- - Thursday, December 24, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Christmas means different things to Americans, and not everyone subscribes to the uplifting spiritual tenets upon which it is founded. In a nation as diverse as ours, that should surprise no one. Leave it to the feds, though, to dampen the spirit of one and all by sowing seeds of confusion over recognition of the world’s most widespread faith-based holiday rather than offering an unalloyed message of support for its observance. After seven years of President Obama’s secularists working to stamp out the nation’s Judeo-Christian heritage, that should not come as a shock to anyone, either. Christmas endures.

This holiday season, the Department of Veterans Affairs in Salem, Va., earned reprobation fit for a Grinch by attempting to ban Christmas trees and expressions of Christmas greetings from its facilities. A November email sent to employees from the management team prior to the holiday season read, in part: “Public areas may only be decorated in a manner that is celebratory of the winter season. Displays must not promote any religion. Please note that trees (regardless of the types of ornaments used) have been deemed to promote the Christian religion and will not be permitted in any public areas this year.”

Miraculously, management caved to complaints from staff members and rescinded the tree ban. Employees nonetheless were forbidden from voicing “Merry Christmas” — except in “personal work areas.” For some, the First Amendment means free speech is the first freedom to be trampled. Still, it’s encouraging to learn that just as the heart of Dr. Seuss’ grumpy character “grew three sizes” on Christmas morn, the feds at the VA were similarly moved by the spirit of the season and brought back the decorated trees.

To be sure, Barack and Michelle Obama customarily offer Christmas wishes in their weekly address during Christmas week. It is faint blessings, though, since they spend the preceding 11 and a half months championing policies that uproot the sanctity of faith, family and freedom, replacing these all-American values with the notion that all blessings flow from the hand of almighty government.

In a nation of 320 million, diversity of opinion and expression are bound to grow. Religious and cultural practices must compete in the expanding marketplace of ideas, but Christmas maintains its traditional place in the hearts of Americans. A recent Pew Research Center survey found that 92 percent of the nation’s citizens celebrate Christmas. That includes 96 percent of Christians and, a particularly eye-opening fact, 81 percent of non-Christians. Joining in the celebration are 76 percent of Buddhists, 73 percent of Hindus, and 32 percent of Jews (many with non-Jewish spouses). Even 87 percent of those with no religion at all honor the Christian holy day in some fashion.

This is not to suggest that attitudes toward religious traditions are impervious to the effects of time. The Pew survey found that while 68 percent of the “silent generation” (those born between the mid-1920s and early 1940s), consider Christmas to be a religious holiday and 17 percent view it as merely a cultural occasion, among millennials, only 40 percent find religious meaning in the celebration and 43 percent find it a cultural event.

Though less steeped in the inner emotion of the holiday, millennials surpass their grandparents in showy expressions of merry-making. Eighty-one percent of the younger generation said they plan to put up a Christmas tree and 91 percent expected to buy gifts for family and friends, while only 75 percent and 79 percent of the older folks, respectively, planned to do so.

Despite efforts of the small-hearted in government to expunge Christmas from public consciousness, the day remains a holiday that nearly 22 million federal, state and local employees, believers and non-believers alike — are glad to have. And no day does more to compensate for the dismal economic record of the Obama era than Christmas. Americans are expected to drop some $830 of their hard-earned cash per person into retail tills before the holiday season winds down.

Christians cherish the biblical narrative of Christ’s birth in a lowly Bethlehem stable when there was no room at the inn. The rest of his story is the example of one who lived the words recorded by the apostle John: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Whether revelers cleave to “the greatest story ever told” or simply enjoy the festivities of the season, Christmas is ingrained in the American heart. It will take more than President Obama and his army of grinches to change that.

Frank Perley is a contributor to The Washington Times.


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