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Thou Hast Conquered, Galilean! Or Maybe Not.

Thou has conquered, Galilean! Or maybe not. Ross Douthat wants to re-Christianize America's public life:

www.AndrewSullivan.com - Daily Dish: [S]erious Christians who worry about the naked public square don't rejoice when a Ten Commandments display... passes muster as "ceremonial deism."... [W]hen Christians cede control of their symbols to the mass culture, it's only a short jog to ceding control of Christianity itself to what you might call the American heresy - the gospel of success.... This could be an argument for withdrawal and quietism - for Christians to abandon the public square entirely, and focus on cultivating an orthodox subculture in a more materialist sea. But that's the counsel of despair. If the mass culture is really so bad for Christianity, maybe Christians ought to be doing more to change it, instead of letting it change them - which is what that whole "salt of the earth" thing was supposed to be about, I think. Changing the culture is hard to do, of course - a lot harder than winning Pledge of Allegiance battles, or even elections. But people (right or left, but the left has understood this better for some time) who think that culture wars are mainly about politics are kidding themselves...

In this endeavor, however, he has a big problem. His eager foot soldiers in the re-Christianization campaign turn out to be people like... well, like... Thomas Sowell who, to put it as politely as I can, certainly doesn't seem to know the True Meaning of Christmas:

Thomas Sowell: It was just a small thing but I was taken aback when I received a memo saying that the offices at work would be shut down during "winter closure." Then it dawned on me that "winter closure" was what we used to call "Christmas vacation."... The idea is that any mention of Christmas might offend people who are not Christians —- and that this should be avoided at all costs.... Christmas is now one of many things that make us walk on eggshells during this supposedly liberated era. Are we all wimps? Over the years, we have gotten used to the American Civil Liberties Union launching legalistic jihads against recognitions of Christmas, in between coming to the rescue of murderers and terrorists....

Note, first, that the "offices at work" to which Sowell refers to are the offices of Stanford's Hoover Institution for War, Revolution, and Peace, famed right-wing think tank--I recall one Stanford mainline economics professor saying, "Well, if he's a right wing nut I could get him a job at the Hoover Institution." If even the bosses of the Hoover Institution don't think it's worth pandering to Sowell's sensitivities...

Note, second, that when Thomas Sowell thinks of Christmas, his mind jumps to the ideas that (i) it is important not to be a wimp and (ii) it is important to HATE the ACLU, which is always "coming to the rescue of murderers and terrorists." This is not attractive. This is not even Christian--or should not be Christian. This is not even sane: one has to pray that someone will adjust Sowell's meds so that he can find a measure of peace.

Ross would not like what he would see if he accomplished his task. Not at all. As long as Thomas Sowell and company are his Christian soldiers in the public sphere, nobody sane can much care for it. As Ross knows very well: he shudders at the prospect of "more Christians making the case against same-sex marriage, or pushing all their chips into the battle over courthouse displays in Alabama."

Vastly preferable to a re-Christianization of the American public sphere spearheaded by the likes of Thomas Sowell is the further spread of the ethics of, say, Hollywood, as expressed in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure: "Be excellent to each other! Party on, dudes!" Those are sentiments Jesus would have a much easier time getting behind than those of our troubled Brother Thomas (see Mark 2:19, Luke 6:27).

So here is a story that we tell in order to make us less likely to behave like Thomas Sowell, and more likely to behave like Bill and Ted:

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger."

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

Be excellent to each other. Party on, dudes and dudettes. Merry Christmas, everyone.

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