Christmas Is Alive & Well, Despite Its Detractors

FORECASTS & TRENDS E-LETTER
By Gary D. Halbert
December 20, 2005

IN THIS ISSUE:

1.  Is There Really A War On Christmas?

2.  Religious Practice Vs. Religious Symbolism

3.  Does The PC Crowd Have Ulterior Motives?

4.  Public Religious Displays Are Possible

5.  A Fun Look At PC Run Amok

6.  Have A Very Merry Christmas!

Introduction

A big issue making the news circuit now is whether there is a “War On Christmas.”  Fox News has spent a lot of time on this story, and virtually every media outlet has weighed in on this issue. As a father who has always stressed the real meaning of Christmas to my children, I decided to research this issue to determine if the liberal assault on Christmas is real or mostly hype.  As a result of my research, I have to conclude:

There is indeed a War On Christmas, but it is not nearly as bad as some in the media would have us believe, and the celebration of Christmas will continue over the years, alive and well.  But Christmas is not without its detractors, as I will discuss below.  What follows may surprise you and, I hope, uplift you.

To start with, a little clarification is necessary.  First, I can find no evidence of an actual “war” on celebrating Jesus Christ’s birth on December 25th, or the idea of going out and spending lots of money for gifts that you may just happen to give someone on or about that date.  The supposed “war” on Christmas seems to be whether or not the term “Christ” should be included in any mention of an activity or event celebrating this time of year, or whether any public facility should display the word “Christmas” or any other religious symbolism surrounding the meaning of this religious holiday. 

So, why don’t we just call it what it is.  It’s not a war on Christmas  – it’s a war on Christianity in general.  That is, in fact, what the “war” on Christmas is all about. 

The usual suspects who want to ban any religious terminology from the lexicon of the Christmas holidays are the more extreme liberals, and the basis for their views – they say – is the importance of “ separation of church and state.”  The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), so-called atheists, sympathetic liberals and even some religious leaders, support this movement to expunge every mention of religion from public life, presumably so that those who do not share these religious views will not be offended.  However, there are some new players as well, with agendas that might surprise you.

In this week’s E-Letter, I’m going to discuss the “war” on Christmas, and why the war is being waged in the first place. Then, I’ll have some fun by thinking ahead to see what might happen if the War On Christmas is successful, and we delete all references to any religion or object of worship from our daily language.  The ramifications could be huge.

Make No Mistake, A War Has Been Declared

Some of you reading this E-Letter may think that this is just another example of conservatives wringing their hands over perceived persecution that doesn’t really exist.  That is far from the case.  If you go to a Google search-engine and type in “War on Christmas,” you will get over 500,000 matches for articles, books, and weblogs discussing the topic.

Some of these Internet entries are by religious groups which provide key evidence that religious expression is, indeed, under attack in America.  Other entries are by those who do not believe any such attack is under way, and simply attribute the discussion to much ado about nothing.  But a few entries are really disturbing, because they not only admit that there is a war against Christmas (and Christians) going on, but that they have mobilized their forces to participate.

One such posting was in regard to a December 5, 2005 press release by a group called Beyond Belief Media, led by “former Christian,” Brian Flemming.  The press release was intended to formally declare a “War on Christmas.”  Here’s an excerpt from the release:

Los Angeles, December 5, 2005 -- Beyond Belief Media has formally declared war on Christmas, the December 25 holiday in which Christians celebrate the birth of the mythical figure Jesus Christ, the company announced today.
“Christian conservatives complain nonstop about the ‘War on Christmas,’ but there really isn’t any such war,” said Beyond Belief Media president Brian Flemming, a former fundamentalist Christian who is now an atheist activist. “So we have decided to wage one, to demonstrate what it would look like if Jesus’ birthday were truly attacked.”
As its opening salvo, Beyond Belief Media has purchased advertisements this week in the New York Times , USA Today and the New Yorker magazine. The company’s 300-member volunteer “street team” is also descending on Christmas-themed public events with random “guerilla giveaways” of Beyond Belief’s acclaimed DVD THE GOD WHO WASN'T THERE.  
“No Christmas pageant or Nativity display is safe from our troops,” said Flemming. “Wherever the mythical figure Jesus is celebrated as if he were real, we will be there with an information barrage. We will undercut the idea that there is any point at all to celebrating the ‘birth’ of a character in a fairy tale.”

A recent book by Fox News host John Gibson, entitled The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought (Sentinel, October 2005) documents the slow erosion of Christian symbolism and values in public life.  I have not read Mr. Gibson’s book yet, but he has been on the talk show circuit, and his examples of officials trying to remove Christian symbolism from Christmas appear to be well-documented.

At the same time, the ACLU, often a target of criticism from the religious right, states on their website ( www.aclu.org) that they are not involved in a war on Christmas.  In fact, they say that they are the victim of a “…well-organized attempt by extremist groups to demonize the ACLU…”  And then, taking a page out of the Bill Clinton playbook, they state, “…there is no ‘Merry Christmas’ lawsuit…”

The ACLU is correct, in that they are not pursuing any current litigation regarding Christmas religious symbolism.  What they don’t tell you is that they have eagerly pursued such suits in the past.  As recently as 2004, the ACLU lost a case they brought against the city of Cranston, RI.  It seems that this city had allowed religious Christmas displays on public property, a citizen objected, and the ACLU took up the case.  Federal Judge William E. Smith ruled against the plaintiff and ACLU, saying that the city had followed established law (more about this later), and was not in violation of the Constitution.

Judge Smith’s ruling stated that nothing in the city’s implementation of its policy for 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.  So, when the ACLU says that they do not have a war on Christmas, perhaps it would be more accurate to say that they LOST their war on Christmas.

While it is not surprising that there are organizations willing to take up the cause of removing Christ from Christmas, it really steams me that they make it appear that Christian conservatives are somehow the cause of this war, or that we “brought it on ourselves.”  The ACLU website even goes so far as to try to lecture about how, by resisting these anti-religion forces, Christians are defying Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount.

Religious Practice Versus Religious Symbolism

As we all know, the US Constitution makes no mention of our modern interpretation of the separation of church and state.  The First Amendment simply forbids Congress from enacting laws that restrict the free practice of religion.  Thus, since Congress can’t regulate religion, the judiciary took up the challenge.  These judges are appointed for life and do not have to answer to voters.  We all know the term “legislating from the bench,” and nowhere is this more evident than in court cases involving the practice of religion.

It is interesting to me, however, that many of the recent challenges focus on what can only be deemed symbols of religion – the Ten Commandments, “Christ” in the word “Christmas,” religious displays, as opposed to the promotion of one religion or another.  The judiciary won the battles that surround a public entity’s endorsement of one religion or denomination over another, and rightfully so.  It is not the job of governments or public schools to promote or endorse religious views.

However, it is a far cry from endorsing religion to allowing religious symbolism on public property.  With the battle over religious endorsement won, the ACLU and other groups took on the display of religious symbolism, saying that the mere presence of such symbolism indicates that there is a de-facto endorsement of religion.  This is ridiculous.  

Some government buildings containing religious symbolism were built decades ago.  Are we supposed to believe that current government administrations use these symbols to promote one religion over another, or that voters are somehow influenced by these symbols to elect only candidates who share the religious views depicted in the symbols?  Hogwash!

It seems that the mere mention of the word “Christ” in Christmas offends those weak souls who see this as an obvious attempt to change the course of their lives by converting them to Christianity.  Obviously, this is nonsense.   It is a manufactured sense of being offended simply to drive home a political point. 

If one is offended by the name “Christ” in Christmas, then there are a myriad of other things that must offend these weak-minded individuals on a daily basis.  Would they be appalled if asked to be a god-parent?  Should their children not be required to read about Lady Godiva in school?  Will they shy away from doing business with anyone named “Gilchrist ”, or “Christian,” or “God win,” etc., etc.? 

If the PC crowd is so intent upon removing all references to Christianity, then why don’t they insist that the entertainment industry cease using swear words in movies that invoke the names of “God” and “Christ?”   Think about this.  If someone was truly offended by the word “Christ” appearing in a Christmas display, then wouldn’t it be even worse if someone used the popular curse words that appear to call God’s damnation upon the subject of the epithet?  I certainly haven’t seen any such movement toward less cursing in movies, and I doubt we ever will.

And just think, if the PC police are successful in removing offensive religious words from our language, this may be just the tip of the iceberg.  Will PETA members object to the word “dog” in dogma, “cat” in catastrophe, or “hog” in hog wash?  (Yes, the last one was intentional.)  Maybe it’s only a matter of time before feminists start objecting to the word “gal” in gal lon, “she” in sheriff, and “her” in her etical.

Yes, I am just kidding, but the above paragraph illustrates how silly I think this whole debate on religious symbolism is.

An Attack On The Majority

Do the politically correct among us really expect us to believe that the presence of a religious symbol on the county courthouse might make “non-believers” appearing in court feel that they are being oppressed?   Or that a manger scene displayed on city property may convince “non-believers” that they are singled out for traffic tickets just because of their non-belief?  No way!  The illusion of “offense” must be generated to make the objection more palatable.

Earlier on, I stated that there seemed to be a war on Christianity.  Perhaps it may be more accurate to say that the current situation is just another in a long line of wars against the majority of Americans.  A 2005 Harris poll indicated that 82% of Americans believe in God, and a recent ABC News poll indicated that over 80% profess to be Christians.  A December Fox News poll indicated that 95% of Americans celebrate Christmas.   Thus, religion, and Christianity in particular, are the most prevalent religious expressions in the United States. 

In America today, it is fashionable to pick on the majority, so that appears to be what is going on.  If the minority can convince the majority that those in the minority class are offended each time mention is made of the majority’s religion, then perhaps less will be said of religion, and the country will become more and more godless – just like the atheists want it.   Hmmm…it’s kind of like negative evangelism, isn’t it?

It gets me that when our troops were sent to the Middle East, they were indoctrinated about the local religious customs so that they would not do anything that might be considered offensive to the locals.  But the same liberals who cheer this move also think that foreign nationals coming here should be kept from being offended because the US might just have a religious heritage.  What nonsense.

The real issue is not that anyone is truly offended; it’s just that it is more sellable if the PC forces can make us believe that we are offending someone through our religious expressions.  Who among us would want to intentionally offend someone of another faith or nationality?  (OK, I admit that some people would, but I hope the best for my readers, so I’m assuming you wouldn’t want to do this.) 

When you put a human face on the issue, it is much harder to fight than if it were just a philosophy or an idea.  Thus, the PC forces formulate their tactics around not offending people rather than the real agendas at work.  You see, the religious majority often stands in the way of a number of things desired by social liberals.   Some say that the truth behind the anti-Christian movement is that removing religious (and hence moral) standards from public life paves the way for agendas that are traditionally opposed by religious leaders and their followers.

They may have a point.  If the public’s view of a religious viewpoint can be shaped to believe that all such adherents are extremists or “kooks,” then all sorts of evils might make their way into public life.  Legalized prostitution, euthanasia, legalized narcotics, gay marriage and all sorts of other “secular progressive” programs might be possible in a country populated by people without a moral compass.  Just look at Europe to see an example of what can happen when you remove religion from public life.

Fortunately, There Are Clear Rules To Follow

I noted above that Judge William Smith’s opinion in the lawsuit against the city of Cranston, RI cited established law as the reason to rule against the ACLU’s contention that religious displays on city property were unconstitutional.  From my research, it appears to be very clear that there are guidelines established over years of legal challenges in regard to religious symbolism on public property.

First, religious expression on your own personal property is always protected by law.  While there may be challenges mounted by homeowners associations and the like regarding deed restrictions for outdoor displays, these are usually based on community appearance guidelines and not on an attempt to restrict religious expression.

As for schools and public property, a recent article in our local Austin newspaper, The Austin American-Statesman, quoted Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, regarding Christmas decorations.  The article indicated that if a Christmas display has secular elements (Santa Claus, Christmas trees, reindeer, etc.), it may also have religious symbols such as a manger scene.  And this is from an organization seeking to remove religion from public places.

The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a legal alliance co-founded by conservative James Dobson, is on the front lines of the war on Christmas.   ADF has issued a press release saying that it has 800 attorneys nationwide ready to combat attempts to censor Christmas in schools and on public property.  However, other information on ADF’s website ( www.alliancedefensefund.org) indicates that, in many cases, religious displays are prohibited without a legal challenge, and sometimes without even a single complaint.

In such cases, it’s as if some of the troops in the war on Christmas surrender without a fight.  Unfortunately, there are some public officials and school administrators who will take action against religious symbolism because they think they know the rules about such displays in public places.  They either react to a complaint with a “knee-jerk” reaction, or they assume that religion has been outlawed in public places, so they will make sure it gets done in their jurisdiction. 

The problem with such actions is that many times they are based on assumptions, and not the real facts.  The numerous challenges to religious expression in schools and public property have resulted in an established set of guidelines that any public official or school administrator can access.  Last year, ADF mailed copies of these rules to over 6,700 school districts across the US so that school administrators will be familiar with the rules should a complaint surface. 

The ADF also supplies the following brief summary of the established rules relating to Christmas celebrations in schools and on public property:

*     The US Supreme Court has never ruled that public schools must ban the singing of religious Christmas carols or prohibit the distribution of candy canes or Christmas cards.
*     School officials may refer to a school break in December as “Christmas Vacation” or as a holiday without offending the Constitution.
*     School officials do not violate the Constitution by closing on religious holidays such as Christmas and Good Friday.
*     No Court has ever held that celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas as religious holidays requires recognition of all other religious holidays.
*     The “Three Reindeer Rule” used by the courts requires a municipality to place a sufficient number of secular objects in close enough proximity to the Christmas display (such as a manger scene) to render the overall display sufficiently secular.  Although the overall display must not convey a message endorsing a particular religion’s view, Christmas displays are not banned as some people believe.  Simply put, the courts ask, “Is the municipality celebrating the holiday or promoting religion?”

More resources are available from the ADF website ( www.alliancedefensefund.com).  Note, however, that some of the resources available from this organization may require purchase.  You can also obtain information on Christmas displays from the American Center for Law and Justice at www.aclj.org .  I encourage you to share these important resources with your local school and government administrators, especially if they are currently dealing with a challenge from PC groups.

Conclusion:  The War On Christmas Is Limited

While the war on Christmas is still very much in the news, it is important to realize that these instances are relatively rare, even though egged on by organizations such as Beyond Belief Media and others.  There are literally thousands of school districts and public places where religious symbols are not under attack, and Christmas celebrations are proceeding without a hitch. 

A recent article from the American Center for Law and Justice indicates that examples of making Christmas politically correct “represent the exception to the rule and most communities are not giving in to the pressure to be politically correct.”  Good for them!

This observation seems to be supported by a recent Fox News opinion poll that showed 48% of those polled did not believe there was a war on Christmas, as opposed to 42% who did.  This shows that about half of Americans are forming their opinions based on what they see in their local neighborhoods as opposed to the news reports of what may be happening thousands of miles away.

What motivates people to complain about religious symbolism varies, but I’m sure some are convinced they know the rules when they don’t; others are well-meaning individuals who do not want to offend others; and I’m sure you know that there are some people who just like to be noticed.  However, it is important to know that there are individuals and organizations that actively seek to remove every vestige of religion from American life.  Thus, even though the current attack on Christians and Christmas is limited, we must continue to be vigilant lest it become more widespread.

A final thought is to be wary of scam artists seeking to make money on the war on Christmas.  While many legitimate religious organizations seek contributions to help them combat inappropriate religious censorship, there are likely to be others that see this as a good way to make a quick buck.

I have written before about what are known as “affinity scams,” that take advantage of a common membership or belief.  I have no doubt that there will be scam artists who see the war on Christmas as an opportunity to separate concerned Christians from their hard-earned money.  Therefore, it is important that you check out any organization asking you to send a donation to help address this hot issue.

Now For Some Fun:  Let’s Be Politically Correct Across The Board

As you have no-doubt been able to tell, I think the whole issue of attacking religious symbols in public places is absolutely ridiculous.  As I researched this issue, I began to think of what might happen if we were to remove all religious references from our language, no matter what religion they may represent.  What follows is a completely tongue-in-cheek review of just a few instances of where this could be a major problem.  Thus, remember while reading this – I’m only kidding!

It would obviously be unfair for the crusade to drive Christianity out of public life to stop at that point.  Fair is fair, and if Christianity has to go, then everything else does too.  And since the focus seems to be on the symbolism of religion rather than the actual practices, the PC police have a lot of work to do.

Our Calendars Are Rife With Religious References

One of the most common objects in our world today is one of the most egregious examples of religious symbolism, and that is the modern calendar.  Our method of marking time has actually been a process rather than an event.  Various ways for measuring days, weeks and months have been tried over the centuries.  However, in 1751, the English Parliament declared that the Gregorian calendar be used in England and all of its colonies, so that’s how we ended up with it. 

However, this calendar marks years by designating them “BC” or “AD,” meaning “before Christ” and “Anno Domini” (year of our Lord), respectively.   The PC crowd has already taken care of this potentially offensive technique by substituting “CE” (for Common Era) and “BCE” (for Before Common Era).  How imaginative… but not offensive!

Next, however, we have the issue of the days.  The various days of the week were named for planets, which have been objects of worship in many cultures over the centuries.  Obviously, the PC crowd can’t tolerate having days named for objects of worship, since not everyone shares those beliefs.  Thus, we’d have to come up with new names, or maybe just use numbers.

Now, let’s move on to the number of days in a week.  One account of why we recognize a 7-day week as the official way to mark time is that Roman Emperor Constantine declared that the Christian tradition of a seven-day week should replace the older Roman eight-day week.  However, the seven-day week is directly from the Old Testament book of Genesis.  Since Christians and Jews both revere this book, it could be doubly offensive.

A final task in creating a PC calendar is in relation to the naming of the months.  Even if we move to a 10-day week to escape any Biblical reference, we’re still faced with 12 months to rename.  You see, the current names of months came from the Romans, who named some of them after their own gods.  While these gods haven’t been actively worshipped in centuries, you never know what the future may bring, or who might be offended through the use of these pagan names.  So, something has got to give.

And the calendar is just the tip of the iceberg!  Just think of all of the instances in the arts, sciences, city names, street names, etc., etc. where current and former objects of worship have been referenced.  Let’s just say the PC crowd would have many decades of job security.

For another humorous look at PC run amok, go to the following link to read a politically correct take-off on the classic Christmas poem, click on the following link “The Night Before Christmas” created by members of my staff for this occasion.

Parting Thought On Christmas

At the beginning of December, Debi and I took a few days off and went to New York City for a long adult-getaway weekend.  Among the many things we did in the Big Apple was to go to Radio City Music Hall to take in the yearly “Rockettes Christmas Spectacular.”  And it was indeed spectacular (as it should have been, given the ticket prices).    

What shocked us was the ending of the performance.  Near the end, the Rockettes left the stage, and one would have thought that the performance was over.  Yet, to our surprise, Radio City Music Hall had an ending performance featuring the Nativity Scene.  And not just a visual of the traditional Nativity Scene. 

This Nativity Scene was the whole story of Joseph and Mary and the birth of Jesus, with real actors and real sets, beginning with Joseph and Mary’s trip to Bethlehem, how they were turned away at the Inn, how they wound up in a manger, and how Jesus was born there.  Then the Wise Men came and brought their gifts.  This finale segment lasted 15-20 minutes.

We were shocked to see such a graphic and sensational presentation of the Nativity Scene in New York – liberal bastion that it is – but there it was.   Most shocking of all was the ending.  A thinly veiled curtain came down, and the following postscript was displayed for all to see:

“He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman.  He grew up in another obscure village, where He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty.  Then for three more years, He was an itinerant preacher.  He never had a home.  He never set foot inside a big city.  He never traveled two hundred miles from the place He was born.  He never wrote a book, or held an office.  He did none of the things that usually accompany greatness.
While he was still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against Him.  His friends deserted Him.  He was turned over to His enemies, and went through a mockery of a trial.  He was nailed to a cross between two thieves.  While He was dying, His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had – His coat.  When He was dead, He was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave.
Over two thousand years have passed, and today He is the central figure for much of the human race.  All the armies that ever marched and all the navies that ever sailed and all the parliaments that ever set and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as this ‘One Solitary Life’.”

Wow, you could have blown us over with a feather!  To see this tribute to Jesus as the ending to a Christmas extravaganza in New York, of all places, and in Radio City Music Hall (one of New York’s centerpieces), was a real shocker.  We were so moved and so happy we were there.

With that, let me wish each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah (or Happy Whatever you may be celebrating) and a very Happy New Year!!

Very best regards,

Gary D. Halbert

SPECIAL ARTICLES:

The Real War On Christmas (Christian persecution around the world)
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/12/19/opinion/main1135805.shtml

Grinches Working Overtime in Schools
http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=47993

Lieberman vs. the Left
http://www.washtimes.com/op-ed/20051218-100758-6553r.htm

Why Bush Approved the Wiretaps
http://www.nationalreview.com/script/printpage.p?ref=/york/york200512191334.asp

A War Without Heroes?
http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/006/496eeymx.asp


Read Gary’s blog and join the conversation at garydhalbert.com.


Forecasts & Trends E-Letter is published by ProFutures, Inc. Gary D. Halbert is the president and CEO of ProFutures, Inc. and is the editor of this publication. Information contained herein is taken from sources believed to be reliable but cannot be guaranteed as to its accuracy. Opinions and recommendations herein generally reflect the judgement of Gary D. Halbert (or another named author) and may change at any time without written notice. Market opinions contained herein are intended as general observations and are not intended as specific investment advice. Readers are urged to check with their investment counselors before making any investment decisions. This electronic newsletter does not constitute an offer of sale of any securities. Gary D. Halbert, ProFutures, Inc., and its affiliated companies, its officers, directors and/or employees may or may not have investments in markets or programs mentioned herein. Past results are not necessarily indicative of future results. Reprinting for family or friends is allowed with proper credit. However, republishing (written or electronically) in its entirety or through the use of extensive quotes is prohibited without prior written consent.

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