December 24, 2008

Having just watched John Gibson on FOX-news discuss The War On Christmas, his commentary on trouble-making atheists, which is a theme that Bill O”€™Reilly has also worked for profit, it seems Gibson has a skewed view about our cultural wars. In his view, our country is fine, save for those particularly obsessive atheists who hang around the ACLU. This group is now getting local governments to remove public displays of Santa and his reindeers, against the popular will.
According to Gibson, these troublemakers get away with their shenanigans for the following reasons: 1.they are remarkably determined; 2. most everyone else is afraid of legal complications; and 3. many Americans just don”€™t know how indulgent the Supreme Court really is about permitting public displays of piety.

Apparently the courts would be open to public manifestations of the Christian spirit and other Christian things, if certain rules are followed. These rules include allowing other religions to have an equal place on the public square, not being too devotional (perhaps by not displaying specifically biblical figures), and by pretending that Judeo-Christian values, when brought up in public schools, have purely “€œinstructional purposes.”€ By adhering to such reasonable rules, one could get away with many activities that most of us didn”€™t know were legally possible: for example, talking about Christianity, together with Islam and (say) Sikhism in the classroom. Teachers can do this supposedly without much risk of having themselves dragged into court. And presumably if the teacher in question is sued or disciplined, there would be ample legal recourse, coming from numerous groups that exist to defend Christians against atheists.

In point of fact, nothing is that simple. Since the 1950s the separation of Church and state doctrine as interpreted by the courts has been used to force Christian, and more recently Judeo-Christian (although not Muslim), religious expression farther and farther away from public institutions and public spaces. The types of religious expression that Gibson talks about are so trivial and devoid of Christian substance that even if the plaintiff were to win a case in court, it would do nothing to advance the interests of serious Christians. Why should these Christians even bother to notice that a court allows them to put Santa Claus on the town square or to hand out napkins with a Yule log in the school cafeteria? They may of course do these things, providing they permit other “€œviewpoints”€ the same right to be publicly exhibited. They may even get away with a Nativity scene placed next to a statehouse but, if courts are to be followed, Christians must accept the right of other religions and “€œviewpoints”€ to be given equal space. This of course is what fueled the recent battle in Washington State.

Moreover, it’s puerile to attribute the attacks on Christian symbols here and in Europe entirely to atheists. Most of the attempts to secularize or de-Christianize public institutions have come from people and groups that in no way claim to be atheists. My own college until recently was a denominational Protestant institution, and to whatever extent the culture of its founding denomination can still be felt, it is in the form of multiculturalism, diversity, and playing up an inoffensive “€œholiday spirit.”€ Almost always mainline Protestant denominations are ready to join the ACLU in pushing anything Christian out of public view. And let’s not forget about our fine Catholic politicians who make up much of the left wing of the Democratic Party. To my knowledge, Kennedy, Biden, Dodd, Leahy, etc. all claim to be loyal members of the Church of Rome, but they are zealous in supporting political and judicial efforts to remove any remaining Christian influence from our public life.

No, I”€™ve not forgotten (how can one?) the disproportionate influence of American Jews here and in Europe in working tirelessly to de-Christianize whatever they can, through groups like the ACLU, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Central Committee for Jews in Germany. The degree to which Jews have carried this effort is truly insane, and particularly in view of the fact that those whose cultural impact they have tried to marginalize, while supporting continued Muslim immigration into Europe, are their only conceivable allies. To their credit, Orthodox Jews do not oppose the remnants of Christian civilization, precisely because they know what is at stake; and because they know who their friends are. But Jewish public figures like Schumer, Barney Frank, Barbara Boxer, and Abe Foxman apparently can”€™t do enough to render the society they inhabit post-Christian and more “€œdiverse,”€ except when it is Christians, whites, or members of other unfashionable groups who ask for the right to be diverse. Now as far as I know, Barney, Chuck and their pals are not self-declared atheists and in all likelihood have some religious affiliation. So why the constant tirades against “€œatheists”€ when what we should be focusing on are larger, more numerous groups?

My hunch is that it is easier for FOX to go after atheists (save for the neocon Christopher Hitchens) and the hated “€œsecular humanists”€ than to take on the real perpetrators of the war against Christmas and other identifiably Christian holidays. Let’s take the example of one of the most recent targets for FOX and its supposedly pro-Christmas display crowd, Governor Christine Gregoire of Washington. Everyone but the differently-abled now know about how this very leftist politician in Washington State allowed a group of atheists to put up a contemptuous sign poking fun at religious believers, across from a Christmas display near the state house in Olympia. Listening to FOX, one might believe that the feminist, pro-open-borders, business-regulating governor, who sponsored one of the most comprehensive gay rights bills in the country, which she signed in 2006, is an isolated figure. Actually Gregoire was reelected by a majority of voters in her state last month, and her actions, in giving equal space to militant atheists with those putting up Christmas displays, has not made her less popular as a chief executive.

The Seattle Times was probably speaking for many Americans when it defended Gregoire’s action as consistent with our current “€œpluralism,”€ that is, with the view of the US “€œas a great melting pot from very different cultures with very different views of religion.”€ By now it is common practice, sanctioned by courts, to permit non-Christian religionists (and presumably anti-religionists) the same right to exhibit their “€œvalues”€ as members of the majority religion. This was pointed out not only by Gregoire but also by her Republican Attorney General, Rob McKenna, who supported her action as being mandated by the courts.

This eagerness to give equal space to Christianity-scoffers is not the view simply of “€œsecular humanists”€ but of tens of millions of Americans, who have been taught to think in a certain way. Acceptance of anti-Christian lifestyles is integral to our elite and popular cultures, as my church-going students never cease to remind me. And this does not contradict another fact, namely that over 70% of Americans are theists while a majority still believe in the divinity of Christ. Most of the Washingtonians who voted for Gregoire, whose social radicalism is hardly a secret, are Christians in their own minds.

This should not surprise us, seeing that most of the votes received by most social leftists in the US come from theists. There is no conspiracy of atheists or “€œsecular humanists”€ which explains what is happening. The entire country, although in the majority nominally Christian, has swerved in the last forty years dramatically toward the multicultural Left; and the attempts to show this not the case because some people object to the removal of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer from classrooms does not disprove my contention. Believing that the public is “€œright of center”€ or supports “€œfamily values”€ because it wants Rudolph back in school is inexpressibly stupid. It has no more relevance than the fact that about half of the American population believe in angels. Such opinions indicate nothing about how far this country has turned leftward on social and cultural issues. But playing up the Rudolph-issue does allow the talking-heads on FOX to sell books.  



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