December 22, 2004

The Worst Christmas Article

James Wolcott picked a fight with James Lileks over Christmas. I wouldn’t have done that. Not only because I’d hate to have Lileks rip me to pieces, but because Lileks is an eminently reasonable person. He's not the kind of guy you're supposed to pick fights with. You can disagree with him, sure. You can discuss things with him, yeah. But engage in a long-running public trading of insults? No. I'd advise against that.

Wolcott’s biggest error is in talking about Lileks as though he is this guy, Donald R. May, who wrote what is easily the worst Christmas article this year:
The Christmas Deconstruction Alliance just does not get it. They are dumbfounded as they have not been able to secularize Christmas. They throw tantrums because of the tenacity with which the vast majority of us hold onto our Christian beliefs and traditions. They do not understand why the United States does not roll over, accept the abolition of Christmas, close down our churches, and remove the crosses from our cemeteries.
I’d like to know…who is doing this? Who wants to abolish Christmas? Anybody? Who wants to close down our churches and remove crosses from cemeteries? Seriously. I’d like to know. But he doesn’t name names.

The (separate) argument about whether Christmas songs should be played in schools where non-Christian students attend is tiresome but, I suppose, worth having. But this is an argument about watering down the public culture to a lower common denominator. It’s not about abolishing Christmas. No one (at least to my knowledge) wants to open the school doors on December 25th so they can turn the kids into pagans. (Yes, Mr. May actually says “The liberal elite think their superior wisdom, and their control of education and the media, should convince us to become a bunch of pagans.”)

I thought about fisking his entire piece but decided to heck with it. This hysterical article (which Town Hall should be embarrassed to have on its Web site) isn’t worth my time or anyone else’s.

But I do want to zero in on one point he made because I’ve seen plenty of other people say the same thing.
Just what are some of the things opposed by those who would eliminate our Judeo-Christian heritage?… We definitely can’t acknowledge we are a God-fearing nation who’s Constitution is based on The Ten Commandments.
He really thinks the Constitution is based on the Ten Commandments. He and millions of others. So let’s go through the commandments one at a time.

1. I am the Lord thy God. Thou shalt have no other God before me. The first ten words of the First Amendment explicitly knock the First Commandment aside: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”

2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image. This one is also knocked aside by the First Amendment since it protects the freedom of speech. Making a graven image isn’t technically speech, but it’s expression, and it’s protected.

3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain. See above. Speech is protected by the First Amendment.

4. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. You know what’s wrong with this one, Constitutionally speaking? The same thing that’s wrong with all the others. It’s a commandment. Unless I’m forgetting something, the Constitution doesn’t tell individuals to do anything. It certainly doesn’t tell them to slack off on Sunday.

5. Honour thy father and thy mother. Good advice, if your parents aren’t violent drunks or child molesters. But the Constitution doesn’t address family matters. It addresses matters of state.

6. Thou shalt not kill. A fine law, even if it’s not in the Constitution. Every nation - Judeo-Christian or not - prohibits murder. So the idea that we have this law on the books because it’s in the Ten Commandments strikes me as dubious at best.

7. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Adultery isn’t a crime in the United States. It’s not a good thing, and it can land you in trouble if you find yourself in divorce court. But you won’t go to jail and you won’t be fined if you cheat on your spouse.

8. Thou shalt not steal. Again, a fine law. Also, again, every nation - Judeo-Christian or not - prohibits stealing. So the idea that we have this law on the books because it’s in the Ten Commandments strikes me as dubious at best.

9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. This one is against the law, too. But, again, it’s not in the Constitution, not anywhere that I’ve been able to find. (If I’m wrong, show me where.) I don’t know for certain if bearing false witness is prohibited in every nation on earth, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it is.

10. Thou shalt not covet. This one is definitely not in the Constitution. The last thing the Constitution does is regulate the private thoughts of citizens. Only totalitarian regimes even try to do that.

I don’t see any overlap between these documents anywhere. But, hey, maybe I’m wrong. If the Constitution has some fine print that says something like Thou shalt have no other God before me I’d love to have someone quote the relevant text. Until then, I’ll assume anyone who says the Constitution is based on the Ten Commandments is either wallowing in wishful thinking or, as is obvious in Mr. May’s case, suggesting heathens like me are somehow not real Americans.

One other sentence stands out for its inanity:
We can’t have joy since the liberals and terrorists always are angry about something.
The conservatives and terrorists always are angry about something, too. Atheists and agnostics, for starters. Leave us alone. And understand this: most of us celebrate Christmas.

Meanwhile, Jonah Goldberg published a vastly more sensible article in the same online magazine. And he concludes:

Simply because there are more Christians than Jews or Muslims or atheists, doesn’t mean that Christians should always get the shaft. That said, Christians — or at least the politically organized ones — don’t do themselves any favors when they start talking like just another identity politics group. Christians seem to be complaining more this year than usual about the war on Christmas, even as they are finding more success. Arnold Schwarzenegger renamed the governor’s “holiday tree” a Christmas tree. George Bush is the first president ever to include a quote from scripture on his Christmas card. Besides, once “Merry Christmas” becomes a political statement, everyone loses.
What he said.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at December 22, 2004 11:49 PM

Comments

Nothing to say here Michael but Bravo! Excellent post. Oh Yeah, Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Posted by: spc67 at December 23, 2004 12:08 AM

What can I say? Some people are plain silly.

Posted by: FH at December 23, 2004 12:11 AM

Unless I’m forgetting something, the Constitution doesn’t tell individuals to do anything.

So right. The Constitution tells the federal government what it can or cannot do. It is not law. It is a Government Operating Manual.

For that reason, the majority of lawsuits against Christmas displays and such are off base. The Constitution does not say church and state must be foreign to one another. Any law or ordinance prohibiting religious displays is unconstitutional.

Posted by: Mike at December 23, 2004 02:51 AM

"7. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Adultery isn’t a crime in the United States."

Well, not in most of the United States. It still is in part of the United States, like Colorado, for example:

Colorado Revised Statute 18-6-501. Adultery.

Any sexual intercourse by a married person other than with that person's spouse is adultery, which is prohibited.

And then there's this cool nugget in the Annotation:

Purpose of section. This section is designed to prohibit and punish the disgraceful and scandalous conduct of those who would, by their evil and immoral example, debase and demoralize society. People v. Bright, 77 Colo. 563, 238 P. 71 (1925).

Now, obviously it's not something that's enforced - at least if it is, it's not enforced with enough frequency for people to notice.

But it's still on the books.

Posted by: SoCalJustice at December 23, 2004 05:42 AM

"7. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Adultery isn’t a crime in the United States."

Well, not in most of the United States. It still is in part of the United States, like Colorado, for example:

Colorado Revised Statute 18-6-501. Adultery.

Any sexual intercourse by a married person other than with that person's spouse is adultery, which is prohibited.

And then there's this cool nugget in the Annotation:

Purpose of section. This section is designed to prohibit and punish the disgraceful and scandalous conduct of those who would, by their evil and immoral example, debase and demoralize society. People v. Bright, 77 Colo. 563, 238 P. 71 (1925).

Now, obviously it's not something that's enforced - at least if it is, it's not enforced with enough frequency for people to notice.

But it's still on the books.

Posted by: SoCalJustice at December 23, 2004 05:42 AM

Why is unbeliveable that there is a war against Christmas? The ACLU* and it's fellow jihadis have defiently turned up the volume this year on the evils of the "RR forcing religion down the throats" of us all... It's amazing that losing an election can cause otherwise somewhat rational people into hysteria.

  • - American Civil Liberties We Like Union. (all those pesky "other" civil liberties, like gun ownership, can go hang.
Posted by: mike at December 23, 2004 06:27 AM

Hear, Hear Michael!

It is terribly funny to listen to some dogmatic deluded Christians try to convience themselves that democracy is the result of Christianity, or that lovely canard about the Ten Commandments that you so sweetly shot to s*it.

Most pagans I know (and I know a pretty large swath of the community), are just as outraged at the current PC fights over holidays.

In October at least one school canceled Halloween, citing that it waqs 'offensive to Pagans'. The pagans in that town made it very clear that, not only were they not offended, they had never even discussed dumping Halloween. Where did this crackpot idea come from? The only people in that area that wanted Halloween to go away were fundie christians.

Many pagans celebrate Christmas with their non-pagan families, Shante and I do. Personally, I have yet to meet a Pagan that wishes to take Christmas away from anyone. In fact, Pagans are usually more inclined to let people worship however they see fit... Not all Pagans, but the vast majority. They're just like the vast majority of the Christians I know, who are content to let people take care of their own religion.

(and just for the record, I bring Chaos and Discord to Pagan blogs too ;-) )

The article you linked to was tripe. I hope no one reading it did anything more than sigh that such pathetic fools get paid to write. He's as sad a Michael Mooreon.

Ratatosk, Squirrel of Discord

PS - People like this guy needs to sit down and watch all the South Park Christmas Episodes.

Posted by: Ratatosk at December 23, 2004 06:32 AM

Schools, governments, don't have any real fear of offending people - people can like or not like what they want.

What they have is the great and terrible Fear of Lawsuits. If there's the slightest chance they could be sued for having a Christmas display, or that someone could sue them for the "emotional distress" of being told Merry Christmas - even though such people would have no case - then down the displays come.

The fear of possibly being sued is so great it overlays any common sense. And part of that is the courts' fault for allowing these types of frivolous lawsuits to even make it onto court dockets.

Eliminate, or greatly reduce, the chances of being sued for the smallest real or imagined transgression and a great majority of these Christmas controversies will disappear...

Posted by: Barry at December 23, 2004 06:39 AM

I am a theological modernist who does not consider Jesus Christ to be his lord and savior. Nonetheless, I am not in the least bit threatened by Christmas. It is absurd to allow childishly immature minorities to deny the public celebration of this religious based holiday. The hell with the ACLU and the other screw ball organizations.

Our country is indeed founded upon Judeo-Christian values. So what? Even our deist founding fathers did not object. This shouldn’t bend anyone out of shape. We still are a secular nation that ultimately decides if these values remain relevant today.

Posted by: David Thomson at December 23, 2004 06:44 AM

Well said, Barry.

Posted by: Ratatosk at December 23, 2004 06:45 AM

I agree, but would add a few observations. First, many of our founding fathers and crafters of the Constitution could read Latin, Greek and Ancient Hebrew. The Bible in it's original text was familiar to them. I'm sure they were familiar with Leviticus 25:10:

"Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof"

It seems they focused more on creating a government that could deliver on this point.

As an aside, the 6th commandment actually states, "Thou Shalt Not Murder" if translated literally. I think that's an important distinction.

Posted by: Steve at December 23, 2004 07:11 AM

“Eliminate, or greatly reduce, the chances of being sued for the smallest real or imagined transgression and a great majority of these Christmas controversies will disappear...”

We must cease with the ridiculous attempt to dot all the “i”s and cross all the “t’s. The spirit of the law should be our guide, and not petty legalism. Judge Potter Stewart was wrongly ridiculed for brilliantly pointing out, for instance, that he could not always exactly define pornography---but "I know it when I see it."

Posted by: David Thomson at December 23, 2004 07:17 AM

That is the wonderful thing about the Constitution--it makes adherence to the Ten Commandments possible because it grants freedom to all those who practice non-violent, consentual religion.

I think, however, you can be opposed to the cultural usurpation of a practice without being politically opposed to it. You can also note that while the Constitution is not the Ten Commandment, it may function, at its peak, in a society guided by commandments (and thus protected by a rights-insuring mechanism). That, it seems, is what Tocqueville thought. It is also fairly apparent that Jeffereson, Hamilton, Madison, et al had similar sympathies at the time they constructed our founding document.

It think one of the problems is that so many Christians have politicized Christmas, that they have forgotten the Bible is more important than the Constitution. We don't need the state to recognize Christ or His holidays for those things to exist and maintain strength.

However, there is a valid fear when the cultureslides away from Christianity. When the Republicans gain the house, Democrats get edgy and vice versa. When a traditionally Judeo-Christian nation seems to shift towards the secular, it is perfectly reasonable to expect Christians (and Jews, for that matter) to become a little defensive. A lot of people cheer the secularization of society. A lot of people do not. Is this a culture "war"? No, thankfully the Constitution prevents that. Is it a rhetorical and untellectual battle for hearts and minds--and an importatn one for both sides--sure.

Your site is continually one of the best Michael. Thank you.

Posted by: John at December 23, 2004 07:29 AM

Christians try to convience themselves that democracy is the result of Christianity

I always thought that Christianity was the root of socialism, but neither Christians nor socialists seem happy with this view.

As to the constitution not specifying behaviour, the eighteenth amendment -- prohibition of intoxicating liquors -- did so, and we all know how well that worked out.

Posted by: chuck at December 23, 2004 08:30 AM

Chuck, Robert Kraynak wrote an interesting work entitled "Christian Faith and Modern Democracy" that addresses some of this. Also, Doug Bandow has written extensively about his own version of Christian Libertarianism.

Posted by: John at December 23, 2004 08:35 AM

Lileks says: "What amuses me is the sense of annoyance I detect when I say Merry Christmas to them."

I guess harassing minimum wage store clerks is not only appropriate for celebrating the birth of Jesus, but just plain fun, too.

Posted by: TJ at December 23, 2004 08:56 AM

I'm glad that Jonah Goldberg has picked up on something I noticed this year, which is that some conservative Christians seem to be embracing identity politics and special pleading which they would abhor in any other group. This year, for instance, we've heard that not giving a rave review to Mel Gibson's latest opus is an example of "anti-Christian bigotry", or better yet "Christophobia". Yes, that's right, they've invented their own PC-sounding, official-aggreived-minority neologism, while they of course mock the notion of "Islamophobia" or, in some cases, anti-Semitism.

The Christmas wars have been ridiculous this year. I like James Lileks better than James Wolcott - the latter is a constipated, sneering twit who trades in ad hominems - however all this carping over "Happy Holidays" vs. "Merry Christmas" drives me into the arms of "Happy Holidays", UWS, cat-lovers, or whoever it is that Lileks thinks are out to to get Christmas. If I have the chronology wrong, forgive me, but wasn't the idea behind "Happy Holidays" initially to be more polite to people who don't celebrate Christmas? That way you're encompassing all of the other holidays around this time and still wishing someone well. What exactly is so offensive about that notion? Of course, I think if someone is so uptight that they won't accept a "Merry Christmas" offered in a spirit of kindness, whether or not they celebrate the holiday, then they are taking things so far. OTOH, this year there are news stories of groups militantly insisting on saying "merry christmas" and having it said to them. If you're saying "Merry Christmas" purely to show off that you identify as a Christian - or to make those who dont' celebrate Christmas uncomfortable - then that's another matter. It's a matter, I guess, of what your intention is in saying "Merry Christmas" and what's in your heart regarding those who don't celebrate the holiday, for whatever reason.

It's also strange because, as you say, most totally secular/agnostic/atheistic/whatever people that I know, including myself, celebrate Christmas. By this point it's become a purely secular holiday for a lot of people, while, of course, if it's all about JC for you, you're free to celebrate that aspect of it too in your home, churc, or wherever. Whatacountry, huh!?

Posted by: Eric Deamer at December 23, 2004 09:12 AM

Eric: ...the latter is a constipated, sneering twit who trades in ad hominems..

What does "ad hominems" mean, Eric?

Irony is alive and well.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 23, 2004 09:24 AM

Eric: ...the latter is a constipated, sneering twit who trades in ad hominems..

What does "ad hominems" mean, Eric?

Irony is alive and well.

Eric asn't trying to discredit any of Wolcott's arguments by calling him a constipated, sneering twit. So maybe he does now what it means, but you certainly don't.

Yes, irony is indeed alive and well.

Posted by: Kurt at December 23, 2004 11:29 AM

OK, in the Trinity County Journal, a wee little weekly newspaper in the beautiful boondocks of far Northern California, there was a story last week about how the principal of Hayfork Elementary School decided not to have the kids sing "Silent Night" at the winter concert, preferring in its place the more secular "I ain't gettin' nuttin' for Christmas."

The outrage was entirely predictable, but nobody saw fit to thank the principal for having such a pageant for the first time in seven years. (Nor did anyone note that "Silent Night," while a lovely tune, is in fact a religious hymn, while there are many more-ecumenical Christmas ditties. But nevermind.)

Since a small but vocal chunk of the populace is cocked and ready to explode at the "liberal elites" (yes, in Hayfork, pop. 2,000) even when they go out of their way to celebrate the season, it surprises me that any public official even bother to acknowledge the Christmas season. Yeesh.

Posted by: trostky at December 23, 2004 11:32 AM

Eric asn't trying to discredit any of Wolcott's arguments by calling him a constipated, sneering twit. So maybe he does now what it means, but you certainly don't.

Huh?

A note about HTML on Michael's comment page - the comment thingie 'forgets' formatting after a paragraph end, so I've found the best way to handle italics or other formatting over multiple paragraphs is to use the paragraph tag instead of a hard carriage return. Like so:

<i>This is the first paragraph<p><p>This is the second one</i>

This will appear like the following in the preview:

This is the first paragraph

This is the second one

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 23, 2004 12:55 PM

Ah yes...an excellent post, Michael. And an excellent debate sparked, here, because of it. The New Republic has a good article on this. As for my own feelings: I think Marx was right in saying that religion is the opiate of the masses. But, I'll also concede some truth to the idea, promulgated by many (Leo Strauss, mainly), that the people need their opiate. Religion does alot of good things for people, things that, for many of them, nothing else could. That much is pretty undeniable.

So, Merry Christmas everybody! This agnostic, like most other agnostics, will be celebrating as well. I love the spirit of Christmas and wish society operated that generously the other 11 months of the year. In other words: Christians, more power to you. We could all be a little more Christ-like, I think.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at December 23, 2004 12:55 PM

Years ago I dated a man who was born in Romania and grew up in Israel who was always fuming that some store clerk wished him a Merry Christmas. (This from a man who told me at the outset that religion would not be an issue...but that's another story.) I guess he felt he was sticking up for Jews in some misguided way. I often wonder if he's satisfied now with modern Christmas, still dominant and in hegemonically full throttle, but called by another name.

Posted by: Patricia at December 23, 2004 01:38 PM

“Years ago I dated a man who was born in Romania and grew up in Israel who was always fuming that some store clerk wished him a Merry Christmas.”

Thank God that you did not marry such an immature man. To be blunt, the guy is a total jerk. My somewhat unitarian sensibilities are not even slightly offended by such a greeting. On the contrary, I hope that such religious rhetoric might make the person a better human being. It is utterly stupid to get bent out of shape when people express their religious values in a public setting during this time of year. A little common sense would be very helpful.

Posted by: David Thomson at December 23, 2004 02:52 PM

Eric asn't trying to discredit any of Wolcott's arguments by calling him a constipated, sneering twit.

Not only is Eric not trying to discredit any of Wolcott's arguments by calling him a constipated, sneering twit, even the most objective observer would have to admit that the illustration on Wolcott’s website portrays him as a constipated, sneering twit. If anyone has issues with that, they should talk to Tim Sheaffer.

(Oh, and if you want to italicize two separate paragraphs, just put an italics tag around each one. It’s easier to remember because it works everywhere)

Posted by: mary at December 23, 2004 03:03 PM

Well, as a practising Jew, let me just say Merry Christmas to everyone. I may disagree with a number of people here about governmental involvemtn in Christmas, but I think (hope) we can all agree on the intent and spirit of the holiday.

Posted by: jeremy in NYC at December 23, 2004 05:56 PM

Thank you, David.

And Merry Christmas to all.

Posted by: Patricia at December 23, 2004 07:32 PM

I have been wishing Merry Christmas to all and sundry, including Muslim friends and guys in yarmulkes for all of my 46 years.

I have been wishing Merry Christmas this year as usual in the Washington DC area and have met with nothing but "And Merry Christmas to you, too!"

Jeff

Posted by: Jeff at December 23, 2004 08:35 PM

I always thought that Christianity was the root of socialism, but neither Christians nor socialists seem happy with this view.

Conservative Christians aren't happy with it cuz it's a heresy. (That's a technical term, not a snark.) Socialist Christians look at Peter's private-sector commune experiment in Jerusalem (which wasn't repeated anywhere else in the First Century) and conclude that Peter would condone governmental wealth redistribution. By their logic, the SC's should also conclude that welfare redistribution systems should be run only by Christians. So only believing members of Congress can legislate on Social Security...

Posted by: Alan K. Henderson at December 23, 2004 10:06 PM

"This hysterical article (which Town Hall should be embarrassed to have on its Web site) isn’t worth my time or anyone else’s."

Apparantly you haven't been reading Townhall much. Scary stuff.

Posted by: Epitome at December 24, 2004 01:45 AM

A fine note that the Constitution is NOT based on the Ten Commandments. But it skips the point of the US Declaration of Independence, " we are endowed by our Creator ".

Either human rights come from "God", or from governemnt. (see PowerLine some week ago).

Secular "natural rights", without some Good / Evil differentiation, do not protect human rights. If they come from gov’t, a gov’t can take them away.

The Constitution IS based on human laws being "underneath" something Good and higher than mere human institutions. So that not even a popular US gov’t can take the rights away.

Eric: By this point it's become a purely secular holiday for a lot of people, while, of course, if it's all about JC for you, you're free to celebrate that aspect of it too in your home, churc, or wherever.

Imagine you replace this idea with human rights: today human rights are merely a secular agreement for a lot of gov'ts, while if human rights are sacred for you, you're free to celebrate them in your home, church, country, or wherever.

The principle is that Man is created in the image of God, and THEREFORE has human rights like life, liberty (especially free speech, free religion) and property and the pursuit of hapiness.

And here's my thought for "moral" atheists, who do believe in human rights. Believing, Christian societies will, in practice, support more human rights than other societies -- secular, or religions that are non-Christian.

If the "fallacy" of Christian belief leads to a better society than a "true" belief in NO God (better by the moral atheist measures: numbers of murders, of thefts, of unhappy marriages/ broken homes, of genocides), which belief is better to support?

Even more non-PC, the superiority of Christian society is likely greater among communities of below average IQ. Comparison among "low-IQ" communities would, I strongly believe, show that those communities with more Christian belief are less bad. Any such study would be so non-PC, that I don't believe it could be done (see The Bell Curve controversy).

As I struggle with my own beliefs in Christ, I become increasingly pro-Christian.

Here in Slovakia, "Baby Jesus" brings the presents on Christmas Eve -- before the parents go to midnight mass. I have to admit to some anger at the cultural imperialism of Hollywood pushing Santa, Santa, Santa -- taking Christ out of Xmas (shopping). But I finished mine.

So please, one and all, have a joyous Holy Day, and know that, whether you believe it or not, God has a plan for you to be a good person, and a mostly happy person, despite your sins. And despite mine. Just a matter of our free will choices.

Have a Very Merry Christmas.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at December 24, 2004 05:11 AM

Michael, you state, "I’d like to know…who is doing this? Who wants to abolish Christmas?"

Anecdotally of course, Flagstaff AZ.

http://oraculations.blogspot.com/2004/12/where-only-victorias-secret-has.html

Posted by: craigl at December 24, 2004 07:07 AM

craigl: nothing personal, but: baloney.

See story: "Flagstaff Aglow for Holidays"

http://www.azdailysun.com/non_sec/nav_includes/story.cfm?storyID=99465

Between some random anonymous person e-mailing a blogger, and the Arizona Daily Sun (which also has a very nice listing of the many Christmas activities around town), I'll go with the newspaper.

Posted by: jeremy in NYC at December 24, 2004 08:07 AM

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Good Night.

Posted by: Gene at December 24, 2004 09:27 AM

Tom Grey: The Constitution IS based on human laws being "underneath" something Good and higher than mere human institutions. So that not even a popular US gov’t can take the rights away.

I hate to break it to you, Tom, but if the US government ever takes your freedom away God is not going to save you. The same Constitution was in place while blacks were enslaved and Japanese-Americans were rounded up and put into camps.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 24, 2004 10:38 AM

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL AND BEST WISHES FOR A HAPPY HOLIDAY SEASON

Posted by: dougf at December 24, 2004 10:47 AM

Our country is indeed founded upon Judeo-Christian values. So what? Even our deist founding fathers did not object. This shouldn’t bend anyone out of shape. We still are a secular nation that ultimately decides if these values remain relevant today.

While I agree with the first point, I must disagree that america is a secular nation. A nation is a group of people with a shared cultural experience - we speak english, protestant work ethic, etc. - that is bigger than a tribe. According to the cia world factbook, 78% of Americans are either protestant, catholic or mormon. What percentage of americans do you suppose are radical secularists? While the government largely is and should remain secular, let's not pretend that the nation isn't christian.

I hate to break it to you, Tom, but if the US government ever takes your freedom away God is not going to save you. The same Constitution was in place while blacks were enslaved and Japanese-Americans were rounded up and put into camps.

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored,
He has loosed the fateful lightening of His terrible swift sword
His truth is marching on.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

Posted by: Joćo at December 24, 2004 11:41 AM

I would love to understand the logic here (from a Don Feder article at frontpagemag):

"A double standard is evolving where public acknowledgement of other faiths is allowed, but not Christianity. Bar Harbor Islands, Florida, decorates its lampposts with Stars of David to commemorate Hanukkah and permits a local synagogue to set up a 14-foot menorah in a prominent public place, but won’t allow public display of a Nativity scene. For several years, New York’s public schools have put up menorahs and Moslem crescents during the holiday season, but not mangers – even though 85 percent of the American people are self-identified Christians."
(http://www.frontpagemagazine.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=16417)

Maybe this isn't all that common but I can certainly understand how Christians could at least be scratching their heads. It actually seems irrelevant that 85% of Americans are self-identified Christians. What is relevant (as I posted ad nauseum on a previous thread) is that Christmas celebrates the birth of the historical person Jesus (whatever personal significance one happens to assign to the man - i.e. savior, merely prophet, or just some guy) so it clearly defies logic to simultaneously ban mangers while permitting other types of religious icons in the public square at "Christmas".

I'm beginning to think that this could conceivably result in one of 2 outcomes down the road:

1. We eliminate the federal holiday altogether.
2. We stop calling it Christmas and call it "all religions day" - or perhaps "Winter Solstice" (I gather Tosk would approve of the latter!)

Posted by: Caroline at December 24, 2004 01:58 PM

Joao,
Most will not understand why you wrote the song lyrics. Our schools no longer teach history as it actually happened. Political Correctness rules. For those who do not know, that was the main marching song of the Union Army during our "War Between the States". There were other issues but , we mainly fought over the right of ownership of slaves.

Posted by: Gene at December 24, 2004 01:58 PM

"When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!" "

That's the last paragraph of MLK's (a Christian pastor) "I Have a Dream" speech. Shall I assume that the secularists will soon be banning our public school students from re-enacting it on MLK day? The references to God are, after all, a bit offensive.

Funny - why do I suspect NOT?

Posted by: Caroline at December 24, 2004 02:13 PM

And she rants on - banging her head against the wall...

So coming back to the fact that Christmas celebrates the birth of the historical person Jesus (note that I don't say Jesus Christ - as I was unaware that Jesus had a last name), and seeing as how Easter is actually the true religious Christian holiday (which celebrates the "resurrection", an admittedly religious concept) please explain to me how Christmas is an explicitly religious/Christian holiday? Even Muslims believe that Jesus was a prophet. (I will admit my ignorance about Judaism as I'm not sure of precisely how the person Jesus is regarded in Judaism). Admittedly most true Christians regard Jesus as the "son of God" but I was actually raised in a strong Catholic tradition and it never quite penetrated my dense brain what it means to say that Jesus is the son of God. How does "God" have a "son"? It just doesn't make sense to me (personification run amok as it were). But certainly anyone with minimal familiarity with the Bible would at least admit that Jesus was an incredibly enlightened man. That's all I can say with certainty. But I am more than happy (as a Christian - in name only perhaps) to celebrate his birthday. And darnit - mangers and nativity scenes - which depict his birth - should be allowed in every public venue on Christmas! This isn't merely an assault on Christianity. It's an assault on logic!

Posted by: Caroline at December 24, 2004 03:06 PM

What humans accomplish is done as part of God's will, when it is good -- and is their own sin, when bad.

It is precisely the actions of humans who are believers that are stopping the gov't from taking away human rights; though in many cases there are atheists (often the ACLU) submitting legal opinions to protect certain rights (not usually Christian).

And if you talk to more dissidents who survived long and painful imprisonments, as I have (a little), many of them DID maintain their own sanity/ self worth because of belief in God.

The Secularist Commies before WW II, and after, had much less trouble murdering people; the Secular Nazis as well.

Enslavement of blacks and sending Japanese Americans to concentration camps (not death camps)are two of the worst abuses the US gov't has done. But I didn't live through either of them.

Leaving Vietnam after Kerry and other anti-War folk succeeded in claiming how terrible US soldiers were acting is something that did happen in my lifetime. And the result of the US leaving -- Cambodia Killing Fields. Which I consider FAR WORSE, both absolutely and relatively, than either slavery or concentration camps. And I consider the anti-War Left as more responsible than Leni Riefenstahl (?) of Nazi propaganda fame. Fully and knowingly supporting the victory of the Commies (Kerry admitted to accepting 2000 - 3000 expected murders.)

Doing nothing while the Rwanda genocide occurred happened only 10 years ago. Terrible; but the Secular Left ... oh, how sad, how bad, let's apologize now so we can call it peace and be glad...

Sudan, and the Congo -- this week. Tonight. As I type (well, it's midnight, maybe in the morning), I'm pretty sure people will die in ways FAR WORSE than anything US soldiers did in Abu Ghraib.

Having rights "from God" isn't like having 5 divisions of US Marines. But it DOES mean I feel strongly about what is right and wrong, and am willing to act. Some/ quite a bit/ limited by responsibility to wife and kids (a GOOD argument for priestly celibacy).

The dissent against the Polish commies was led by Christians. God acts in mysterious ways -- it's not fair to credit Him with the good, and blame ourselves for the bad. But if we want the best life, for the most people, in a life not always fair, we should practice this.

It's now Christmas morning for me -- the kids loved their gifts. Mishko knows (9) it's not really baby Jesus who brings them. Not sure about Danko (7); don't want to "spoil it" for Bianca (6). I hope they grow up to be human rights respecting Catholics.

Posted by: Tom Grey at December 24, 2004 04:11 PM

Again and again, Merry Christmas.
Peace, Love, Dove.
Beads, Bells, Light Shows
and Hare Krishna, all you Groovy Freaks.

Oops, and now back to our regular 2004.

Celebrating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, Christ.

Posted by: Tom Grey at December 24, 2004 04:16 PM

Nice post, Michael.

Just one point: I was taught that Commandment #6 is properly translated as "Thou Shalt Not Murder." Quite different than Thou Shalt Not Kill.

Posted by: Oberon at December 24, 2004 06:55 PM

The conservatives and terrorists always are angry about something, too. Atheists and agnostics, for starters. Leave us alone.

Here's a novel idea. How bout you leave US alone? Or better yet, move to France.

I actually had to reassure the checkout girl at CompUSA today that it was ok to wish me a 'merry christmas'. I had to do that only because the poor girl stammered while trying to offer me a 'happy, merry...day' as I was leaving. I turned around and gently told her 'merry christmas' was ok too; and she sheepishly agreed, but said she was worried about saying the "wrong thing" and offending someone.

Your Lefty bullying has these poor people all tied up in knots not knowing even what to say anymore (I don't mean you Michael).

Leave us alone already, or get out of my country you Lefty assholes.

And merry Christmas too.

Posted by: David at December 24, 2004 08:50 PM

DAVID:

You're forgetting something, pal. It's called the free-market. Comp USA is a privately owned company. Well, it's actually owned by the shareholders, but you get my idea. If they wanted every checkout girl to say "Merry Christmas" to you, or "I hope you burn in hell for creating such a demand on this company that they decided I should be working this fucking register instead of home with my children on Christmas Eve" even...which, believe me, is what the checkout girl would like to tell you...they could. That's capitalism in all its glory.

No one bullied Comp USA into this decision. They looked at their bottom line and decided that it's in the best interests of the shareholders to not mention the word "Christmas" to anyone. If that pisses you off so much, don't fucking shop at Comp USA anymore. If enough of you stop shopping there, believe me, they'll be wishing you a Merry Christmas until the cows come home.

This is the way things work in a liberal-democratic system of open markets and private ownership. If you'd prefer a nation of uppity-self-righteous checkout girls who refuse to adhere to company policy over one of open markets and private ownership: I suggest YOU get the hell out of MY country.

And feel free to take the portentous checkout bitch with you. Christian, atheist, whatever...it'll be one less pain-in-the-ass employee for management to deal with.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at December 25, 2004 06:16 PM

Grant,

it's not CompUSA's policy. That poor girl has been intimidated by your disgusting poison of political correctness. Nothing more, nothing less.

And she was happy to wish me a merry christmas once she realized I wasn't going to be "offended."

Merry CHRISTmas.

Posted by: David at December 25, 2004 08:01 PM

Are you absolutely certain that's not a policy? It is at alot of places. I actually think it's kind of retarded, too, I'm just saying.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at December 25, 2004 08:26 PM

But why, after generations of americans being comfortable with the phrase merry christmas, would compusa and other stores see it as a threat to their bottom line? Could it be that the prospect of a costly legal battle with the ACLU is changing the calculation?

But you are right, we are not going to shop at places that bend over backwards to accomodate every tiny cry baby minority that gets offended at our various traditions. Target is learining that the hard way.

Posted by: Joćo at December 25, 2004 08:48 PM

it's not CompUSA's policy.

Cite, please.

Posted by: Kimmitt at December 26, 2004 12:40 AM

No Kimmit,

you cite. The young lady didn't say it was; Grant said it was. Let him cite.

Even I'm nervous about wishing people a merry christmas these days.

Assholes.

Posted by: David at December 26, 2004 08:24 AM

Adultery is against the law in the State of Colorado? Then why isn't Roy Romer in jail?

Posted by: James C. Hess at December 26, 2004 08:27 AM

But why, after generations of americans being comfortable with the phrase merry christmas, would compusa and other stores see it as a threat to their bottom line? Could it be that the prospect of a costly legal battle with the ACLU is changing the calculation?

I dunno - changing demographics? Maximization of customer reach-out? The tendency of commericial enterprises in recent years to drop to the lowest common denominator to avoid any exclusionary effect on a potential customer?

Nooooooo- it must be the ACLU. (By the way, I look forward to your citing me a single, and I mean single, instance where the ACLU sued a non-governmental corporation over the phrasse "Merry Christmas.")

And David - since by your lights we're basing everything on anecdotal evidence, I've been wishing people a merry Christmas all over the place, and getting the same in return. So I'm sorry you get so nervous over this - maybe you should join me here in New York, where Christmas seems to be acceptable.

Oh - and "Assholes."?? To my mind the asshole would be the guy who doesn't like the way one CompUSA clerk greets him, and uses that to tell everyone on the left to get out of the counry and curser at them. Great Christmas spirit there, pal. Definitely in keeping the New Testament.

Posted by: jeremy in NYC at December 26, 2004 12:32 PM

Adultery is also against the law in the US military, or was last time I looked.

As far as being wished Merry Christmas goes, this Wiccan doesn't mind a bit. It's someone asking me to share in the happiness of 'their' holiday, not waving a torch and screaming 'convert or die!'

Tom Grey, knowledge of right and wrong is not limited to the Christian faith, nor is the impetus to protect human rights. Not to get into bashing Christianity, which has done considerable good in the world, but it also has far too dark a history for blanket statements such as 'Believing, Christian societies will, in practice, support more human rights than other societies -- secular, or religions that are non-Christian.'

Posted by: Achillea at December 26, 2004 07:19 PM

Changing demographics is right. Take a look at an election map buddy and compare that to 1960. You'll notice that Red America is growing. Blue America is shrinking. This is why the extreme left, exemplified by the ACLU, is becoming more and more shrill. They're losing.

The ACLU doesn't need to file a lawsuit. As they have shown in their fight to remove christian symbols from various municipal seals, all they need to do is hang the threat of a lawsuit over everyone's heads to get what they want.

This goes way beyond 'merry christmas.' It goes beyond christianity or religion in general. This is about tradtition. It's traditional to wish someone a merry christmas, whether you're a christian or not. It's traditional to sing both religious and secular christmas carols at school, whether you're a christian or not. And it's certainly traditional for the Salvation Army to be outside retail stores during this time of year.

But that's the goal of all radical leftists isn't it? To destroy every tradition that doesn't fit into their utopia.

Fortunately for us, most radical leftists are terrible students of history (they think the founding fathers were deist... lol). Just as we've done to radical leftist movements of the past - Nazi Germany, Communist Russia and Ba'athist Iraq - this religious-conservative, liberal-capitalist people called Americans will defeat the ACLU and their ilk. We have history on our side.

Posted by: Joćo at December 26, 2004 07:34 PM

Changing demographics is right. Take a look at an election map buddy and compare that to 1960. You'll notice that Red America is growing.

Yup. The pro-choice Lefties are aborting themselves into oblivion. It seems that even the tragedy that is abortion has its silver lining.

Posted by: David at December 26, 2004 08:30 PM

A. Not to get into bashing Christianity, which has done considerable good in the world, but it also has far too dark a history for blanket statements such as 'Believing, Christian societies will, in practice, support more human rights than other societies -- secular, or religions that are non-Christian.'

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition! ...since it was, like, 500 years ago.

I believe Christian societies ARE best, and have been best for the last 100 years. Show me some 3 generation counter examples if you don't like the blanket statement.

"I believe" means I don't have to prove it; science, based on proof, has often overturned Christian "beliefs" like Earth at the center of the universe. Which, being materialistic, are not the crux of Christianity. "Best society" is also not perfect. I accept the imperfections, while striving to be better.

If you can NOT prove some other societies are better, including cultural defense, then you might well still have some other "belief". You, like I, are entitled to different beliefs. And there are some beliefs that cannot be proven true; perhaps most of the more important beliefs.

If there WAS proof that Christian society was better, or that some other society was better, would that change your belief in good, evil, and appropriate action for today?

It would affect my beliefs.

Posted by: Tom Grey at December 27, 2004 02:19 AM

If there isn't a war being waged against Chritmas and all things Christian, why has Christmas been purged from the "condom on the banana" school system? There is a war going on and everyone who promotes politicians who select Left-wing Christian hating judges, are part of the anti-Christian jihad.
It is time to purge our courts of these hate mongers and get back to judges who read the law accurately, subverting their personal opinions instead of the constitution itself.

Posted by: RA at December 27, 2004 11:48 AM

[[[ No one (at least to my knowledge) wants to open the school doors on December 25th so they can turn the kids into pagans ]]]

Some people want to, but the unions would never go for it.

Posted by: Tim at December 27, 2004 01:12 PM

"Yup. The pro-choice Lefties are aborting themselves into oblivion. It seems that even the tragedy that is abortion has its silver lining."

Wow, that's bad even for you.

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