Ronald Reagan and the War on Christmas

Floyd Brown

12/22/2006 2:59:25 PM - Floyd Brown

In recent weeks there has been much commentary about the “War on Christmas.” FOX News host Bill O’Reilly recently spoke up on November 18 saying, “It’s all part of the secular progressive agenda ... to get Christianity and spirituality and Judaism out of the public square.” He then added, “because if you look at what happened in Western Europe and Canada, if you can get religion out, then you can pass secular progressive programs, like legalization of narcotics, euthanasia, abortion at will, gay marriage, because the objection to those things is religious-based, usually.”

O’Reilly’s comments on his television show, The O’Reilly Factor, during a segment about “which American stores are using ‘Christmas’ in advertising this Christmas season and which are not.” O’Reilly’s comments have sparked outrage amongst liberal pundits.

There was an American president that not so long ago decried the same trends as O’Reilly. He believed Christmas was a special time that had grown too secular; the president about which I write is Ronald Reagan. He spoke and wrote passionately about the Christmas season, and all that it represented to him. He even believed that the Christmas spirit was the same as the American spirit.

Although President Reagan would have rather spent Christmas with his family at his beloved Rancho del Cielo in California, he stayed at the White House in Washington, D.C. He did this so that Secret Service agents and other aides could spend Christmas at home with their families. President Reagan was a very thoughtful and kind person.

One Christmas, in a letter to his pen pal of fifty years, he lamented the fact that his children no longer believed in Santa Claus and how he missed seeing their excitement on Christmas morning. Year after year he wrote a Christmas love letter to his wife Nancy.

Speaking in a 1977 radio address sponsored by Young America’s Foundation, Reagan criticized the Supreme Court’s decision to “expel” God from the classroom, saying:

"And yet a few years ago, egged on by an avowed Atheist, voluntary prayer was banned in our schools. Have we let some among us make Atheism a religion and impose that religion on those of us who believe in our Judeo-Christian traditions?

"There is a fundamental difference between separation of church and state and denying the spiritual heritage of this country. Inscribed on the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. are Jefferson’s words, 'The God who gave us life gave us liberty —can the liberties of a Nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God.'"

"Our coins bear the words 'In God We Trust.' We take the oath of office asking his help in keeping that oath. And we proclaim that we are a Nation under God when we pledge allegiance to the flag. But we can’t mention his name in a public school or even sing religious hymns that are non - denominational. Christians can be celebrated in the school room with pine trees, tinsel and reindeers but there must be no mention of the man whose birthday is being celebrated. One wonders how a teacher would answer if a student asked why it was called Christmas."

Clearly Reagan would have agreed with Bill O’Reilly and his sentiments.

Six years later on December 24, 1983 President Reagan spoke in a radio address from the Oval Office his thoughts on Christmas and our wonderful country to the nation. His inspiring, and encouraging words still ring true as we celebrate this Christmas season. Names and some places have changed since Reagan delivered these words more than twenty years ago, yet Americans today are still fighting for the cause of freedom in the world:

Like so many of your homes, the White House is brimming with greens, colorful decorations, and a tree trimmed and ready for Christmas day. And when Nancy and I look out from our upstairs windows, we can see the National Christmas Tree standing in majestic beauty. Its lights fill the air with a spirit of love, hope, and joy from the heart of America…

Christmas is a time for children, and rightly so. We celebrate the birthday of the Prince of Peace who came as a babe in a manger. Some celebrate Christmas as the birthday of a great teacher and philosopher. But to other millions of us, Jesus is much more. He is divine, living assurance that God so loved the world He gave us His only begotten Son so that by believing in Him and learning to love each other we could one day be together in paradise.

It's been said that all the kings who ever reigned, that all the parliaments that ever sat have not done as much to advance the cause of peace on Earth and good will to men as the man from Galilee, Jesus of Nazareth.

No leader could say it clearer than Ronald Reagan. He summarized this dramatic radio address with these words:

"And because faith for us is not an empty word, we invoke the power of prayer to spread the spirit of peace. We ask protection for our soldiers who are guarding peace tonight — from frigid outposts in Alaska and the Korean demilitarized zone to the shores of Lebanon."

"With patience and firmness we can help bring peace to that strife-torn region and make our own lives more secure. The Christmas spirit of peace, hope, and love is the spirit Americans carry with them all year round, everywhere we go. As long as we do, we need never be afraid, because trusting in God is the one sure answer to all the problems we face."

This Christmas wish is as true today as the day President Reagan spoke it.