Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The "War" on Christmas

As we have entered the Christmas season, once again there are those who speak about the war on Christmas.  Obligatorily, we are confronted by cases of atheists or secular humanists bringing lawsuits against cities, towns, and other places to remove religious symbols from the public square.  Obligatorily, we are confronted by those who declare that such actions are a war against Christmas, Christians, and the principles upon which the United States was founded.

In response, we hear folks proclaim there is really no war on Christmas, and the stuff we see bantered about is merely tended to anger and incite.  There are those who offer great apologetics in stating that the public sphere should really have no say in religious thought or proclamation, and such proclamation should be left to those with a religious bent.  There are those who respond that such acts by atheists and others are nothing to worry about because this isn't persecution.  If we look historically at what Christians have actually suffered--burning at the stake, fed to lions, beheadings, crucifixion--then what is going on today isn't really persecution; not to mention the fact that Christians have actually perpetrated such things in the past against non-religious folks and people of other faiths. 

Interestingly enough, yours truly believes both of these particular viewpoints to be true simultaneously.  I personally do not believe there is a war against Christmas, but I do believe Christmas each year has become a battle for a much larger war waged against the Judeo-Christian worldview.  I do believe there is an undercurrent in our society which seeks to drive religious faith from the public sphere, and I believe this is an attack upon the fundamental principles our nation was founded upon.   Whenever such groups seek to bring lawsuits against nativity scenes being displayed on public property or threaten lawsuits because a school is taking a group of kids to see "A Charlie Brown Christmas" this undercurrent is raising its head.

Yet, I also believe such attack is not religious persecution.  At least not yet, it isn't.  We as Christians still have the right and freedom to worship where we choose and how we choose.  No one can remove any religious symbols from our homes and private property.  Such areas are still very, very safe, and no one is being arrested for doing such things. 

So, depending upon a person's perspective and what he or she chooses to see, one can make the case that there is indeed a war on Christmas or that what is going on is perfectly acceptable and well within the legal ramifications of our nation.

What is dismaying for yours truly is the realization that the battles at Christmas are the symptom of an eroding of the underlying principles which used to uphold the laws of our nation.

That might sound a bit convoluted, so let me try to explain such commentary and condense much of the reading I have done by authors such as Neuhaus, Keller, Sacks, et. al.

The founding fathers of our nation were not shy about acknowledging that many of our fundamental rights as human beings were endowed, not by evolution or science, but by the Creator.  Their ideas of the Creator were shaped mostly by Protestant Christianity with a hint of deism thrown in there--anyone who suggests deism was the rule of the day is deluding themselves.  However, the founding fathers intentionally left any specifics in regards to the Creator because they did not want to have a national church and encounter the religious wars perpetrated upon Europe due to the conflicts between Protestantism and Catholicism.  This has come back to bite us royally today.

As our nation progressed and became more diverse, it moved from Protestant principles to an acceptance of Protestant/Catholic principles to an acceptance of Protestant/Catholic/Jewish principles.  The basic under girding was the same in each of these faith traditions, but somewhere along the line, the idea that all world views were created equally popped into the national conscious.  This had devastating effects for the under girding of our laws, for not all world views are created equally, and they certainly are not all equal.

One can hardly argue the world view of a radical who is willing to fly a plane into buildings and kill thousands is on a par with the world view of Mother Teresa.  Yet, there is an ideology which seeks to proclaim that all world views are equal.  In the face of competing world views, our nations laws have to be reinterpreted.

For instance, where does the line move to?  As valedictorian of my high school class, I gave thanks to God for His gifts to me and my classmates.  Is this freedom of religious expression--guaranteed by my constitutional rights, or, in approving my speech for delivery, is the school which receives state funding, endorsing a religion?  That depends upon your world view, and the law has decidedly moved into the second of those two thoughts.

That would have never happened early in the history of our nation.  The beliefs under girding the principles were too strong at that point, but those beliefs have been weakened considerably.  There are all sorts of reasons--the continued rise of science, people being exposed to other religions, the teaching of relativism, and, most importantly, in my estimation: THE ABJECT FAILURE OF THE CHURCH TO BRING FORTH ANY SORT OF APOLOGETICS TO COUNTER THE RISE IN SECULARISM.

For, you see, I am quite worried that if our nation loses its underpinning of believing our rights are endowed by a Creator, then what is left?  From whence do we draw this understanding of human rights?  Where do we find that we have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?  Does evolution guarantee such things?  Hardly.  Spend a bit of time in nature and see for yourself.  Study biological systems and see for yourself that life is a whim subject to predator/prey.  See that freedom is non-existent and that nature is dominated by the strong over the weak.  Happiness?  What is happiness in nature?  Without civilization, there is no happiness--only survival.  Evolution cannot guarantee human rights.  Read Nietzsche.  You will see.

Yet, if secular humanists and atheists are successful in removing God from the public square through the use of the law, what is left?  Without the under girding world view to support our rights, will such rights erode as well?  Those who think asking such a question is far-fetched, I point to recent history to show that it is not.  If we aren't asking the question and being on guard, then pogroms, killing fields, and other such atrocities become much more than possibilities.

I think the only thing that can guarantee human rights and the dignity of the individual is the belief in a Creator--belief in God.  Of course, then the argument becomes "which one?"  I'll stand by my assertion Christianity rises to the challenge as Christianity does not (at least Orthodox Christianity) seek to obtain political power and strength, but instead has at its heart a man willing to forgive and die for those who crucified Him.  Whenever Christians have committed such atrocities in the past, they have not lived up to their leader, and if they would, they would realize the importance of seeing each individual as made in the image of God; they would see each individual as being endowed with certain rights; they would see each individual as deserving of respect, and they would honor that individual, even if it meant sacrificing some of what they wanted to ensure the dignity of another.

To me, such a world view is worth fighting for...not on a battle field or with fists or lawsuits, but by persuasion and apologetics.  The "war on Christmas" is meaningless.  The war for the heart and soul of our nation and its basic assumption of human rights is not.


Kathy said...

Great post! I totally agree and cannot wait to start a blog of my own to address the same issues!

My first, knee-jerk, reaction is: Protestant America became P/Catholic/Jewish America, and that was bad?

Also, you say the "CHURCH" dropped the ball in fighting for values. The Catholic Church has been fighting tooth and nail for Christian values! The ELCA just goes along with the culture!!!

What the heck do you mean by "CHURCH"?

Kevin Haug said...

The transition from Protestant principles to Protestant/Catholic/Jewish principles was not a bad thing. There is a commonality running through each of these (and is present to an extent in Islam since Islam traces it's roots to Abraham) of human dignity and being created in the image of God. Such a basis for human rights is very, very important IMO since evoloution basically teaches that we are a cosmic accident and there is nothing special about us. If there is nothing special about us and we are simply just another part of nature's evolution, then we can act as nature acts, and that's not necessarily a good thing if one truly observes nature.

Secondly, I painted the Church broadly because even though the Roman Catholic Church has stood on certain principles, it has not engaged in apologetics very well at all. In all of the recent apologetic readings I have done, none of the authors have started their lives as Roman Catholics. A couple have converted as they have studied and progressed in their faith lives, but the Roman Catholic Church doesn't have a very good recent history of producing defenders of the faith. Gone are the days of Augustine, Acquinas, Irenaeus, et. al.

The Roman Catholic Church has produced some very good recent spiritualists--Thomas Merton for example, but apologists? Defenders of the faith? Hardly. My own denomination has also failed miserably, but I see hope in some of the folks I have recently engaged in reading with, and I am looking to puch such avenues into practice as well.

Kathy said...

Whaaat!? There are plenty of greats in our time -- John Paul II, for example.

The great saints were people no different from you or me -- Luther taught that. Now is our turn: Kevin of Cat Spring and Katherine of Miami.

BTW, I don't much like Thomas Merton. Look just a little below the surface on that one.

I cannot wait to start my blog. Wish I had more time!