Chan Lowe: Dispatch from the front in the War on Christmas
Keeping the Christ in Christmas can be a full-time job, involving every instrument of government that can be brought to bear on the enterprise. A friend who lives in an Eastern Massachusetts suburb reports that the town holds an official Christmas Parade, has always held one and refuses to bow to the forces of political correctness by secularizing it into a Holiday Parade. The town's fire engines and police vehicles take part — property taxpayers of Jewish, Muslim and other assorted faiths be damned.
THE HOLIDAY TREE
Pittsfielders, on the other hand, proudly gather in Park Square for the annual lighting of the city's Holiday Tree, which is doubly confusing because the tradition of having a lit tree near the time of the Winter Solstice is not even Christian, but pagan. Whatever.
For just about every other indigenous symbol and date, well-meaning Christian missionaries who thought they knew better swept in and substituted holidays like Pentecost, the Annunciation, Epiphany, Easter and a host of saints' days for festivals that had served the locals well for centuries.
My favorite story about the long, benevolent reach of Christendom — other than the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition and the endless sectarian religious wars that scarred Europe after the Reformation — centers around the capybara, a giant 200-lb. rodent that lives in the hinterlands of the northeastern region of South America. When the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the 16th century to subdue and enslave the natives at sword point, missionaries armed with crosses and charged with saving souls accompanied them in the same rowboats. This kind of seamless cooperation between church and state, by the way, is one of the factors that led the Founding Fathers to dream up the First Amendment.
As the newly Christianized locals began laboring in the gold and silver mines to enrich their European overlords, a problem arose, to wit: The landlocked natives were primarily vegetarians and relied on the capybara as their only source of protein. Every year, when Lent rolled around, they were forbidden to eat meat between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday, a period of roughly 40 days.
The Spaniards worked the natives so hard year-round that during Lent, the labor force was dropping dead from malnutrition. Panicked messages were sent back to Rome in search of a solution. Sure enough, the Vatican came up with a remedy so exotic that it could almost be considered one of the holy mysteries. The pope simply declared the capybara a fish. Voila, problem solved.
THE LANGUAGE OF JESUS
A Texas state legislator once distinguished himself in debate over whether immigrant students in the school system should be taught in their own language until they could be assimilated. "If English was good enough for Our Lord Jesus Christ," he declared in opposition, "then it's good enough for students in the state of Texas." Our nation, whose Constitution some believe was written under the influence of Bible characters who spoke in Jacobean prose, has something extra to celebrate this Yuletide. Collectively, we have taken innocent children away from their parents and are holding them in tent camps where their supervisors are forbidden to touch them. Our troops are repelling refugees — unarmed men, women and children seeking asylum in this country — by firing tear gas at them before they can cross the border where they would be protected by international law.
As if that weren't enough, an evangelical delegation including none other than top Christian Michele Bachmann herself has gone to Saudi Arabia to make nice with the man who personally ordered a journalist tortured and dismembered.
Nevertheless, there remain those who fear not only that Christianity is in retreat in this country, but also that America is under dire threat of being taken over by Muslims wielding their Sharia law. Christianity is under assault, all right, but not from external forces. Its real enemy is blinding faith.
Chan Lowe is the deputy editorial page editor of The Eagle and a syndicated editorial cartoonist.
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