Why The Christmas Wars Matter

The secular grinches were out in full force again this pre-Christmas season.  But it is not just crèches and twinkling lights that the secularists want to ban — their ultimate goal is the elimination off all faith-based thought from public life.   

Barbara Walters, co-host of ABC’s The View, spent much of a recent show grumbling about receiving a Christmas card from President and Mrs. Bush that included a Bible verse.  Walters said, “This is what interested me, that it is a religious card.  Usually, in the past when I have received a Christmas card, it’s been ‘happy holidays’ and so on… ”  The scripture verse Walters was so irritated about says:  “You alone are the Lord.  You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them.  You gave life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.” 

Walters seemed astonished that on a religious holiday someone would want to send a religious greeting card.  Following her rant, and even as her co-hosts attempted to steer the conversation towards a new topic, Walters repeatedly returned to her bafflement over the Christmas card.  “Don’t you think it’s a little interesting that the president of all the people is sending out a religious Christmas card?” Walters asked, as if a proper Christmas card could be anything other than religious. 

Walters then showed her co-hosts a card sent to her by Elton John that displayed angels on the cover and wished people “Happy Holidays.”  Of course, a greeting card that wished recipients “Merry Christmas” would have been a curious choice for the man who has stated that he thinks all organized religions should be banned.  And one cannot help but think that Walters’ real aim was to find yet another way of bashing President Bush and his faith.  But Walters’ ostensible point was that Christmas should have nothing to do with anything as “divisive” as the birth of the Prince of Peace.  Rather, to liberal elites like Walters, Christmas should be an all-inclusive celebration, a time for people of all cultures and religions to unite.

This year saw numerous other examples of bah-humbuggery from those who consider the public recognition of Christmas an existential threat to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.  A special task force in a Colorado city recommended banning red and green lights because the colors are too religious for city sponsorship; local officials in a small Michigan town refused to display a nativity scene in front of its fire hall; and Oregon state public schools omitted the Christian holiday from its official calendar, while including events like Kwanzaa and the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. 

Often lost in the absurdity is the fact that the vast majority of Americans prefer that Christmas be recognized publicly.  A recent Rasmussen Reports poll found that 67 percent of respondents preferred to be wished “Merry Christmas,” while just 26 percent preferred “Happy Holidays.”  The poll also showed that Americans of almost every subset — including men (69 percent), women (65 percent), married people (69 percent), unmarried people (64 percent), Republicans (88 percent), Democrats (57 percent) and third party supporters (57 percent), all age groups and all but the lowest income group — preferred the traditional Christmas greeting by large margins.  

And recent years have seen a public backlash against attempts to “de-Christianize” Christmas, and retailers have noticed, with many revoking policies that required employees to greet customers with the Barbara Walters-approved “Happy Holidays” rather than the traditional “Merry Christmas.”  Last year, parent companies representing twelve of the nation’s top 20 retailers responded to requests for clarification on their official policies regarding seasonal greetings that employees are allowed or encouraged to use.  Most said “Merry Christmas” was allowed and even encouraged in some instances. 

Even our politicians seem to have gotten the message, and a resolution “recognizing the importance of Christmas,” was recently supported by all but nine (Democratic) members of the House of Representatives.

Attempts to eliminate Christmas from public life are simply a manifestation of the belief that faithful Christians are disqualified from participating in public life.  Liberal elites who insist that pro-lifers and those who believe marriage should remain the union of one man and one woman have no right “to impose their religious beliefs on the rest of us.” Senate liberals took that trite and hackneyed line to a whole other level when they bitterly opposed some of the president’s judicial nominees simply because of the nominees’ “deeply held religious beliefs.”

Some months ago, a leftwing group filed a lawsuit seeking access to White House records and Secret Service visitor logs, specifically seeking to find out how many times James Dobson, Jerry Falwell and I had met with President Bush and his top advisors. The implication was clear: that our democracy is seriously undermined when Christians speak with the president! On Monday, a federal judge ruled in the group’s favor, evidently accepting the argument that it is in the best interests of the nation to know whether Christians — gasp! — are being let into the White House. I cannot help but wonder whether they would care if the president met with Reverend Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson?

Imagine the chilling effect this case could create.  Will politicians and future presidents be willing to meet with evangelical, Catholic or Jewish leaders at the risk of lawsuits from leftwing outfits seeking their records? This is just one more attempt, and part of a larger effort by the Left, to intimidate and marginalize men and women of faith — as if we had nothing to contribute to the public policy debates in America or shouldn’t even be allowed to participate in the great debates of our time.

In the end, all the secularists’ antics won’t interfere with most Christians’ celebration of Christmas.  Polls indicate that over ninety percent of Americans will celebrate Christmas, and a majority plans to attend a Christmas church service this year.  And as long as Christians “keep Christ in Christmas,” the PC brigade will have a difficult time extinguishing faith from public life.  Merry Christmas!