint throwing serve distinct purposes in different religions. Learning about other cultures makes students into more informed, well-rounded and open-minded citizens.

At the individual level, people should be aware of others’ religions in their daily interactions. If saying “Merry Christmas!” is offensive to someone, the cliche “Happy Holidays!” works just as well. Most inclusion issues can be resolved by remembering not to assume that everyone is religiously the same. At the University level, our leadership should reconsider its current public display of religious Christmas-related decorations, or expand its celebrations into non-Christian holidays. Many religions don’t even celebrate major holidays during December. Truman’s International Club celebrates the Hindu holiday “Holi” in April, and its inclusivity could be emulated during other major non-Christian holidays. The end of the semester should be an enjoyable time for everyone, regardless of which holidays they celebrate.