Maybe mine is still in the mail, so this isn’t from personal knowledge, but apparently this year’s White House Christmas card isn’t being well-received by some of the President’s more conservative (and Christian) friends. The card wishes recipients a happy “holiday season” without specific reference to Christmas per se. No matter that twelve presidents before W, begnning with Calvin Coolige in 1927, also wished the American people various versions of seasonal greetings. No, no … references to the “holidays” or “the season” simply won’t do. After all, America is a Christian country and we shouldn’t let “them” continue to secularize Christmas by eliminating even the very word itself, let alone let them take away our public displays featuring the Babe of Bethlehem, Christmas trees and other explicit references to Christmas!
“This clearly demonstrates that the Bush administration has suffered a loss of will and that they have capitulated to the worst elements in our culture.” So says William A. Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights (as reported by MSNBC). And just what might those terrible elements be? Could Mr. Donohue perhaps be speaking of such insidious things as mutual toleration, respect for religious diversity, or even that pesky little constitutional notion precluding the establishement of state-sponsored religion?
Mr. Donohue isn’t the only one troubled by this phenomenon. The Heritage Foundation sees an all out War on Christmas that Americans are encouraged to fight against so that our “favorite” holiday is not secularized beyond all recognition.
When I was was actively in ministry and one of the burning issues was how to manage getting the Church decorated between the 11:00 a.m. 4th Sunday of Advent Liturgy and the 5:30 p.m. Christmas Eve Liturgy for those years when Christmas fell on a Monday, local clergy at our monthly gatherings would regularly talk among ourselves about “putting Christ back into Christmas.” For Christian leaders and homilists, this is an ongoing and ever important question. Christians celebrate Christmas as the feast of the Incarnation, remembering the first coming of Jesus at a fixed time in history, even as we look forward to his coming again at the end of time. It is a question asked by Christians, with Christians, for Christians.
Despite what some say, however, America is not a Christian country; nor should it be. The right to worship as one sees fit, including the right not to worship at all, is one of the most important reasons why America came to be in the first place. I, for one, would be happy to receive a card from the President wishing me well during the “holiday season” — unfortunately, I don’t think my name is on the list.