Thursday, December 23, 2004


Choice Quotes for the Day

From Mark Steyn:

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.

Hat tip to Res Publica Et Cetera

Jonah Goldberg
reminds us to lighten up.

Christmas is a joyous holiday, and joyous people tend not to behave like Torquemada. By my rough calculation, 99.87 percent of Christians who say “Merry Christmas” to people who aren’t Christian do so because they’re trying to be nice. And, by my equally rough calculation, 97.93 percent of people who take real offense when they’re on the receiving end of such Yuletide wishes are trying to be a pain in the — uh, well, they’re trying to be a pain

Jay Ambrose wants us to think about who are the fanatics here. He might be right:

Allowing freedom of religion is more than a formula for avoiding nasty wars. It is a means of allowing religion itself to flourish, of allowing thought to range widely and of allowing individuals to undertake voyages of inner discovery in which they may define their purposes and the meaning of their lives. Deny or disrupt the quest and you risk denying people their humanity. I hold to a faith, but forcing it on someone else is contrary to my understanding of that faith, and it is contrary to the civic principles I embrace.

Common sense surely instructs us, however, that putting up Christmas displays that really are about Christmas is no more an affront to religious freedom than the government's letting employees have a day off on account of Christmas, no matter what their religion. It seems to me that it really does take a fanatic — a true-believing, secular fundamentalist — to be an absolutist on the issue, to say with ironclad determination that we must have no whiff of religion anywhere near a government building lest we lose something of vital import.

It seems to me it requires people so obsessive about their cause that they no longer have that sense of proportionality that tells most of us when a polite nod or quietly voiced disagreement is a more appropriate response than loud protests and lawsuits.

The interesting fact is that, at a time when there is much wringing of hands about religious fundamentalists in America, it is the secular fundamentalists, the secular fanatics who have been winning their way.

Unless we see major change, the secular fanatics will win this fight about nativity scenes, and when we see them coming, we'll just have to whisper "Merry Christmas" to each other, hoping no offense is given if the words reach their ears.

I will close with a final tidbit from R. Emmett Tyrell:

This great controversy brings to mind a favored insight of mine. Society divides between the intelligent and the unintelligent, the gifted and the ungifted, but the most significant divide resides between the agreeable and the disagreeable. The disagreeable are forever out there disturbing the peace and claiming they do it for high moral purpose. Sometimes they do, but not always; and they often make social contact social conflict for no good reason.

Krauthammer is, as I say, on the side of the agreeable. His pronouncement on this vexed holiday is worth quoting at length not only for what he says about the holiday but also for what he says about this good country of ours. "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." He points out that 80% of Americans are Christians and 95% observe Christmas in some way. This does not alarm him. He being Jewish has used the holiday to fill in for Christian co-workers who are not at work. His co-workers have reciprocated for him on Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashana and another of his "major holidays," Opening Day at Fenway.

Krauthammer makes another point that I myself have tried to make over the years. We would hope that non-Christians are strong enough in their faith to feel unthreatened by Christmas carols or other vaguely religious themes. I should think this would be particularly true of agnostics and atheists, who I would think compose a particularly hearty lot.

In Alexandria, Virginia's Old Town I often attend a Roman Catholic Church that might never have been there were it not for that great and good man George Washington. Washington was part of the Protestant majority that in those faraway days was not particularly congenial to Catholics, but he put in his recommendation that the assorted rastaquoueres have their church and they have it. Washington went beyond mere toleration. He encouraged religious minorities. In his 1790 letter to the Newport synagogue he wrote, Krauthammer reminds us, "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." So maybe next year I shall be blurting out "Merry Christmas." But for now let me say God Bless.

And to you, my reader, I say, Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noel, A Merry Yuletide, Happy Solstice, Season's Greetings, have a great New Year's, and above all, as Dickens wished us, through the voice of Tiny Tim, "God bless us, each and every one!"

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