The notion of a liberal war on Christmas has become something of a seasonal evergreen discussion topic for pundits. As such, at this point at times it’s not clear whether conservatives like Fox’s Bill O’Reilly talk about it more than politically correct secularists wage it. In this overwhelmingly Christian country, there is little doubt that Christmas is a national holiday and is often practiced in such a manner as to make it more of a secular celebration of consumerism than a Christian religious observance.
Nevertheless, it must be admitted that the holiday plays a not unimportant role in the ongoing battle over the height of the so-called wall of separation between church and state. The fight about whether crèches, the lyrics in carols, or Christmas trees constitute an unconstitutional establishment of Christianity has done little to undermine the hold of the holiday or to make religious minorities more comfortable in America. To the contrary, such disputes do much to undermine good community relations between members of different faiths. Dennis Prager is correct when he writes today that those who claim to be “emotionally troubled” by the sight of a Christmas display on public property are indeed emotionally troubled.
In particular some liberal Jews have made a habit out of manufacturing outrage about Christmas festivities retaining even a smidge of religious content. As Prager rightly notes, many of those who pick fights over such issues are not religious but instead seem to practice a version of Judaism this time of year whose sole point is to insist that communal celebrations are stripped of Christianity.
There may be some who believe the First Amendment rule against establishing any religion ought to mean Christmas should not be treated as a legal holiday. But, just as the presence of the phrase “In God We Trust” on coins does not infringe anyone’s liberty, neither does the fact that the government shuts down on December 25. One needn’t observe Christmas in any way to understand that it is part of the secular culture of this country. Religious minorities who do without trees, tinsel, and Santa Claus are not in any way damaged by the presence of a crèche or a tree on public property or that children in a public school might sing some Christmas songs.
Why not? Because in the absence of compulsion or of any penalties exacted against those who do not participate, such rites are merely harmless celebrations. Attempts to suppress Christmas are not a defense of religious freedom. Instead, as O’Reilly and others have pointed out, they smack more of a desire to infringe on the religious liberty of believers. Those who imagine that Christmas is a threat to the right to dissent from the majority culture are living in a fevered dream world that is divorced from the reality of American tolerance.
In that spirit, we at COMMENTARY have no compunction about wishing our readers and friends a very merry Christmas. May all who celebrate the day as a matter of faith as well as those who don’t enjoy the holiday. It is as good a time as any to take a moment to thank Divine Providence for the ongoing miracle that is American democracy and for the religious freedom it has provided all of us.