Townhall.comby Carol Platt Liebau
The New York Times recently revealed that, before abandoning the idea, Barack and Michelle Obama had considered eliminating The White Houseâ€™s traditional nativity scene as part of an effort to celebrate a â€œnon-religiousâ€ Christmas. In light of that story, it wasnâ€™t entirely surprising to learn that this year, for the first time, the Presidentâ€™s Christmas card contains neither any mention of Christmas itself nor a quote from the New Testament. Obviously, the Obamas arenâ€™t fans of overt displays of Christian religiosity.
The White House has told Fox News Radio that the card represents nothing but an attempt to recognize that Americans are celebrating other holidays at this time of year â€“ not just Christmas. No doubt that approach is imbued with politically-correct, multicultural sensitivity, but it also, perhaps, reflects a world view thatâ€™s out-of-step with most regular Americans â€“ and even Americaâ€™s heritage.
For starters, the use of the term â€œChristmasâ€ doesnâ€™t seem to be as offensive as the politically correct would have us believe. A recent Rasmussem Report found that fully 72% of Americans preferred â€œMerry Christmas,â€ compared to 22% who favored a more generic greeting, like â€œHappy Holidays.â€ And a December 2008 USA Today/Gallup poll found that 93% of Americans celebrate Christmas. How offended could Americans be by a reference to a holiday that they themselves are celebrating?
Even setting aside the overwhelming predominance of Christmas observance in this country, itâ€™s not clear why the elimination of â€œChristmasâ€ (or any Bible reference) on the Obamasâ€™ card is deemed necessary. How many reasonable Christian people would be upset by the use of â€œHappy Hannukahâ€ in Israel or â€œblessed Ramadanâ€ in a majority Muslim country? Would a normal Christian be incensed â€“ even in a majority-Christian country like America â€“ by being wished a â€œHappy Hannukahâ€ by a Jewish person (or president!) or a â€œblessed Ramadanâ€ by an observant Muslim one? Letâ€™s hope not. After all, those are benedictions, not curses.
Efforts to promote â€œseasonâ€™s greetingsâ€ and â€œhappy holidays,â€ both in The White House and the larger culture, seem to rest on the assumption that â€œMerry Christmasâ€ will offend those of other faiths, or of none. But is it truly so intolerable to be confronted with the indicia of a religion that is not oneâ€™s own? In a country that was founded on the concept of religious tolerance by all and toward all, itâ€™s not clear why this should be the case.
Whatâ€™s more, why should a religious holiday like Christmas be deemed unique in its potential to offend? In contrast to their apparent reticence to highlight the Christianity inherent in Christmas, the Obamas apparently perceive no insensitivity in celebrating holidays â€“ like St. Patrickâ€™s Day and Cinco de Mayo â€“ that point up specific ethnic differences among Americans. Historically, our country has suffered far more internal turmoil based on race and ethnicity than on religion â€“ and we have a far larger number of different ethnicities than religions. The difference in approach makes no sense.
Ultimately, it doesnâ€™t matter whether a President uses the specific word â€œChristmasâ€ on a card, as opposed to a Bible verse or some other religious element. What does matter is when the occupant of the highest office in the land attempts to transform the Christmas (or Hannukah or Ramadan) season into nothing more than a great big â€œhappy holidaysâ€ opportunity. Intentionally or not, that approach serves to replace religiosity with some variety of civic secularism that swaps belief in God for a diffuse and undefined â€œholiday spirit.â€
And for America, thatâ€™s a dangerous path. Religion not only provides meaning to life and illuminates lifeâ€™s larger truths; it also helps a free people remain free by providing them with ways to govern themselves individually, without having to resort collectively to the heavy hand of government.
So permit me to say what the Obamasâ€™ card does not: Merry Christmas.