"The fear of religion in the public arena is all too typical of Americans, and particularly the intellectual class," Judge Robert Bork, who died just days before Christmas, wrote in his 1996 book, "Slouching Toward Gomorrah." In it, the author provides a reality check:
"Religious conservatives cannot 'impose' their ideas on society except by the usual democratic methods of trying to build majorities and passing legislation. In that they are not different from any other group of people with ideas of what morality requires. All legislation 'imposes' a morality of one sort or another, and, therefore, on the reasoning offered, all law would seem to be antithetical to pluralism. The references to 'bigotry' and 'demagoguery' seem to mean little more than that the author would like to impose a very different set of values."
Whatever the Department of Justice might argue in court about health-care regulation, and whatever Planned Parenthood needs to say to feed a climate of fear, a religious figure in Rome is never going to impose anything on American women or men. But he does protect a gift that he believes we've been given, that most of us have at least a nostalgic motive to believe in. Christmas offers with it a grand, perpetual proposal. The rest of the days of the year are the test of whether it's simply a matter of holly and ivy or the greatest love story that can transform our lives.