It being Christmas in a country where the majority considers itself to be Christian, the seasonal spirit of peace and joy has given way to bitterness in some quarters about the President’s Holiday card.

You don’t, of course, see a Menorah here, a Crescent and Star or even a discretely placed lotus blossom although Non-Christian religions (including Judaism, Islam, Buddhism,Hinduism etc.), collectively make up about 3.9% to 5.5% of the U.S. adult population.

There’s no Ichthus with legs – the Darwin fish that has graced so many bumper stickers – to represent the 15% of Americans who identify themselves as having no religious belief or affiliation. And certainly no Pentagram representing Paganism.

The purported “war on Christmas” which tediously rages primarily on Fox News at a time of year when everyone is feeling celebratory, kind, tolerant, and cheerful (except for the traffic) would be irritating were it not largely irrelevant to the lives of most people other than political pundits who need to fill air time with invective.

The Making of a Peace Seeker
Like many conflict resolvers, I am a wounded healer, raised in a family where violence alternated in alarming rapidity with the denial and suppression of conflict. This created in the children of that family a desire for peace coupled with a suspicious nature prone to strike before asking questions.

It is we—those raised in the cauldron of violence—who seek peace and proclaim it while at the same time attempting to corral a pugnacious first response to threat.

That’s the personal. I mention it not simply because I lack a religious confessor to urge me toward true acts of contrition, but also because the personal is inextricably interlinked with the political, particularly when it comes to religion.

Religious Peace and Violence
How and why do we translate our personal weakness for the cutting remark or barroom brawl into religious and political dogma? The “how” is often simply reflexive. The author of The Brain Rules tells us that these are the questions we ask when we see a stranger.

Can I eat it?
Will it eat me?
Can I mate with it?
Will it mate with me?

Add the conflation of “how” and “why” to the stubborn fact that religious beliefs are by their nature irrational, unprovable, and often passionately held, stir in authoritarian leaders who require their faithful to convert the unconverted by means… .

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by Victoria Pynchon

Victoria Pynchon is an attorney-mediator and arbitrator. She is also a principal in the She Negotiates Consulting and Training firm for which her blog “She Negotiates” is named. In addition to writing for the legal blog “On the Docket,” Pynchon also authored the book “A is for A**hole, the Grownups' ABCs of Conflict Resolution.