Monday, December 27, 2004

The tug of war between political correctness and Christmas became more prominent this year because of a revival of Christianity, Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, archbishop of Washington, said yesterday.

“Those who are so opposed to [Christmas] feel that the tide is turning now, once again, against them,” Cardinal McCarrick said. “I think that might be because those who are so opposed to it feel that they’re caught in a corner.

“I believe there is a real revival of religion in our country, not just of Christianity, not just of the traditional religions, but of people who really believe in God and may not be able to express it in the words of present-day religion,” the Catholic cleric told “Fox News Sunday.”

A Fox News-Opinion Dynamics poll found that 51 percent of those surveyed agree public displays of Christmas symbols were more under attack this year than before.

Many local leaders are calling Christmas trees “community trees”; a New Jersey school district banned Christmas carols; a judge ordered a Florida town to take down a manger, but it was allowed to put up a menorah.

These were among widespread signs of the de-Christianizing of Christmas that made national news.

Noting the hugely successful movie “The Passion of the Christ” depicting the final hours in the life of Jesus, as well as best-selling editions of Time and Newsweek devoted to Christ’s birth, Cardinal McCarrick said fascination with, and faith in, Jesus continues to grow.

“There are more than a billion and a half people in the world today who believe in the Lord Jesus,” the cardinal said.

Even many nonbelievers continue to celebrate Christmas to mark the birth about 2,000 years ago of Jesus Christ, whom Christians believe to be the perfect son of God, who later would die on a cross so that God could forgive the sins of mankind.

Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, was asked during her own appearance on Fox about the political correctness of banning Christmas trees and depictions of the Nativity.

Mrs. Cheney said it began with an honest effort by Americans to be polite and considerate and say “season’s greetings” or “happy holidays” because those they greet might not celebrate Christmas.

“But in our effort to be nice … we let the pendulum swing too far,” Mrs. Cheney said. “It is one thing to be sure to be inclusive. It’s another thing entirely to exclude Christmas.”

Mrs. Cheney said she has heard numerous examples of such exclusions from mothers of schoolchildren.

“One mom was telling me a story about her little girl coming home from nursery school saying, ‘Mom, do we celebrate Kwanzaa or Hanukkah?’ when, in fact, they celebrate Christmas.

“She had not really understood from her nursery school that [Christmas] was an option. We need to be inclusive with Christmas as well,” Mrs. Cheney said.

Another mother described to Mrs. Cheney a school pageant that celebrated all holidays but had only a suggestion of Christmas.

“It only involved the Three Kings and not the Christ child,” Mrs. Cheney said. “The Three Kings, of course, are a favorite as a part of many pageants now because they’re multicultural, and that’s a good thing. But the Christ child should be in, too.”

Cardinal McCarrick said the Constitution’s separation of church and state meant that no one church would be established by the government as a state religion.

“It didn’t mean that no church was to be loved here and respected here,” the cardinal said.

“The history of our country seems to have not only established religion, which is what it’s supposed to do, but also it seems to have disestablished a religion.”

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