Phony Wars and the Prince of Peace

I can’t help wondering about the ongoing campaign against the "war on Christmas" that’s getting so much neo-press these days. Our civil religion took "Christ out of Christmas" long ago, and reduced it to a mere secular excuse for a series of long weekends for government workers.

So, what gives?

Sure, a few professional atheists perennially grouse about crèches on courthouse lawns, but even the defenders of the displays have been reduced to calling them an empty cultural nod towards history or tradition. Few will line up behind Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who actually takes the Ten Commandments seriously as commands from (shudder!) the Living God who gave us the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The growing use of "Happy Holidays" to replace "Merry Christmas" merely reflects the relativism that has dominated the secular culture for years. Have we forgotten that employers risk jail and economic ruin if they happen to "discriminate" against a Wiccan, say? As a matter of contrarian fact, genuinely anti-religious discrimination in the workplace these days is practiced primarily against genuine Christians.

Consider, for instance, the pharmacists who refuse to sell abortifacients, since (they believe) such action forces them to be accessories to murder.

But that story is strangely silent as the phony "Christmas war" rages on.

So what is it about the war against the "war on Christmas"? Indeed, the entire enterprise appears to have a design, and it isn’t hard to perceive, once the hype is laid aside.

Simply put, the campaign is being waged for political ends. Neocon supporters of the U.S. occupation of Iraq are aghast in the recent turn of public opinion against the war. If they cannot preserve the loyalty of the president’s evangelical Christian base long enough to survive the 2006 congressional elections, it could mean disaster for their Middle Eastern agenda. It is that agenda, and not Saint Nick, that so uniquely focuses their minds.

Ironically, few evangelicals have taken public notice that the neocons have consistently betrayed virtually every profamily cause that is so important to evangelical Christians. Yet, when it comes to coverage of those betrayals, the "neomedia" remains silent. (When’s the last time you heard Richer Perle railing against abortion, for instance, or homosexual marriage? For that matter, how about Vice President Cheney?).

Neocons are petrified that the Christians whom they persuaded (or hijacked, take your pick) to back their imperialist wars might well abandon them by 2006.While they cynically whip up war fever among evangelicals, the neocons have exercised their right to remain silent on pro-family issues like stem cells, same-sex marriage, and indecency. Today, neocons are merely self-dealers who view the evangelicals with the same disdain with which the Bush administration appears to view the Democrats — to purloin Lenin’s term, as "useful idiots."

On Iraq, Bush implies that the Democrats were as dumb as the White House when it came to believing what it now admits was faulty "intelligence" — primarily, the lies of Ahmed Chalabi — that fueled the neocon war fever. In like fashion, the neocon hype about the "War on Christmas" relies on the same shell game: "Don’t look behind that curtain — at domestic spying, at Catholics in Congress like John Murtha and Walter Jones who have changed their minds about the war. Ignore the thoroughgoing corruption that threatens to rot the Republican Party every bit as much as it already has destroyed the Democrats."

Ignore all that. Instead, be outraged that Wal-Mart isn’t handing out a crèche with every purchase.

If they can just distract dispensationalist evangelicals from the seamy side of the Iraq war until after the 2006 elections, the neocons’ dreams of empire still might survive reality.

But they know full well that, if the Democrats take the House in 2006, the neocons’ biggest Christmas present next year will be a raft of subpoenas from new House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Dingell, as impeachment hearings get under way for the major architects of the war.

Seldom has Christmas been manipulated with such sheer gall than in this cynical con game. To demonstrate, imagine the neocon horror, should America actually turn away from the doctrine of endless preemptive war and embrace instead the Prince of Peace (who’s He? Hint: His Birthday is celebrated on December 25). Can you imagine that the folks at AEI and the Weekly Standard would stand up and cheer?

No, the neocon pantheon does not include the Prince of Peace; instead, it celebrates the idolatry of endless war in faraway lands. America’s interests, and "the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God," play no role at all.

The neocons simply turn the Founding Fathers upside down. Their domestic agenda for America is subordinate to their international imperial agenda: "We must destroy our Constitution in order to save our constitutional republic from the terrorists."

This canard hardly reflects the spirit of Christmas or of the Babe born in Bethlehem; in fact, it flows straight from the father of lies.

The neocons are probably startled at how easily their enterprise has succeeded so far. Like their fellow leftists at the Washington Post, they must still believe that evangelicals are "poor, undereducated, and easily led." Yet it must be somewhat startling when they see millions of believing Christians so easily fall prey to their chicanery.

So, "on with the show." Neocons are falling all over each other to insist magnanimously that Christians should be allowed to say "Merry Christmas." Funny, I haven’t heard one of them mention a real problem — the Vatican’s concerns about the harassment of Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem, or the isolation of Christ’s birthplace by the "security wall" that closes it off from Jerusalem.

Nor has Fox News spent much air time reporting on Pope Benedict’s admonition to the faithful that they minimize the materialism surrounding "Christmas" and concentrate on awaiting, and celebrating, the birth of Christ the King. One doesn’t see there any call for repentance and reparation.

Nor is veracity highly prized. In defending their war fever, neocons constantly invoke the spirit of Ronald Reagan. Curiously, however, they shrink from the observation that it was President Reagan who worked closely with Pope John Paul II to bring down the Soviet Empire, and did it without a shot being fired. President Bush, on the other hand, defied Pope John Paul’s opposition to the invasion of Iraq. Now we know, by the president’s own estimation, that his war has killed tens of thousands of Iraqis, not to mention more than 2000 American soldiers and Marines.

It’s pretty simple. The neocon game is designed to distract believing Christians from a disastrous Iraq war. If it succeeds, evangelicals will take their eye off the Iraq war and will suit up for a phony one. But hope springs eternal: this Christmas, and beyond, Christians might actually embrace the Prince of Peace.

That would be sheer hell for the neocons.