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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

McIlheran Watch: Whaaa?

I missed Sunday's McIlheran Watch, but Xoff picked up the ball on it.

But it's Wednesday, so there must be another McIlheran column polluting the paper. Except . . . Whaaa? He's making sense today, and about the War on Christmas, no less:
If this bit of the culture has become a war, it's because legal defense funds and petitions and public outrage are the way grievances unfold these days. Larry Eskridge of Wheaton College's Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals says Christians are simply adapting the tools other groups have used to confront hostility.

Nor is the hostility imagined, says Eskridge. There really was a wave of secularization in the 1950s and 1960s, epitomized by the removal of prayer from public schools, and what we see now is the long, slow reaction: pushy secularists, skittish officials, simmering believers. [. . .]

The more that Christian references in public life are stifled in the cause of inoffensiveness, the more Christians will get the idea that others regard their beliefs as offensive. This undermines, in Christians' eyes, the legitimacy of the public realm, just as surely as making public life an exclusively Christian domain undermines it in the eyes of others. Want to fissure society? One way is to make it a forum in which Christian viewpoints don't meet the dress code.

But Christians must remember that their truths hold true whether the culture accepts them or not. Christmas is about the moment when God became a material fact on Earth as well as a spiritual one. That Caesar ignored it made no difference then or now.

In practical terms, cool down. Be careful and forgiving when discerning friend or foe. The aim for Christians, after all, is not to smash the latter but to change their hearts.
I believe in giving credit where credit is due, and, despite citing the Liberty Council (an arm of the oh-so-tolerant Jerry Falwell's empire), McIlheran here makes a reasonable and persuasive case on the side of tolerance, diversity, and Christian charity.

What I cannot, and never will understand, is why some Christians (not all, certainly, not even most) feel they need the explicit approval of the State for their religious beliefs. Religion and spirituality and faith are individual matters, not political ones, especially not when it comes to Christianity. Christ himself told his followers that their religious life should be private ("Pray not as this Publican," he warned) and that Christians would be known by their works, rather than professions of faith. (See? 18 years of going to church three times a week paid off in blogging dividends!) The State's seal of approval should be the last thing on the Christians' holiday wish list.

McIlheran needs to spread this message far and wide, particularly to his fellow conservative Bill O'Reilly, who can't stop lying about the war on Christmas. Media matters caught him lying twice just yesterday, illustrated.

And I hope this signals a broader change in McIlheran's general policy on reasonableness, in that maybe from now on, he will be.

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