By Frank Vernuccio
Originally posted in the New York Analysis of Policy & Government newsletter
Once again bucking a trend, President Trump emphasized a more traditional Christmas perspective than has recently become vogue in the hyper-sectarian quarters of the self-proclaimed intelligentsia.
At the October Values Voters Summit gathering, he noted:
We’re getting near that beautiful Christmas season that people don’t talk about anymore. They don’t use the word Christmas because it’s not politically correct … Guess what? We’re saying Merry Christmas again.
Trump has also made a point of commemorating a “special” Hanukkah this year, following his announcement that the United States will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. “ Right now I’m thinking about what’s going on and the love that’s all over Israel and all about Jerusalem,” he stated. Trump’s daughter is a convert to Judaism, following her marriage to Jared Kushner.
As usual, disagreements about public school Christmas pageants and town park nativity scenes have taken place, all part of the misinterpretation of the First Amendment, which does not prohibit such practices. That key part of our Bill of Rights only forbids the favoring of one religion over another. Therefore, those wonderful childhood plays and manger displays are fine, as long as requests for, say, Hanukkah lights or Buddhist celebrations are, if requested, given equal rights.
There is more at stake here than just holiday observances, however. Those opposing, with such vehemence, innocent seasonal recognitions may have a wholly hidden agenda.
In his book, Inventing the Individual, author Larry Siedentop describes how Christianity shaped the western world’s emphasis on the value of the individual. The Judeo-Christian ethic profoundly influences the west’s belief that each human being has rights not as part of a group, but as an independent person. This, of course, is anathema to those who adhere to the collectivist mentality which dominates Marxist and socialist philosophies.
That’s why the sides line up as they do, with generally conservative citizens welcoming the religious displays, and disciples of the hard left opposing them.
There is a further issue, as well. Proponents of the strong central governments required to implement Marxist or social progressive ideals cannot tolerate influences which rival government for the hearts and minds of the people, which religion does.The season is frequently thought of as a comparatively quiet time. On Christmas Eve, it is pleasant to think that all the world is safely at rest. In Act 1, Scene 1 of Hamlet, Shakespeare wrote:
Some say that ever ‘gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour’s birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long.
And then, they say, no spirit dare stir abroad.
The nights are wholesome. Then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,
So hallowed and so gracious is that time.
Historically, though, this is a tumultuous time in American history. Consider: In 1776, the fledgling Continental Army under General George Washington was reeling from one defeat after another. It desperately needed a victory. On Christmas Eve, it began preparations for an assault on Hessian forces comfortably quartered there. Crossing the Delaware River (and giving rise to Emanuel Leutze’s iconic painting), the underfed, raggedly dressed and poorly supplied American force surprised and defeated the enemy on December 26th.
One hundred and sixty-eight years later, American forces were surrounded and facing defeat in the crucial town of Bastogne during the epic Battle of the Bulge. Despite their desperate plight, they refused to surrender. Against all odds, General George S. Patton’s Third Army travelled a great distance, broke through the Nazi lines, and saved the day.
Twenty-four years after that, the first manned mission to orbit the Moon, Apollo 8, reached its Lunar Goal on Christmas Eve and thrilled the world with a reading from Genesis—which led to a lawsuit by atheist activist Madalyn Murray O’Hair.