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Published:December 6th, 2009 12:22 EST
Taking Christ out of Christmas

Taking Christ out of Christmas

By George Curry (Former Featured Editor)

This is the season to be jolly, but you`d never know it, considering all the attacks on Christmas. In a well- intended but misguided effort to be more inclusive of other religions, some government units, businesses and civic groups are urging everyone to stop saying, Merry Christmas " and replace it with a bland, and presumably more acceptable, Happy Holidays. "

This is where I part company with many of my liberal friends. The purpose of Christmas " the commercialization issue not withstanding " is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, which is recounted in the first chapter of Matthew, beginning with verse 18.

As a Christian, I make no apologies for celebrating my faith. There is no getting around it: Christmas is about the birth of Christ. Period. It would be the ultimate insult to relegate Jesus to the background in an effort not to offend non-Christians. We can celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ while wishing our Jewish friends, for example, a Happy Hanukkah. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Like it or not, the reality is that this nation was founded by Christians and established, at least in principle, on Judeo-Christian values. The Founding Fathers, most of whom owned slaves, did not always exhibit the Christian spirit but they at least held it up as an ideal. So much so that our currency still reads, In God we Trust. " At Christmas, the last people that should be offended are Christians. But that is exactly what`s been happening in recent years.

A controversy erupted in Boston recently over what to call their city`s 48-foot spruce tree in a December 1 ceremony. The city`s Web site called it a holiday tree " instead of a Christmas tree and that touched off an angry backlash, especially among Christian conservatives. Evangelist Jerry Falwell told Fox television, There has been a concerted effort to steal Christmas. "

City officials finally relented. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino told reporters that he would keep calling the spruce a Christmas tree. " He explained, I grew up with a Christmas tree, I`m going to stay with a Christmas tree. "

Some of the back-and-forth over what to call the trees, has taken place with less fanfare. Until the late 1990s, the lighted, decorated tree on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol was called a Christmas tree. Someone came up with, shall we say, the bright idea of referring to it as the Holiday Tree. Now, House Speaker Dennis Haster (R-Ill.) has instructed federal officials to return to the old name " the Capitol Christmas Tree.

Last year, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger reversed a decision by his predecessor, former Gov. Gray Davis, and began referring to the state`s Christmas tree, not a Holiday Tree.

It`s astounding how far some have gone in recent years to be politically correct " or incorrect, depending on your point of view.

Last year, the Plano, Texas Independent School District banned students from wearing red and green at their winter break parties because they were considered Christmas colors. Students were forbidden from exchanging gifts with religious messages on them, apparently fearing Merry Christmas " and reindeers might offend others.

While that was happening in Texas, the Maplewood and South Orange, N.J. combined school system was banning Christmas carols, even those about Santa Claus. Christmas without Silent Night " and Hark the Herald Angels Sing? " I can`t even imagine it and I have a pretty lucid imagination. I suppose that would be tantamount to trying to have an Easter egg hunt without eggs. Ooops, I guess if we`re not suppose to make references to the birth of Christ, then celebrating his resurrection is really off-limits. My bad.

Speaking of bad, things got so bad that a public school in Wisconsin told students to change religious words in Christmas carols for an upcoming concert. In Jackson County, Ga., they reportedly banned certain jewelry, which would presumably include pins that read, Jesus is the Reason for the Season. "

Finally, let me address the political aspects of this controversy. Make no mistake about it: the driving force behind reclaiming Christmas is conservatives, through such organizations as the Alliance Defense Fund and Liberty Counsel, both affiliated with Jerry Falwell. The televangelist and others at the forefront of this movement also actively oppose affirmative action and other social programs that I support.

But as a free thinker, I don`t take positions only if right-wingers don`t take them. They are not part of my thought process. We should take positions because they are right and not oppose a view simply because it is supported by the Right. And if we get confused, we can always fall back on: What Would Jesus Do?

Merry Christmas!

George E. Curry is editor-in-chief of the NNPA News Service and He appears on National Public Radio (NPR) three times a week as part of News and Notes with Ed Gordon. " To contact Curry or to book him for a speaking engagement, go to his Web site, .