Here we go again: Christian Right’s Annual Whining Fest (aka, “War on Christmas”) is in full swing. Except that this year, the hilarity is without precedent: our traditions are being “neutered”!
The Montgomery County Board of Education in Maryland has cut Christmas and Easter, as well as Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashana, from next year’s school calendar. No religious holiday will be mentioned by name. NPR reported on the origin of the decision: “The path to the board’s decision started about two years ago on something that was somewhat unrelated. Members of the county’s Muslim community — roughly estimated at around 10 percent of the more than 1 million population — were seeking to have two of their religion’s holy days added to the calendar of days off. They wanted Eid al-Adha the most.” Instead of adopting new religious days for Muslims, however, the board approved the removal of all Christian and Jewish religious holiday references by a 7-1 vote. The students will continue to get the same religious days off, but there will be generic references to them, such as “winter break.” Board members have even gone so far as to reinterpret the historical recognition of the holidays by saying that the days off are not meant to observe those religious holidays. The board’s president, Phil Kauffman, explained, “The best way to accommodate the diversity of our community is to not make choices about which communities we’re going to respect in our calendar and which ones we’re not going to respect.” But does religious neutering accommodate diversity or merely endorse secular progressivism and political correctness as America’s new religion? Choices are the very actions our Bill of Rights was created to protect. In the end, however, rather than affirm Americans’ freedom of religion, society has spawned their freedom from religion. NPR reported that nearly all of the 16 districts across the country that are larger than Montgomery County Public Schools have already discarded any mention of religious holidays on their calendars.
That’s not the America our Founding Fathers created for us.
The “Founding Fathers” were not creating an America where Christmas could not be publicly celebrated! Well, except for the earliest ones, who were doing precisely that. The very ones who came to the new continent for the sake of religious freedom. And not just that, but celebrating Christmas, in those days, was a sure sign that you were against them!
A bit of context would help understand how.
The times were hard in England in 1647. King Charles I (son of King James, namesake of the most famous English bible) had just lost (or appeared to have lost) the English Civil War to the Puritans lead by Oliver Cromwell, in no small measure due to wholehearted support from Puritan Massachusetts. The Puritans, who, under the leadership of John Winthrop, had founded the Bay Colony (later Bay State) were originally driven out of England by William Laud, the Archbishop of Canterbury under Charles, who ultimately came to pay a hefty price for his loyalty:
Puritan leaders openly criticised Laud and in 1637 three Puritans, John Bastwick, Henry Burton and William Prynne were arrested on the orders of Laud and had their ears cut off and were branded on the cheeks for writing pamphlets that criticised Laud’s beliefs and what Laud was doing within the Church. Laud wanted strict uniformity within the Church and no deviation from what he wanted. Laud’s main priority was “decent order” and unity within the Church. He described Puritanism as a “wolf held by the ears” and he believed that their very existence threatened the stability of the Church. [Emphasis added]
But times changed, and when the Puritans in parliament won the upper hand,
Laud was put on trial for trying to subvert the laws of England and endangering the Protestant faith. These charges were never proved so Parliament introduced a Bill of Attainder to prosecute Laud. He was beheaded at Tower Hill on January 10th, 1645.
On the other hand, the king, although defeated and under arrest, tried to win by playing politics, if he couldn’t militarily:
Charles found himself in the Isle of Wight, where the governor was loyal to Parliament and kept him under surveillance at Carisbrooke Castle. There Charles conducted complicated negotiations with the army leaders, with the English Parliament, and with the Scots; he did not scruple to promise one thing to one side and the opposite to the other.
But while the king set different players against one another, public mood was already turning against the Puritans. Because the latter were already putting in place the rules that they would spell out formally a few years later, in “acts and ordinance” which collectively have been dubbed, tongue-in-cheek, “the anti-fun charter”:
One of the ‘acts and ordinances’ posters, dating to 1651, declares: ‘No observation shall be had of the Five and twentieth day of December, commonly called Christmas-Day.’
And hence it is no surprise that the king’s supporters found Christmas celebrations as a political expression-against Puritanism-that is, the founding faith of Bay Colony.
I often ponder whether religious right figures like the ridiculous Chuck Norris are as obtuse about history as they sound when they whine about “Neutering Religious Holidays”, or if they are just pretending.
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