Christmas is a Christian holiday. Passover is a Jewish holiday. Ramadan is a Muslim holiday. Buddha's Birthday is a Buddhist holiday. However, one can enjoy all of these holidays without being a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim or a Buddhist.
But let us call them what they are, for the sake of national sanity, lest some politically correct fool decides to rename the Fourth of July the "Mid-Summer" holiday to avoid offending those who don't like America.
I don't believe there is a war against Christmas, but there are secular cranks and crackpots who hate it, and there are timid merchants, politicians and bureaucrats who seem to think it is better to offend the majority than the cranks and crackpots.
The United States of America's population is overwhelmingly Christian, at least nominally. If you don't like Christians, then you should emigrate to China or Saudi Arabia, where they are definitely a minority. Then you won't have to be bothered by the rest of us celebrating Christmas or Easter, though why it should bother anyone is a mystery.
I've shared Passover Seders with Jewish friends, the end of Ramadan feasts with Muslim friends, the Chinese New Year with Chinese friends, and if I'm ever invited to a Buddha's Birthday party or some Hindu holiday, I would certainly be glad to attend. One of the pleasures of friendship is to share the good times of our friends.
Christmas, though it should always be called Christmas, is not a religious holiday for all Christians. I grew up in a literalist Protestant church. Since Baldwin pianos and Hammond organs were not mentioned in the King James Version of the New Testament, we sang a cappella. Since there was no mention of Dec. 25 as the birthday of Jesus, we didn't observe it as a religious event. Of course, we all had Christmas trees, exchanged gifts and enjoyed Christmas carols.
The Christmas tree and the exchange of gifts are, after all, add-ons. As for the carols, they are among the most beautiful songs ever written. Much of the art, music and architecture in Western civilization grew directly out of Christianity. Since when does one have to believe literally in the lyrics of a song in order to enjoy it? And what mind-mangled fool believes that hearing a song is a forcible effort to convert them? And what kind of wretched person does the beauty of someone else's religion offend?
There was a time when cranks and crackpots were ignored and left alone on the margins of society, as they should be. In recent times, however, they have gained power in direct proportion to the loss of civic courage on the part of politicians, bureaucrats and merchants. Their rise in influence is aided and abetted by disgraceful lawsuits and cowardly judges who misinterpret the separation of church and state as imposing secularism on all aspects of public life.
It means no such thing. It simply means, as anyone who will look at the context of history will see, that the United States government is forbidden to have an official church. At the time our country was formed, most of the countries of Europe had official churches, usually the Roman Catholic Church or, in the case of England, the Anglican Church. Virginia, where the separation movement began, had the Anglican Church, and it taxed Virginians to subsidize it.
That was the core argument of men like Thomas Jefferson — to wit, that religion should be a matter of individual conscience and that it was wrong to tax people to subsidize something that they did not believe in. The intent of the separation clause was to encourage the flourishing of religion, not to hound it out of public view.
We should be tolerant of other people's faiths, but we should boldly defend our own, as well as our traditions, against the secular crackpots and cranks who would usher us into an Orwellian world where the only God is the government. To the cranks and crackpots, go to blazes; to the rest of you, a very merry Christmas.
December 12, 2005
Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years.
© 2005 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.