HOLIDAY HECKLERS AND NATIVITY NAZIS
By Debra Rae
December 13, 2006
“Happy Neutral Non-secular Celebration”
Freelance writer and self-proclaimed card-carrying agnostic, Seattle’s own Mike Davis rightly suggests that changing “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays” (or some other innocuous phrase as “Happy Neutral Non-secular Celebration”) is “a load of … well, reindeer manure.”
Now that we’re on the subject, the so-called “Three Reindeer Rule” requires a municipality to place a sufficient number of secular objects in close enough proximity to a Christmas symbol to render the overall display “sufficiently secular.” (As if a red-nosed reindeer in and of itself fails to qualify!)
It gets even more complicated when the Menorah on display is deemed a secular symbol, representing pluralism and freedom of all beliefs, unless, of course, it stands alone. Then, it’s “religious.” Similarly, the solitary nativity inside a courthouse conveys an allegedly inappropriate religious message unless, that is, it is temporary and accompanied with secular items, bears an appropriate disclosure, follows arbitrary “distancing” and “proximity” rules, and gobbles up no public funds.
In such matters, irony takes on hypocrisy. For example, the Parks Board in San José, California removed a nativity scene from the very park housing a statue of an Aztec god (constructed with ½-million dollars of scarce public resources). Nothing “sufficiently secular” about that!
The last time Davis checked, we still live in the US of A, where dictatorial regulations and thought police are unwanted. Given that over 95% of Americans celebrate Christmas, there’s no need to talk about “winter break” or “holiday parties” when referencing a Christmas event. To believe otherwise is to manifest what Davis calls secular bigotry. The Constitution forbids government to make laws regarding free exercise of religion. For some, this includes celebrating Christmas.
As a nonbeliever in Christ, Mike Davis is a believer in civility. To him, “Merry Christmas” beats “trick or treat,” hands down, when it comes to what is known as “the holiday season.”
While increasing numbers of Wiccans celebrate Halloween as one of their eight major festivals, it is broadly viewed, albeit wrongly so, as a secular celebration. In fact, all three major holidays of the so-called holiday season (Halloween included) have religious significance. While Halloween is opportune time for Wiccans to rendez-vous with the Lord of Death, Thanksgiving and Christmas encourage Christians to acknowledge God for His love and provision.
No one insists that Wiccan symbols be balanced by comparable Christmas, Jewish, Hindu, or Muslim symbols. Yet Halloween and Christmas—both celebrated secularly (with taffy pulling and Santa Claus)—are likewise decidedly religious (in celebrating Wicca’s New Year and birth of the Savior). Funny, but trappings of Halloween hold no interest to Nativity Nazis. Only Christmas falls prey to “distancing” and “proximity” rules.
Nevertheless, Christmas-talk is conciliatory, expressing peace, goodwill toward men. The holiday’s visual imagery embraces family (Madonna and child), divine guidance (star of Bethlehem), due respect (Wise Men), and hope for the world (in the Christ-child).
Contrast this with the language of Halloween, which is decidedly dark, damning, and death-centric. Holiday practices include vandalism, mischief, and extortion. Its visual imagery spotlights cackling witches, tombstones, ghouls, and monsters.
While secularists have no problem with Wicca, ACLU allies disdain symbols that presumably advance Christianity. For good reason, the Alliance Defense Fund provides over 800 attorneys nationwide to ensure rightful celebration of Christmas.
Christmas, Its Spotty History
Unbeknownst to some, the holiday season is tainted with pagan folklore and superstition. For example, Halloween practices draw from ancient demon-worshipping Druids. Symbolic of a Greek legend, the Thanksgiving cornucopia was said to be introduced by early American witches from Scotland.
It wasn’t until the early 1800s that Christmas trees were popularized in America; and, then, their use in no way linked to paganism or its practice. The same applies to gift exchange and decorated trees. Both are traditions inherited from ancient Babylon’s priesthood. Jeremiah later alluded to heathen practices of cutting a tree of the forest, securing it with hammer and nails, and decking it with silver and gold as “vain” and “altogether brutish and foolish” (10:2-4, 9). To ancient Druids, the Christmas goose was a messenger from the spirit-world; and they worshipped and used mistletoe for magical purposes.
Even so, to some secularists, Christmas trees and reindeer advance the Christian religion, albeit with “indirect, remote, and incidental benefit.” Ironically, and to the contrary, the famous English preacher Charles Spurgeon criticized Christmas and its symbols for “lacking Divine authority” and mixing “sacred truth with fun, deception, and faction.” After all, the only birthdays celebrated in the Bible were those of Pharaoh and Herod—both wicked kings (Gen. 40:20; Mt. 14:6; Mk. 6:21).
Spurgeon’s ideas were by no means new. Under Constantine, the winter solstice Festival of Yule was Christianized. That the shepherds had their flocks in open fields implies a date prior to October; most likely, Jesus was not born on December 25th. This date marks the old Roman feast surrounding birth of the sun-god Sol. Not until the 5th century AD did the Roman Catholic Church command celebration of the birth of Christ. The concept is indisputably extra-Biblical. Pagan tradition inherited from the earlier Babylonian priesthood was not among the earliest festivals of the church (Encyclopedias Britannica and Americana).
In 1620, Mayflower pilgrims “avoided frivolity on the day sometimes called Christmas.” Thereafter, the Parliament under Cromwellian dictatorship in mid-17th century England outlawed its celebration, inclusive of carols and church services on Christmas Day. In fact, all businesses were required to remain open. In 1650, the General court of Massachusetts fined participants 5 shillings for observing the holiday.
Agenda Behind Christmas-Bashing
In defense of Christmas, names for months of the year and days of the week are equally pagan in origin, yet these steer clear of bogus association with blatant paganism. It remains true, however, that the history of Christmas, as we have come to know it, is spotty at best.
Increasingly, myths and half-truths surrounding religious expression at Christmastime have prompted wrongful acts of religious censorship. For this reason, Christians rightly support holiday education and restoration efforts of the Alliance Defense Fund and Gateways to Better Education, respectively.
Today, more than ever, the Christian’s mandate is to respect diverse views of fellow believers. Many consider Christmas to be pagan; some consider it Christian with pagan roots. Others view it as a modern secular festival without Christian or pagan connotations. Still others give no thought whatsoever as to its history or connotations.
The point is this: Under attack is not holiday symbolism—e.g., turkey-with-fixings or ringing sleigh bells—not even the day itself. The Bible never requires believers to celebrate the birth of Christ. Rather, it is the Judeo-Christian faith of our fathers. This is what agenda-driven, anti-Christian legal entities pummel with relentless tactics of intimidation and disinformation—all under the banner of First Amendment rights.
Zealous do-gooders, as these, claim to grasp the separation principle better than Fisher Ames, the First Amendment’s author who, in turn, introduced it to the House of Representatives. When asked, “Should not the Bible regain the place it once held as a school book?” Ames affirmed that “its morals are pure, its examples captivating and noble.” These are not exactly the words of a Christian-bashing secularist.
In a PC world gone loony, Christians who eschew witches and vampires are silenced as fanatics all the while First Amendment activists freely besmirch candy-striped poles and red-nosed reindeer! Forget about witches, sacred black cats, and the Devil. Instead, denigrate Santa Claus, Christmas trees, toy soldiers, and teddy bears as “indirect, remote, and incidental benefit to the advancement of religion” (Lynch v. Donnelly). Never mind that none of these symbols bears even the slightest resemblance to Biblical Christianity.
NO, NO, NO to HO, HO, HO!
Contrary to growing popular belief, the Constitution by no means is offended by school officials’ referring to “Christmas vacation”; and the US Supreme Court has never forbidden public schools to sing Christmas carols, distribute candy canes, or exchange Christmas cards.
True, red poinsettias were banned from the Ramsey Court House in St. Paul, Minnesota, and star- or bell-shaped cookies were withheld from students in Worthington, Ohio so as not to offend. However, when viewed in light of the First Amendment, taking offense is irrelevant. Given that plaques bearing messages as “Jesus, Reason for the Season” are perfectly lawful at workplaces, it defies logic that, on religious grounds, a third-grader must be deprived of a green-and-red frosted sugar cookie!
Fact is, Christians are well acquainted with the plethora of plaques, bumper stickers, slogans, and lyrics that daily offend. Dubbed by many as the Anti-Christian Liberties Union, the 300,000-member ACLU was led for decades by a 1960’s rebel, Ira Glasser. One who prided himself in associating with offenders of the public—i.e., skin heads, pornographers, cultists, and communists—Glasser apparently labeled offenses as repugnant only with regard to who’s “dishing it out.”
But, then, being offended in the public sector is an inevitable price of free choice in matters of faith and morality. It is under a specious “wall of separation” principle that the ACLU, People for the American Way, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the National Council of Churches war against the nativity and other such symbols held sacred to countless Christian Americans.
Speaking of whom, trappings and secular symbols of the season in no way dampen or distract from religious signification for the follower of Christ. The angel- or star-topped tree stands as a glorious place to centralize gift-giving; exchanging cards and presents demonstrate good will; and traditional carols give voice to the wonder and joy of Christmas.
Sights, smells, and sounds of Christmas add to the ambiance. These underscore a profound sense of being warmed, sustained, and loved by family, friends, neighbors—and especially by our Father in heaven.
In no way are celebrants limited to a meager smattering of right-wing religious kooks. Some years ago, a Gallup poll affirmed that fully 90 percent of Americans recognize Christmas as the birthday of Jesus Christ. A Fox poll showed that 87 percent sanction nativity scenes—yes, even on public property!
The American Center for Law and Justice
A not-for-profit public interest law firm, the ACLJ provides legal services to defend religious and civil liberties of all Americans. Chief Counsel Jay Alan Sekulow assures Christians that the law does not require employees or students to check their faith at office or classroom doors—nor at factory gates.
It stands to reason that since, by law, employers may share their religious beliefs with employees in print form, Christmas cards are fair game. Just so long as there are no implied contingencies—e.g., embracing another’s religion as prerequisite to keeping one’s job or getting a promotion.
Proselytizing is generally entitled to Constitutional protection as long as a reasonable observer would not interpret the expression as government endorsement of religion. While an invitation to church may be offered, an employee should honor any expressed requests that no further invitations be issued.
For religious harassment to be unlawful under Title VII, it must be sufficiently severe or pervasive so as to alter conditions of employment, thus creating an abusive working environment. For a supervisor to place a wreath over the entrance to the office’s main reception area at Christmastime cannot possibly qualify as “severe abuse” and, therefore, is lawful behavior, no matter whom it offends.
No employee can be forced to speak in such a way as to violate his religion. Only if an employee’s ability to perform a job properly is affected directly can an employer restrict speech. As long as they are not disruptive, employees simply cannot be forced to speak—or act—in conflict with their religious beliefs. To offer “God speed” is not punishable by American law—not yet anyway.
To my fellow believer and to the bah-humbug naysayer, I offer the sincerely felt greetings, Merry Christmas! and Happy New Year! I ask only that my well-wishes be received in the spirit that they’ve been given.
© 2006 Debra Rae - All Rights Reserved
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Daughter of an Army Colonel, Debra graduated with distinction from the University of Iowa. She then completed a Master of Education degree from the University of Washington. These were followed by Bachelor of Theology and Master of Ministries degrees-both from Pacific School of Theology.
While a teacher in Kuwait, Debra undertook a three-month journey from the Persian Gulf to London by means of VW "bug"! One summer, she tutored the daughter of Kuwait's Head of Parliament while serving as superintendent of Kuwait's first Vacation Bible School.
Having authored the ABCs of Globalism and ABCs of Cultural -Isms, Debra speaks to Christian and secular groups alike. Her radio spots air globally. Presently, Debra co-hosts WOMANTalk radio with Sharon Hughes and Friends, and she contributes monthly commentaries to Changing Worldviews and NewsWithViews.com. Debra calls the Pacific Northwest home.
Web Site: www.debraraebooks.com
In such matters, irony takes on hypocrisy. For example, the Parks Board in San José, California removed a nativity scene from the very park housing a statue of an Aztec god...