What the President Said on December 24th.....
...in a radio address to our troops:
“Here, at home, we will celebrate this Christmas Day in our traditional American way because of its deep spiritual meaning to us; because the teachings of Christ are fundamental in our lives; and because we want our youngest generation to grow up knowing the significance of this tradition and the story of the coming of the immortal Prince of Peace and Good Will.”
My question to you is: Was the President of the United States out of line by including such a blatant invocation of God and religion into his address? Did he somehow "offend" those non-religious, American souls? Was he being exclusive? Was he in violation of the establishment clause in the First Amendment?
Since I suspect most reading this are fellow bloggers, who do their news research and cross-references, I will come clean right away, and admit that the above address was delivered by the President...
....in 1944! You see, President Bush never said these words. President Franklin D. Roosevelt did, 60 years ago in a radio address to the troops serving in WWII.
I first posted the above ruse a year ago on a message board, after listening to Michael Medved pull this stunt on his listeners. He baited the atheists and Wall-of-Separation advocates to wax indignant and work themselves up. "How dare the President do this!" "Grrr! I'm offended, wah, wah, wah!" Like Mr. Medved, I waited for some responses to generate before coming clean.
The thing is, President Bush has the reputation of being a "devout Christian"; and there is a lot of talk about "the religious right", as if that's a dirty, nasty thing to be. The fact is, President Bush is a devout Methodist. As
Zell Miller put it, "I can identify with someone who has lived that line in 'Amazing Grace,' 'Was blind, but now I see,' and I like the fact that he's the same man on Saturday night that he is on Sunday morning."
I think labeling President Bush as some sort of Christian jihadist, however, is a perception pushed by the media. The fact is, every U.S. President, beginning with George Washington, has addressed this country as a Christian nation. You might argue that the Roosevelt quote was from 1944, that we didn't know any better then, and we are better off in this ultra PC, ultra-sensitive world we live in now. But stats I've heard are that the U.S. is no less Christian than it was 60 years ago; nor has the number of practicing Jews and Muslims in this country significantly increased in those 60 years. Christians make up about 90 percent of the population here. And it isn't just conservatives who are religious, obviously. Why should the "rights" of the minority oppress the majority? We are a nation obsessed with trying to make things fair and equal to everyone, to a point of absurdity.
Paul Kengor a year ago, President Bush, speaking as President, has been no more religious than the majority of any other President of the U.S. On Average, President Clinton has mentioned Christ in 5.1 statements per year while President Bush has mentioned Jesus/Christ 4.7. And according to a book I read, A Matter of Character, by Ronald Kessler, President Bush is seen to talk about his deep and abiding faith most often when it is usually brought up by the press who obsess over it.
Bush's biggest year of referencing Jesus/Christ was 2001, the year of 9/11. 7 times. In 2002, 5 public statements. In all of 2003, his Presidential Documents only show a mention of Jesus twice: an Easter address and a Christmas one. That's 14 statements in 3 years, compared to 41 that Clinton mentions Jesus in his 8 years of office.
In addition, Bush from 2000-2003 is listed in Presidential Documents as having only spoken on three occasions in a church. In contrast, Clinton spoke 21 times. Bill Clinton freely mixed politics and religion (“By the grace of God and your help, last year I was elected President.” ). Yet President Bush is the one who gets nailed to the cross by the media as being "too religious".
He lit a menorah at the White House a year ago, before Rabbis and about 200 others from the Jewish community; he's also said prayer in mosques, as well as stressed about tolerance for Muslims in this country and how Islam is a religion of peace (I've got a lot of thoughts on this, but that's saved for another post, perhaps). In fact, no American President has ever gone so far out of his way to stress tolerance for Islam.
So, when he lit that menorrah, was President Bush somehow pissing on the Christians, atheists, Muslims, and wiccans of this great nation of ours? When he prayed amongst the Muslim community, did he somehow offend, because he left out all the non-Muslims, making them feel "unwelcomed"? Is this being "divisive", or could it be showing acceptance and tolerance and being welcoming toward all Americans of all faiths?
Time for a rant...
As my regular readership (of about 3) have heard me say time and time before, I myself, am non-religious. My dad is atheist and my mom Buddhist. Yet my family every year celebrated Christmas, the way we chose to celebrate it, without being threatened by it. We celebrated the tradition of Christmas, which I see as a very deeply rooted American tradition. My childhood was a very happy one, enriched by having Christmas trees to decorate each year as well as presents to give and receive, while growing up. I watched "The Little Drummer Boy" claymation and "A Charlie Brown Christmas" back when they were televised every year. These are crammed full of religiosity. Yet was I somehow damaged by that, being the good non-Christian that I am? Did my non-Christian parents feel threatened by it? Not at all.
Furthermore and practicality-wise, commercialism is good for the economy. Money gets circulated around; people are in a festive mood. It's a special time. You can look at gift-giving from a Scrooge standpoint; or see it as an opportunity to make another fellow human being have a moment of happiness. The commercialism and the spirituality are intermingled, each benefiting the other, in my opinion. Being selfish and selfless, to me, are yin and yang.
I don't want to say "Happy Holidays" without also adding "Merry Christmas" to folks. I know Jewish families who aren't threatened by Christianity and say it to people freely. I am not offended by Nativity scenes and references to Jesus. I love seeing a neighborhood that is lit up and decorated from house to house to house. There is a sense of unity and community. Of being connected to something greater than yourself. I love Christmas songs...the one time to listen to some beautiful (and some awful) music you don't play any other time of the year.
I don't see Christmas as excluding anyone.
The way I see it, this modern nation of ours, with all the good and the bad that has taken place to bring us to this point in time, is founded upon a cultural heritage of Judeo-Christian values and traditions. Since sometime after the 1860's, Christmas has been celebrated as a national holiday. It's roots are steeped in things other than Christianity; yet in its present incarnation, it is a perfect blend of religion and non-religion. I see what it has become as distinctly American, in flavor.
Some of the deeply religious Christians may cry out in indignation that Christmas has been hijacked, that it's been commercialized, diluted of religious meaning, and that the "true" spirit has been lost. But, as I made clear earlier, I absolutely love the commercialism every bit as much as I have a reverent respect for the religious heritage.
It is because of the commercialization, that Christmas has become a thing that goes beyond the bounds of religion. In Miracle on 34th Street, that janitor kid bemoans how there are all kinds of isms in this world, but the worst one is commercialism. And yet, the person he is saying it to is the very embodiment of commercialism: Santa Claus!!! Without delving into the historical, spiritual roots of St. Nick, it is Kris Kringle that carries on God's work. I see him as deputized by the Almighty. Do you really think if Jesus was so selfless as to endure and sacrifice for the souls of mankind, he really gives a flying care if celebrating Christmas entails honoring him by "honoring" him? Or honoring him by promoting peace on earth and good will toward all?; the Puritans centuries ago didn't even want to acknowledge a day of birth for the Christ-child; that it somehow diminishes his Resurrection.
Is it so bad to make the children of the world happy with the "fairy tale" of a Sinterklaas? Is Jesus jealous of the attention, or lack thereof? I think not. I would imagine Jesus could care less about winning a popularity contest with, say, a fat man in a red suit.
It is the responsibility of the religious to remember the religious aspects of Christmas. To be angry at the nonreligious, commercialization of Christmas is just misguided. It is a beautiful thing that their religious holiday is celebrated even by those who aren't Christian.
I do not feel oppressed by our government when it mentions or references "God". I actually feel comforted by it. "Freedom of religion" does not equate to "Freedom from religion", which is what atheist fundamentalists want. We live in a very tolerant nation founded upon a Judeo-Christian heritage that tolerates all religions. Over time, without it being force-fed to us by a very slim minority (or suppressed by militant secularists intolerant of all religious references in public government and private businesses) , other religious traditions and cultures will become naturally adopted and adapted into mainstream American tradition and culture.
It sickens me that we have become such a hyper-sensitive society. Being offended by someone saying "Merry Christmas" to you is as ridiculous as me getting offended if, say, someone handed me a Valentine's Day Card and wished me a Happy Valentine's Day when I didn't have a date or a girlfriend to celebrate it with. How ridiculous if I were to run screaming to the ACLU that someone had offended me, by presuming that I celebrate Valentine's. Of course, there is no "Establishment Clause of Separation of Love and State" in our Constitution; but I think the analogy is clear.
Merry Christmas! Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All!
Previous related posts:
An America Where it is
Always Winter, Never Christmas
The Eradication of American Heritage
In Whom Do We Trust?
Anti-ACLU + Veterans Day= Joke of the Week
Radical Atheistic Fundamentalists