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Der Kulturkampf is upon us, yet again; like it or not. As a crafter of all natural nativity creche display stalls (e.g. for domestic, church and office use) -- naturally, this issue grabbed a bit more of my attention than the others featured on Thom's show today. I've known about this creche distribution for roughly a month. At first glance, the whole idea seems innocent in comparison to the usually bombastic mishandlings of one of the most inspiring and innocent art forms associated with Christmas that one can imagine. Just listening to the pontificators on the rightist side of the Kulturkampf blasting anybody who dares to question the appropriateness or inappropriateness of displaying a nativity creche on any nano-centimenter of public property is enough to at least thank the Catholic League for trying to keep the Christ in Christmas spirit alive in a far more genteel manner.
The fifty governors who received these creches had the option of deciding yea or nay on whether or not they'd choose to display them, and let the issue got at that. That seems sensible enough, right? Maybe not. The Catholic League's "taking names," as you'll see below.
As a Catholic, I'm grateful for Bill Donohue's efforts to remind us how far we have to go in order to achieve full equal status in this nation. Catholics who fail to remember that this nation was ... as Thom rightly pointed out, founded along secular lines, should also should keep in mind that the predominately Protestant founding fathers and framers of our Constitution never feared Catholicism anyywhere near as much as they feared the Church of England, and not only because it had "popish" tendencies, a hierarchy, catholic rituals, etc. The Anglican Episcopalians were rightly seen as the heirs of the old country's official Church of England, and the oppressor of many non-conformist Protestant denominations. It wasn't until Protestant Britain's manipulation of The Famine in Ireland and great upheavals on the European continent that waves of Catholics (especially Germans) began coming over in numbers that literally scared the bejezus out of the old WASP establishment. Let's not also forget that our Constitution was set into motion by a frightened Protestant economic elite that gathered in Philadelphia in the wake of this nation's one and only true proletarian revolt: Protestant Daniel Shays' Rebellion. That the horrified elites of merchantilists and lawyers who dominated state legislatures, formed a constitution which protected individual property and political rights without drawing sw ords -- over regional differences and especially slavery-- in the room where the document was drafted might well be seen as the only legitimate divine miracle relating to the nascent American government's existence as "proof" this is some "Christian nation." Thank God Catholicism demands more than pleasant happenstances and happy endings to crises to verify a truly divine miracle. (Pssst, You won't find this taught at that farce, "Beck University.")
What rankles me most about the use of these creches is the "gotcha" scenario they present to the governors.If the governors decide not to display them they face the "gotcha" when the likes of O'Reilly, Beck, Michelle Bachmann and Sara Palin will all lock arms with Bill Donohue and point to those faithless heathen secularists who decided not to display these creches. Automatically this sets them up for a distracting zero-sum situation they don't need, especially during rough economic times when they have enough to juggle in terms of having to balance their states' respective budgets without having to stick it to the poor even more than the poor and working middle classes usually get stuck.
Ever wonder why we can't attract the truly best and brightest of our times to run for public office? It's scenarios like this. Who in their right minds would want to put up with grueling races, incur great financial debts to get elected as governors, only to have to deal with not only their legislatures, local press, but also the likes of seven-figure bloviators (who also happen to be former governors) working for a certain national cable "news" channel that's anything but fair or balanced as its motto falsely boasts.
So here we'll go again, with one more chapter about one more battle in this annual Kulturkampf over Christmas and the appropriateness of allowing some displays on public grounds or not. My view? So long as a community's taxpayers' own the parks, commons, squares, and courthouses, not to mention statehouse rotundas ... let everybody display their faith's respective "holiday" symbols. As a Catholic, I don't believe for a second that any display by any person representing his or her faith has any potential to be of harm to Chrisitanity and especially the Christmas message. Not for a second. Truth is truth and if w hat you believe is true, you should have the full faith in what you want to display without fearing that sharing your display will diminish it by having it displayed alongside something put up by an atheist, Jew, Muslim, Hindu or Shintoist. There are some Christian churches whose leaders will simply go off the deep end if X or Y denomination or religious faith's symbols appear alongside theirs. It's not syncretist at all to display a creche alongside a display of Muslim or Jewish religious symbols. Syncretism only occurs when a religious prayer service is underway and little respect is appropriately given to the uniqueness of each faith (thus resulting in a false sense of ecumenism.)
Christians do their Lord a grave disservice when they behave timidly enough to demand special favors for their displays, but want to exclude other faiths from displaying their symbols, along side them -- "What's good enough for me may not be for thee, and Guv, if your office gives into this or that religious body, on election day I'll remember whose running against thee." Oh c'mon ... is this the politics of responsible adults or an elementary school?
And as for any creche display put up alongside that of any atheist's display, homage to Carl Sagan or Sam Harris, et al ... what's to worry? Trust me on this one readers: There isn't a beating human heart, especially that of a child, who won't be more moved by the sight of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in a run-down barn viz some cold sterile and modern tribute to some atheist scholar(s). Any atheist worth his or her salts would agree if he or she had a beating heart as well.
As for what Jefferson would do? Finding the answer to this question's a lot trickier than pointing to his famous "wall of separation" words that somehow managed to be patched on to the Constitution's 1st Amendment. His ideal was a government that was neither manipulated by or manipulated one denomination or sect against another for political gain. Jefferson knew this was the very seedling of religious strife. Let's not forget that for the first thirty-plus years of his life, Jefferson was North American subject of the Crown; the very same crown that demonstrated no compunctions in playing religious denominations against each other within an already official Protestant royal union to brutally crush the Jacobite rebellion of Charles Stuart, "Bonnie Prince Charlie" at Culloden in 1746. Jefferson and all the original founding fathers were well aware of the power of any state or national government when it came to using or mis-using the Almighty for their respective ends.
As a creche-display stall crafter, I'm just terribly saddened that such a beautiful symbol of peace, hope and the promise of eternal salvation has basically become an "in your face" first volley of annual Kulturkampf. As far as Kulturkampfs go, Catholics haven't fared very well when the nation's leadership is predominately Protestant, as well as it's demographic make up. Eventually, we succeed in holding our own. But at great unnecessary price; especially if we do the instigating in a most unnecessary way. After all, Jefferson's old friend, sometime bitter political foe and later lifetime friend, John Adams said, "Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war." Well, this is but a battle in a long running war, but no less great a burden of guilt when the act in question centers around the use of a religious symbol of the Nativity of Jesus Christ for grandstanding and political gamesmanship. No matter how well intentioned the Catholic League imay believ it is is, in trying to make sure Christians aren't pushed into some religious/sociological ghetto of sorts, the distribution of these creches, no matter how innocent the League would like to portray the sending of these creches, is purely political. Otherwise it wouldn't have put out this in its public defense (Nov. 10, 2010):
"In the December edition of our monthly journal, Catalyst, we are publishing the names of the 50 chiefs of staff [click here]; this way our members can contact them if they do not see a manger scene in the Capitol Rotunda ... So let the militant atheists do their thing, appealing to debased motives. We're taking the moral high road."
I'm a "militant" Catholic creche crafter, a socially conservative loyalist Catholic, no less, who believes this isn't taking the "high road." It's just another bumpy, rubble strewn, pot-holed politicized side-road detour to more trouble ahead. Demographically speaking, we are indeed a "christian nation." When we start acting like Christians the way Jesus expects his followers to act, then and only then call we call ourselves a capital-C "Christian" nation.