Watching the crass commercialization of Christmas, people of faith shrug and resign themselves to the fact that the "public" is lost, in the death grips of a cultural secularism that simply forbids the celebration of Christmas as the birth of Jesus. We shake our heads and wonder why the "public" can't see things as clearly as we do.
Maybe it's because "we" aren't much different from the "public."
Every year at the Media Research Center, which I head, we have to tackle the Christmas Card Conundrum. The staff will assemble the Christmas card catalogs and recommend - better put, find - two or three Madonna and Child selections. They really are becoming scarce. I'm leafing through "The Stationery House" card catalog and out of 74 selections, only two depict the birth of Christ.
The question will be raised: Is a religious card too "pushy?" Oughtn't we to follow the public's lead and limit ourselves to a "Season's Greetings" message? Well, I say to myself, we right-minded conservatives just must stand together here. "They" may not be of the mind to openly celebrate the birth of Our Lord but we can, and should, and will.
The only problem with that equation is that we right-minded conservatives have succumbed to the same cultural secularism.
I look at my office door that is decorated with Christmas cards from so many friends in the conservative movement. I can say unequivocally that most (maybe all?) are God-fearing men and women who on December 25 will attend church services and solemnly celebrate the birth of Christ just as I will. Most are probably better Christians than I am. Yet as I look over the dozens of cards I've received, only one - one - depicts the birth of Christ.
(One card escapes negative scrutiny because of its delightfully politically incorrect message, sent to me by an equally delightful lady who admits with a laugh that her selection has raised eyebrows among her friends. The cartoon depicts a little girl sitting on Santa's lap, and in response to his perfunctory question, she shoots back: "Define 'Good.'")
The rest show scenes of Capitol Hill and other buildings. City streets and country fields. There are pictures of snowmen. Of Christmas trees. Of Christmas tree ornaments. Some have simple bows, stars, or holly. Some have nothing at all. Here's one of toy soldiers. There's a handshake. Two cards showing, of all things, Mickey and Minnie Mouse. And one with Santa racing to deliver presents. On a speedboat.
Anything but the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus. Some cards do have the Christmas message in the text, but in others even that is Verboten. Instead we get the bland, hopelessly sanitized variations of "Season's Greetings" or "Happy Holidays."
Why is it so difficult to proclaim the birth of Christ in our Christmas cards? Simply because, let's face it, we too are victims of political Correctness. To celebrate Christmas as Christmas is somehow to be overtly "religious" and somewhere, somehow we fear we will offend someone. How preposterous. Some people may not subscribe to the solemnity of the season but neither are they offended by our Christian beliefs. And if someone truly is offended by the Christian tradition, it seems to me we have to make a choice: Our friend or our faith.
But what of men of good faith who aren't Christians? you ask. Specifically - and let's be open about this -what about the sensibilities of our Jewish brethren? It's an important consideration and one we've historically resolved at this office by sending them the antiseptic "Season's Greetings" variety card instead. Mea Culpa. That's wrong too for it not only shows a lack of confidence in the public declaration of our faith but also shows a lack of faith in the Jewish community's ability to respect Christianity.
Several years ago my brother was celebrating his deaconate ordination, his official declaration to join the priesthood. After Mass there was a small reception for family and friends. When Michael entered the room he surprised us all. His first order of business was to present a bouquet of flowers to a cousin's Jewish husband. That day was also Yom Kippur.
Christians should celebrate Christmas openly and unequivocally. It is also a most important season for the Jewish community and they deserve far more than silly "Season's Greetings" cards. Christians should recognize the Hanukkah season and Hanukkah cards would be nice. But for God's sakes, don't send them Mickey Mouse pictures. Or speedboats.