Less Christmas Cheer in Mosul and More Yuletide Jeer in Sonoma County
In Baghdad and other parts of Iraq, Christians are laying low this Christmas due to threats, bombings and violence from armed extremists. Many worship service participants are screened and buildings are guarded by police and security forces. Some gatherings have been moved to less public locations or are by invitation only. Yet, while subdued, many still plan to rejoice at the commemoration of Jesus’ birth.
Thousands of miles away, an old tale is repeated: an atheist has objected to traditional decorations in Sonoma, CA county buildings. According to the New York Times, he did not object to the trees themselves because, he said, they were not “overtly tied” to what he calls the “Judeo-Christian cult’s mythology.” He also made no complaints about the snowflake ornaments, glass bulbs and colorful lights. But it seems stars and angels go too far. As a result, Sonoma County officials have asked departments to remove stars, angels or any other religious symbols “so that we can celebrate the season yet not appear to endorse Christian or other religious doctrines.”
Stars & angels? Public religious decorations may be debated as to their usefulness or faithfulness to their historical source but the First Amendment does not require, as Richard John Neuhaus called it a “naked public square.” When separated from their theological grounding they may be a manifestation of our country’s anemic “civil religion” but they are not a threat to constitutional freedom.
I am not making a hysterical, alarmist call to send in funds today to my favorite political action committee. I’m pointing out the sad silliness of an old failed ideology that wants to deny or cleanse our historical and cultural heritage even while our airwaves are polluted (in the name of freedom) with the sleaziest in advertising and entertainment. I’ll take more angels & stars please. Not all Grinches live in Whoville and not all extremists are in Iraq.