I’ve dropped a few comments today on foreign blogs — “foreign” meaning “not mine” — after spending the morning reading about the so-called “War On Christmas.”
Before I explain why this is more Republican marketing and there is no such war — and in case there are any readers who aren’t aware of my own willingness to participate in the celebration of a holiday not my own — let me point out that the “Santa” on the left there is me.
I’m not anti-Christmas.
I am, however, in opposition to the neo-Pharisees who suggest that unless Christmas is celebrated their way, there must obviously be a
Satanic Liberal-driven War On Christmas; Christmas is losing; the very future of Christianity is at stake. This year, greetings of “Happy Holidays,” for many of these types, are akin to suggesting “May the Devil be with you always.”
Worse than wishing them “Happy Holidays,” though, is making them endure yet another Christmas without little Jesus babies everywhere. More specifically, they want them dominating government buildings since, in their opinion, Christian symbols, the flag and so on are all part of the same class; the Might and Power of G-d and the Might and Power of the United States are interchangeable — indeed, indistinguishable.
Angels soar over a crèche. And there is a Baby Jesus in the crèche. But he is proportional to the rest of the crèche, which appears to take up the entire wall, floor to ceiling — or, as the World Net Daily complains “the baby Jesus is virtually invisible.” Maybe if the crèche itself hadn’t been so overwhelmingly elaborate, the baby Jesus would have stood out more. But then they’d complain about “the small and insignificant crèche scene.”
The World Net Daily would have you believe that because Baby Jesus is proportional to the rest of the display and because he’s lying down in a manger surrounded by statues of his admirer’s and swirling angels above — which, last I heard, were primarily judeo-christian symbols of G-d — he might as well not be there.
They also note, incidentally, that “some Americans notice the White House website lacks even a single mention of Jesus” — although a search of the website today (December 26, 2004) turns up 51 pages with the word “Jesus,” including the President’s Christmas Message.
Presumably, the neo-Pharisees are ticked off because, like President Reagan so many years ago, George Bush didn’t make a big deal this year out of using the name “Jesus.” Search Reagan’s Christmas cards for mention of Jesus — you will do so in vain; it is not there.
In fact, it’s possible that someone read the First Amendment to the President: so far this year, speeches preserved on the White House website have only invoked Jesus about a half-dozen times, including in January, when Laura Bush brought up Jesus and the story of the 5,000 loaves while at the Souper Bowl of Caring; in April, when the President’s Easter Message invoked the name “Jesus”; or on the White House webpage memorializing the day a questioner at a town meeting compared George Bush to Jesus in terms of the load he had to bear for the world.
But we must remember that Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven. And these neo-Pharisees should also be forgiven. It’s not hard to see how they missed the fact that Bush invoked Jesus in his Christmas Message in 2002:
During Christmas, we gather with family and friends to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. As God’s only Son, Jesus came to Earth and gave His life so that we may live. His actions and His words remind us that service to others is central to our lives and that sacrifice and unconditional love must guide us and inspire us to lead lives of compassion, mercy, and justice.
The true spirit of Christmas reflects a dedication to helping those in need, to giving hope to those in despair, and to spreading peace and understanding throughout the Earth. George W. Bush, “President’s Christmas Message” (2002) White House website.
The problem here is that the President — as he is wont to do — became confused. He mentioned Jesus’ name — sure. Unfortunately, he also mentioned what Jesus really stood for!
Christians may worship the Jesus who — as Laura Bush noted at the Souper event — fed people. Christians may aspire to emulate the man who himself shunned riches. (After all, pretend, for the moment that the stories are true. Jesus could have been born anywhere he wanted, but he chose a stinky, smelly, no doubt bug-infested — it was a barn, after all — animal-filled, dung-paved manger.) Christians, in other words, might recognize service to others that is central to their lives, sacrifice, unconditional love, compassion, mercy and justice as concepts often associated with Jesus. Neo-Pharisees know better.
For neo-Pharisees, emulating Jesus is kicking pregnant women out into the streets when the temperatures are averaging 29 degrees at night. Being like Jesus is interrupting classes at school because they teach science. Answering the question “What would Jesus do?” is bullying kids who are not Christians because they’re not Christians. (Could some neo-Pharisee show me where in the New Testament this happens? I’ve only read it a few dozen times and translated only 5 New Testament books from Greek to English, so I might’ve missed it.) Best of all, neo-Pharisees have Jesus doing all this not at their own private schools, but in public schools.
And make no mistake about it: It’s not the Christians who are complaining about our government not working sufficiently hard to spread their message. It’s not Christians complaining about being forced to live in a country of all the people, by all the people and for all the people. It’s the neo-Pharisees.
In the words of Jesus,
These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. — Mark 7:6 (New International Version).
Perhaps if they’d put their lives where their mouths are, there would be less need for anyone to worry about any “War On Christmas.”
In the long run, there is no War on Christmas. Even non-Christians like myself have no problem with the celebration — even when done in public — of Christmas. Speaking for myself — because that’s the only person I can speak for — I have a problem with the neo-Pharisees, who seem to believe that unless Christmas overwhelms everything else, it’s not good enough. I have a problem with neo-Pharisees who believe that a Christmas crèche with giant baby Jesus in their own front yard instead of in a core building representative of the government of the United States isn’t good enough. I have a problem with neo-Pharisees. Not with Christians or Christianity.
For in my experience, Christians put their lives where their mouths are, if they feel they have to speak to be a witness to their G-d at all. Neo-Pharisees must not only speak the name of Jesus, they must shriek it; they must yell it. And they must get the government to help them with this. For they are not stupid.
They recognize that since they do not live the message of Jesus, there’s no other way they can spread his name.