Because I was quoted in the Washington Post this week as saying I threw my White House Christmas card in the trash upon seeing the “happy holidays” message, I’ve been accused of being a troublemaker.
E-mailers are telling me I should get a life, find something more important to worry about, leave the president alone, find a new country … You get the idea.
Honestly, however, I don’t care all that much about the White House Christmas card. I write a daily column and I do a daily three-hour radio talk show. Not once before this week have I ever mentioned the White House Christmas card – even though I have received them annually and been disappointed by them since at least 2002. If the Christmas card issue was that important to me, I had many opportunities to say it.
When a reporter from the Washington Post called me to discuss the Christmas card issue, I told him very frankly that the issue for me was much bigger than Christmas cards. It’s much bigger than what the White House is doing this Christmas or last Christmas. The context for my disappointment with President Bush is the cultural trend we see in America to minimize the spiritual dimension of Christmas, to marginalize Christmas, celebrated by 96 percent of Americans, as just “one of the seasonal holidays.”
Ultimately, I believe, these attacks on Christmas are really attacks on Christianity.
How else can one explain what happened in a Wisconsin elementary school this Christmas season?
For a performance in their euphemistically named “winter program,” school authorities changed the name and lyrics of the Christmas carol “Silent Night” to reflect their hostility and aversion to anything “Christian.”
“Silent Night” became “Cold in the Night.”
This is not a “Saturday Night Live” skit, though it would make a good one.
Here’s what the students of Ridgeway Elementary School in Dodgeville, Wis., will be asked to sing to the tune of “Silent Night” this year:
Cold in the night,
no one in sight,
winter winds whirl and bite,
how I wish I were happy and warm,
safe with my family out of the storm.
It would be funny if it were not so tragic.
Then there was the library in the Memphis, Tenn., suburb of Bartlett that “sanitized” a Nativity scene by removing figurines representing Jesus, Joseph, Mary and the wise men – leaving just a bunch of farm animals and a shepherd boy behind.
Thankfully, in this case, the attention brought to the outrage by WND and other news organizations led to the mayor reversing the action.
Then there are the retailers banning any mention of Christmas, banishing Salvation Army bell-ringers, renaming Christmas trees as “holiday trees,” demanding their employees stop wishing customers a merry Christmas.
After years of censorship and intimidation of religious expression by groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans in business, government, schools and in every other part of public life have begun censoring themselves.
It is in this context that I have been disappointed with President Bush’s leadership. He, too, it seems has bowed to this intimidation and self-censorship.
It took him nearly a week to clarify his offensive remarks at the National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony in which he seemed to confuse the true meaning of the holiday.
“Each year, we gather here to celebrate the season of hope and joy – and to remember the story of one humble life that lifted the sights of humanity,” he said, teasing Christians with what appeared to be an obvious reference to Jesus. Then he switched gears and said: “Santa, thanks for coming. Glad you made it.”
Indeed, the message on White House Christmas cards is somewhat trivial in the context of all that is going on in our society with regard to this holiday.
And that’s why I love what two Christians, Dan and Jennifer Giroux, have come up with in response. It’s called “Operation Just Say Merry Christmas.” At just above the cost of production, they are distributing tens of thousands of wristbands with that timely message on them: “Just Say Merry Christmas.”
It’s a great conversation starter. The wristbands make great stocking stuffers. And maybe, just maybe, if enough people respond and begin wearing them, we might have a chance to reclaim Christmas for what it is – the date chosen by hundreds of millions of Christians worldwide to celebrate the birth of our Savior.