Thursday, December 16, 2004

I can't help but smile
I'm grateful for her work on the recent campaign, but I must also admit that I'm glad to have Peggy Noonan back, writing at the WSJ. Her first few columns after Election Day failed to wow me, to knock my socks off the way she often does. But today, she's back in her typical style. I'll let you read it for yourself, rather than summarizing it, but suffice it to say, she's close to my own heart on this one.

James Lileks wrote a piece for the Chicago Star Tribune this week, along similar lines.

Read them both. I've got my own story on the topic, but I have an exam in a little over an hour, so I'll save it for another time. Enjoy!

UPDATE [12/17/2004 - 7:43]: Charles Krauthammer adds more on this subject today. Since, we're likely to see much more coverage of these issues over the next few days, I might as well supply my own thoughts on the issue.

The topic, in case you've been too lazy to click-through above, is public display of Christianity, especially as it relates to Christmas. Now, I've written to defend the expression of religion in political beliefs before, so you can probably figure out where I come down on this issue, as well.

I'm with Krauthammer: leave Christmas alone. Do we really need to ban Christmas carols in school performances at this time of year? Honestly? When I was little, we still called them Christmas Concerts. Then they became known as Holiday Concerts, and we made sure to include at least one Hannukah song. Now, they're increasingly referred to as Winter Concerts, and devoid of any religious suggestion whatsoever. You can still sing Christmas songs, of course, so long as they're secular.

But here's the problem with that line of thinking: Christmas isn't secular. Say what you want, but Christmas is about Christ. "Oh, well, still it has a secular side, and you can talk about Rudolph and Santa and so forth without talking about religion." Really? You think? Are you completely unaware that Santa is a derivation of Saint Nicholas? The fact is, if you want to deal with Christmas at all, it's impossible to draw a secular line.

So don't deal with Christmas at all, right? Sing about Frosty instead of Rudolph? My question is: why?

The reasons behind these restrictions are based on protecting the minority from the majority, and not forcing religion on those who would choose against it. Effectively, the same arguments made against school prayer are turned to school concerts and creches on public grounds. The assertion is that God has no place in public, and that those who do believe in Him have no right to show that in public places.

So, there are two issues here. The first is pretty simple: singing about baby Jesus in a school concert is probably inappropriate; singing about Christmas, Santa, Rudolph, whatever other topics are common in holiday kids songs are fine in elementary schools; add that "dreidel dreidel dreidel, I made it out of clay," song too, for good measure. At higher levels (high school and so forth) it is completely appropriate to sing religiously-based music, because the majority of classical music (particularly the canon) falls into the religious category. To sing good choral music, you have to consider religious music, period.

The other issue, public displays of creches or other religious symbols, is the same I've delt with in the past. (Start by reading this.) I maintain that the Establishment Clause is about preventing a state-mandated religion, and preventing Congress from infringing on the public's right to choose its own religions. My personal opinion is that neither a public display of religion, even by a government official, nor a governmental body's recognition of a common religious practice infringes on those who do not share that religion. If you are so insecure in your beliefs that you cannot stand up to the fact that other people believe what they do, then maybe you should be worrying about simpler things.

Anyway, I'm just rambling, so I'll wrap it up: my beliefs have no bearing on yours. Yes, kids are impressionable, but they also don't understand what is being suggested by christmas songs in the first place. Honestly, it's absurd to be so threatened by a holiday celebrated by upwards of 90-95% of American citizens. As long as public displays are open to anyone that wants to set something up (they are - First Amendment), then religious displays should not be an exception. And, if you really think they should, then anyone with a Christmas tree should make sure to keep it out of the window.

UPDATE [12/18/2004 - 21:39]: Still more, from The Weekly Standard.


Tyrone said...

This is a conservative straw man, trying to make it sound like liberal atheist fanatics are walking around slapping people who say Merry Christmas.

Actually, the main cause of the secularization of Christmas is retailers and toy marketers' hunger for profits, which lead them to commercialize Christmas more and more. Companies want people to think less about Christ and more about shopping.

But conservatives can't bear the thought that, maybe, unrestricted capitalism is the enemy of traditional values, not its friend. So they invent a straw man to lash out at.

RFTR said...

What on earth does that have to do with communities not allowing creches on public ground, or christmas trees in city halls, or christmas songs in schools??

Do you actually read before you comment?