That's a claim the Constitution enables, as it enables all manner of assertions, asseverations, declarations and avowals. But when you hear the summons to public secularism, do you want to ring bells, sound trumpets, prepare a feast? A few may; not many, I would guess. When you've pushed the Nativity figures out of sight and told the Christmas carolers from P.S. 121 to drop the angels and keep it to red-nosed reindeer, you've said, essentially … what? As much as Christina Rossetti said (in the Festival of Lessons and Carols)? "What can I give him, poor as I am/If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb/ If I were a wise man, I would do my part/ Yet what can I give him? Give my heart."
We are at a different level here. Minds swim with the wonder of it all. This is the real stuff. No judges or advocates can take away from it with glances or snarls of disapproval. It is . Thirsty ears know as much; and, knowing, return for it, century after century.
The contest is gravely unequal: Christmas against legal documents and editorials warning of constitutional transgression; shepherds against judges; angels against editors.
O little town of Washington ... or Austin, Boston, Moscow, Cannes. How would any of that sound? Half as inspiring as the name of grubby, down-at-the-sandal-heels Bethlehem -- where in the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed?
There's a reason bells ring out at Christmas and not on the opening day of Congress. Nor can secularism, the creeping creed of a creepy age, drive that reason from the hearts and minds of men. In the secular doctrine of man alone, bereft of God, there is neither warmth nor richness nor comfort -- just terrible coldness beneath a star that fails, perversely, to sputter out.
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