Bill Murchison

Well, here we go again ...
"And now a holiday song -- 'God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen.'" This from my favorite classical music station. Shall we listen in?

 "God rest you merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay. Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day; to save us all from Satan's power when we were gone astray ... " etc., etc., etc.

 Oh, boy, didn't we cover up that dogmatic theological treatise by billing the musical selection in question as a "holiday song" and not a "Christmas carol"? I guess it's fine (by the standards of the time) to launch on the airwaves an affirmation of Jesus Christ's salvational power -- just so long as we call it something else. As I said: Oh, boy.

 This isn't one more disquisition on the emergence of "Happy Holidays" as a politically correct substitute for a quasi-theological salute like "Merry Christmas." This is a puzzled look at the puzzled state of the American mind and conscience in the Year of Our Lord -- excuse me, excuse me -- 2005.

 Just what do we do with God in a society led for 40 years, by the U.S. Supreme Court and the American Civil Liberties Union, to at least seasonal rethinking of what might be called our public theology?

 We've gotten so picky and prissy about religion in the public square that no one really knows what to say and do at times like Christmas. Our paper currency informs us that "In God We Trust," but try affirming that proposition at, say, a high school commencement. Or try praying it, if you want to see how long it takes an ACLU lawyer to get to the courthouse.

 On the scientific front, we find things equally disordered and disputed. Courts these days seem designed for the purpose of adjudicating controversies between supporters of Darwinian evolution and pleaders for the teaching of intelligent design -- the proposition that life didn't just "happen."

 Good old generic "religion" -- the kind President Eisenhower commended to us without reproof from the New York Times (oh, but if Ike were alive to try it now!) -- is today a reliable fight-starter.  Even in these times of comfort and joy -- whatever we elect to call them. When last I heard, Target was defending itself against an outcry over the in-store downgrading of "Christmas" -- and the upgrading of "holiday."

Bill Murchison

Bill Murchison is the former senior columns writer for The Dallas Morning News and author of There's More to Life Than Politics.
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