Christmas and the Religious Neutrality Syndrome

by Robert E. Meyer

On December 23rd, my local paper featured an article entitled "Displays at the State Capitol Promote Democracy." The story was about the various religious displays on the State’s "holiday tree," (located in Madison, Wisconsin) including the large plaque from the Freedom from Religion Foundation that reminds us superstitious yokels essentially what John Lennon told us in song 35 years ago. That there is no God or devils, there is no heaven or hell, etc. The sign serves as an annual publicity magnet, in that it has been a lightening rod for criticism and apparent vandalism for several Christmas seasons.

The article buttressed the contemporary gospel of political correctness, extolling the virtues of tolerance, and reminding us that government neutrality toward religious perspectives are essential for the well-being of democracy.

Yes sir, then there is that annoying habit the media has of calling the U.S. a "democracy," rather then a republic. Did something change since I last recited the Pledge?

While it is certainly true that the government should never proscribe specific worship or violate the liberty of conscience of its citizens, it is historically false to suggest that government has been, or ought to be, neutral in the acknowledgment of the Almighty. This is a canard of contemporary revisionism. As an exhibit, I offer you the preface of George Washington’s Day of Thanksgiving Proclamation…

"whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to "recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

Neither does the State of Wisconsin require such neutrality in the acknowledgment of God. The preamble for our state says…

"We, the people of Wisconsin, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to secure its blessings, form a more perfect government, insure domestic tranquility and promote the general welfare, do establish this Constitution."

Notice that in both cases, the foundation for good government is predicated on acknowledging Almighty God. The principles of "democracy" themselves depend on that vital assumption.

Modern government isn’t neutral because it permits a hodgepodge of conflicting ideas in public areas; that is nothing but a prostration to cultural relativism. Somebody’s theory of governing philosophy must inform our laws, morals, and political culture; and that refined standard is not one of some ethereal neutrality.

The secular expunging of the religious significance accorded to the Christmas holiday season is a topic where we see an almost sociopathic denial of purposeful intent. For example, opposition to policies by large retailers to forbid deference for Christmas greetings are viewed as neo-theocratic aggression from the ranks of wild-eyed "Christozealots."

The truth is, I don’t mind anybody wishing me a "Happy Holiday." What I don’t like is to hear that store employees are forbidden to exercise their liberty of conscience by saying "Merry Christmas" to customers. I don't deny that stores have a right to set policy, but this issue was never a problem years ago. The changes in policy aren't resistance to attempts by Christians who ideologically pressure retailers; but rather, retailers buckling under to those who squawk about being offended, then assuming Christians will be less contentious about getting marginalized.

Secularists, and even some Christians, point out that taking Christ out of Christmas isn’t so bad, because the holiday is already marred by pagan traditions, and isn’t really the historical birth of Jesus Christ, anyway. The real celebration of Christmas is what we do as individuals they intone. This is a kinder and more subtle way of saying "Pray in your own closet, you hypocrite."

I will concede this small point to them, about personal piety, assuming they are sincere. But the insidious element of this position easily comes into sharp focus. Whether or not Jesus was born in December, or the Christmas tree was a pagan symbol, only conceals what is really at stake. An assault on Christ and Christianity on one day or season is an assault on Christ during any day and season. If Christ can’t be exalted during his designated birthday, when is he going to be exalted at all?

Yes, we are at fault for allowing Christmas to be commercialized, for not practicing what we preach, and for not celebrating Christ in our hearts. However, let’s not succumb via guilt, to the cultural rope-a-dope employed by secularists to further marginalize Christianity’s social influence.

Robert E. Meyer is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets.

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