President Bush is:
a. politically tone deaf
b. a rotten jokester
c. terribly insensitive to Christians, while kowtowing to every other religious group under the sun
d. all of the above
Take your pick.
I refer specifically to Bush’s remarks during the National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony last week, but more broadly to the way the first family has avoided references to Jesus each Christmas it has spent in the White House.
Let’s start with the last Thursday’s faux pas. (At least I hope it was a faux pas and not an intentional and deliberate slight.)
Here’s what the president said:
The lighting of the National Christmas tree is one of the great traditions in our nation’s capital. 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.
So far, so good.
To any Christian watching or listening to the remarks, it seemed Bush was about to mention the life at the center of the Christmas celebration – the life of our Savior, the Son of God, Jesus, the Messiah who came to Earth to suffer, die and rise again in atoning for our sins.
But that’s not where Bush was going at all. He got close, but then turned the comedian-in-chief.
“Santa, thanks for coming,” he said. “Glad you made it.”
There was some uncomfortable laughter in the White House.
You can read the transcript of those remarks and watch the video for yourself if you think I am taking these comments out of context. I don’t think I am – particularly given the context of all the politically correct and spiritually incorrect White House Christmas celebrations the Bushes have overseen since taking office in 2001.
I have observed the Bushes tiptoe around the reason for the season for five years. You can see it in the Christmas themes – lights and pageantry, rather than the baby in the manger. You can see it on the White House website – Santa and trees and photo ops, but no Jesus. You can see it in the Christmas cards – all about “holiday” greetings, but no New Testament scripture.
In 2001, for instance, Harriet Miers, the president’s White House counsel and one-time nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, rejected the text of a White House Christmas card written by Ned Ryun, son of Rep. Jim Ryun, because it was “too Christian” and might offend those of other faiths.
The young intern refused to remove the spiritual references because, as he put it, “I actually think that Christmas is an overtly Christian holiday that celebrates the birth of Christ and the beginning of the redemption of man.”
“Miers,” he said, “purposefully sought to dilute the Christianity of the message.”
For Christians, Christmas is about one thing: It’s not about “all things bright and beautiful.” It’s about God’s Son coming to Earth in human form to atone for our sins so that we can share eternal life with Him. It’s not about Santa Claus, and I’m surprised this needs to be pointed out to a president who claims to be a born-again Christian.
Imagine the uproar in this country and around the world if Bush had treated a Muslim holiday so flippantly.
Imagine the uproar among Bush’s closest supporters if Bill Clinton had been so cavalier in joking about the meaning of Christmas.
I hope Bush’s tree-lighting remarks can be attributed to a mere gaffe – a poor, misguided attempt at humor, a profane but innocent mistake, the work of an unenlightened speechwriter.
But, in any event, President Bush needs to apologize to Christians in America and around the world. Further, he needs to take his Christian constituency seriously and not for granted.