At the summit of national power, politicians and bureaucrats are terrified at the idea of endorsing the religious views of the majority of Americans. Our First Amendment forbids the establishment of a state religion, but many of our governing elites are taking it a step further, outlawing its very existence from the public conversation.
Congress can turn this into an unintentional comedy of manners. On Dec. 11, the House considered a rather meaningless resolution "recognizing the importance of Christmas" -- and nine members of the House voted nay. The roll call of Grinches are, surprise, largely from blue states: Gary Ackerman and Yvette Clarke of New York were on the list, as were California's Barbara Lee, Pete Stark and Lynn Woolsey. The Politico newspaper applauded with "God bless them!"
This goofiness surprised Iowa Rep. Steve King, who merely thought it would be consistent with similar resolutions passed in the House this year for the holy days of minority religions. The resolution noting the Muslim holiday of Ramadan passed 376 to 0, and the resolution for the Hindi holiday of Diwali passed 358 to 0. (There were 42 House members who voted "present" on the Ramadan resolution, and eight who voted "present" for Diwali. In addition to the Grinchy Nine, another 10 House members voted "present" on the Christmas resolution.)
I thought of this odd situation when presented with a beautiful holiday gift: a DVD of "The Birth of Christ," a contemporary Christmas cantata composed by the Seattle-area composer Andrew T. Miller. For his musical retelling of the Gospel of Luke's Nativity story, he had an idea: He wanted Protestant choirs in Dublin, Ireland, to sing his piece from the same churches that Georg Friedrich Handel used to unveil his "Messiah" in 1742. He added a Catholic choir to symbolize a unity between Irish Catholics and Protestants, still a difficult proposition in that country. Miller said, "I was determined to premiere this work abroad to underscore the universality of the Christmas story, and the power of music to overcome strife and conflict."
It premiered on the Seattle PBS station KBTC and quickly raised thousands of pledge dollars and hundreds of new station members. Comments were overwhelmingly positive. Station executives recommended to other PBS stations that it "would make a wonderful last minute addition to a Member's Choice Night or best-of line up."
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