Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Week: The War on Christmas

Before I begin, let me extend Hanukkah greetings to all.

Arise, be enlightened, O Jerusalem: for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.

And now the war on Christmas.

Yes, there IS a war on Christmas because I cannot remember the ACLU or any other group desperately trying to can Ramadan or Buddha's birthday.

Read this little gem:

There was a so-called “war on Christmas” long before Bill O'Reilly and friends went mainstream with it a few years ago. I should know. I worked in the ACLU’s Philadelphia office in the mid-1990’s, and it was my job to open the hate mail. Most of it arrived during the month of December in the form of Christmas cards. Nice picture of Mary and the Baby Jesus on the cover. Scrawled scathing message encouraging us to burn in hell or die painfully on the inside. Joy to the world, indeed.....

Except for the children, it was a familiar scene. All sorts of folks dropped in on our office from time to time, seeking help. Frank would listen patiently to every word of their stories before he would purposefully explain, in his Jim-Ignatowski-meets-Grandpa-Simpson manner, that the ACLU does not handle such cases and refer them to an agency that did. Sometimes they’d get angry, but Frank took the verbal abuse stoically, patiently listening again before restating his position. And listening. And restating. Eventually they’d move on.

But this family was different. From what I was overhearing, this was clearly not a situation the ACLU could help with in an official capacity. But Frank didn’t give him the speech. He kept listening. He kept asking questions. The children got antsier and louder as the conversation continued. Some of us came into the waiting area and tried to keep them entertained with whatever random toys we had on our desks. Stress balls. A Marge Simpson doll. Finally, their dad gave them the go-ahead to open the stockings, and merry chaos broke out.

In the midst of all that, our Legal Director and chief crèche-buster came blustering out of his office on some unrelated matter. He asked Frank what was going on, and Frank discreetly explained. This family had nowhere to sleep tonight. They’d been staying with a friend of the dad, but they couldn’t go back there now. The friend molested the little girl. The lawyer’s tone shifted in a way I’d never heard before, from busy and important to sincere kindness and concern. He invited the young dad into his office.

Which left the babysitting to the rest of us. But no one seemed to mind. Children rarely made an appearance in our office, and they lightened the mood considerably. They pulled crayons and containers of Play Doh from their stockings, and we all got creative together. We made up games and let them run up and down the long hallway.

The meeting went on for most of an hour. Our Legal Director was on and off the phone, networking with his colleagues in social services, tracking down a place for this family to stay. Finally, he was able to line something up. We helped the children gather up their stockings, got them into their coats, and off they went into the Philadelphia winter dusk. I tried to swallow the lump in my throat as I picked the squished Play Doh bits from our waiting-room carpet. Sweet little girl. Who knew what was going to happen to her? It broke my heart just to think about it. But at least she had somewhere safe to go on Christmas Eve.

The “Very Special Christmas Episode” message here is probably pretty obvious, but it bears repeating: The ACLU may have caused the relocation of a few plaster Mary-and-Josephs that year. But an ACLU lawyer also found this real-life unfortunate family some room at the Inn. And with all due respect to Mr. Schulz, I’d like to suggest that that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

Oh, that's nice. Would you like a medal? You see, churches do that sort of stuff ALL the time. That's part of what they are there for. While this essay paints a nice little picture of secular humanists cornering the market on kindness it neatly omits the energy it takes to go after churches and their adjoining groups because symbols of their faith bother these "brave souls" who "thrive" on liberty.

Churches and other groups do not randomly put up Nativity scenes. They must first obtain permission and they must be privately donated or sponsored. Even legal opinion backs them up:

The ACLU claimed the city of Cranston, R.I., erected religious displays along with secular displays in violation of the so-called "separation of church and state."...

In his opinion, Judge William Smith wrote that nothing in the city’s public statements or in its implementation of the policy for its Christmas displays "reveals or even remotely supports an inference that a religious purpose was behind the creation of the limited public forum," as the lawsuit alleged. 

The case centered on Cranston's 2003 opening of its city hall front lawn to private "seasonal and holiday displays," which resulted in various citizens making contributions, both religious and secular

The city clearly posted disclaimers stating, "The public displays are strictly from private citizens or groups. They in no way represent an official view of the City of Cranston, nor are they endorsed by the city."

So the ACLU- the knights errand for American liberty- were offended by both sectarian AND secular Christmas displays? Imagine if that fervour had gone into- oh- banning the burqa or stopping forced marriages instead of trying to quash images of jolly Old Saint Nick.

Maybe the ACLU should just sit down some time and re-watch (or watch) "A Charlie Brown Christmas". Listen to Linus as he quotes the Gospel according to Saint Luke. Imagine no room at the inn. Imagine the people who work tirelessly to provide whatever aid they can and then imagine someone telling them the symbols of the very faith that motivate their charity are too noxious to be seen. Imagine the strength it takes to fight back against that boorish censorship. Or imagine the great spiritual strength it takes to shrug it off and continue with their thankless work.

THAT'S what Christmas is all about.

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