Thursday, December 23, 2004

Yuletide Spirit

James Lileks:
Maybe it's just me. Perhaps I'm overly sensitive. But when I wish a store clerk "Merry Christmas!" they often appear stunned and flummoxed for a moment, as if I've just blabbed the plans for the underground's sabotage of the train tracks in front of the secret police.
I've been conducting a similar campaign. Around here it's kind of a slamdunk, but even on the phone with folks who are effectively strangers scattered around the country, the reaction is surprise and pleasure.
This isn't about shoving Christmas down the maws of the unwilling -- it's simply about admitting that the vast majority are celebrating, well, CHRISTMAS, and there's nothing injurious to the public sphere in celebrating that fact. At this rate we will have to rename July 4th The Holiday of Perceiving Nocturnal Airborne Explosives, lest we offend the few who regard the American Experiment as a grievous stain on human history.

Yes, "Merry Christmas" means different things to different people. To those disinclined to follow the creed it represents, it speaks to the cultural traditions of America; to those who take spiritual succor from the season, it means something else. Bottom line in either case: Be happy. And if you're about to throw down the paper and fire off an angry letter to the editor, stop: Think. I wish you a Merry Christmas. I really do. That's all there is to it.
Mark Steyn:
The seasonally litigious rest their fanatical devotion to the deChristification of Christmas on the separation of church and state. America's founders were opposed to the "establishment" of religion, whose meaning is clear enough to any Englishman: the new republic did not want President Washington serving simultaneously as Supreme Governor of the Church of America, or the Bishop of Virginia sitting in the US Senate. Two centuries on, these possibilities are so remote that the "separation" of church and state has dwindled down to threats of legal action over red-and-green party napkins.

But every time some sensitive flower pulls off a legal victory over the school board, who really wins? For the answer to that, look no further than last month's election results. Forty years of effort by the American Civil Liberties Union to eliminate God from the public square have led to a resurgent, evangelical and politicised Christianity in America. By "politicised", I don't mean that anyone who feels his kid should be allowed to sing Silent Night if he wants to is perforce a Republican, but only that year in, year out it becomes harder for such folks to support a secular Democratic Party closely allied with the anti-Christmas militants. American liberals need to rethink their priorities: what's more important? Winning a victory over the kindergarten teacher's holiday concert, or winning back Congress and the White House?
The elevation of the right not to be offended into the bedrock principle of democratic society will, in the end, tear it apart. That goes for atheists threatening suits against New Jersey schools and for Muslim lobby groups threatening fatwas against The Telegraph. On which cheery note, Merry Christmas to all.
Charles Krauthammer
It is Christmastime, and what would Christmas be without the usual platoon of annoying pettifoggers rising annually to strip Christmas of any Christian content?
The attempts to de-Christianize Christmas are as absurd as they are relentless. The United States today is the most tolerant and diverse society in history. It celebrates all faiths with an open heart and open-mindedness that, compared to even the most advanced countries in Europe, are unique.
America transcended the idea of mere toleration in 1790 in Washington's letter to the Newport synagogue, one of the lesser known glories of the Founding: "It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights."

More than two centuries later, it is time that members of religious (and anti-religious) minorities, as full citizens of this miraculous republic, transcend something too: petty defensiveness.

Merry Christmas. To all.