Half a century ago, American children were schooled in Aesop's fables. Among the more famous of these were "The Fox and the Grapes" and "The Tortoise and the Hare."
Particularly appropriate this Christmas season, and every Christmas lately, is Aesop's fable of "The Dog in the Manger."
The tale is about a dog who decides to take a nap in the manger. When the ox, who has worked all day, comes back to eat some straw, the dog barks loudly, threatens to bite him and drives him from his manger.
The lesson the fable teaches is that it is malicious and wicked to deny a fellow creature what you yourself do not want and cannot even enjoy.
What brings the fable to mind is this year's crop of Christmas-haters, whose numbers have grown since the days when it was only the village atheist or the ACLU pest who sought to kill Christmas.
The problem with these folks is not simply that they detest Christmas and what it represents, but that they must do their best, or worst, to ensure Christians do not enjoy the season and holy day they love.
As a Washington Times editorial relates, the number of anti-Christian bigots is growing, and their malevolence is out of the closet:
"In Leesburg, Va., a Santa-suit-clad skeleton was nailed to a cross. ... In Santa Monica, atheists were granted 18 of 21 plots in a public park allotted for holiday displays and ... erected signs mocking religion. In the Wisconsin statehouse, a sign informs visitors, 'Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.' A video that has gone viral on YouTube shows denizens of Occupy D.C. spewing gratuitous hatred of a couple who dared to appropriate a small patch of McPherson Square to set up a living Nativity scene."
People who indulge in such conduct invariably claim to be champions of the First Amendment, exercising their right of free speech to maintain a separation of church and state.
They are partly right. The First Amendment does protect what they are doing. But what they are doing is engaging in hate speech and anti-Christian bigotry. For what is the purpose of what they are about, if not to wound, offend, insult and mock fellow Americans celebrating the happiest day of their calendar year?
Consider what this day means to a believing Christian.
It is a time and a day set aside to celebrate the nativity, the birth of Christ, whom Christians believe to be the Son of God and their Savior who gave his life on the cross to redeem mankind and open the gates of heaven.
Even if a man disbelieves this, why would he interfere with or deny his fellow countrymen, three in four of whom still profess to be Christians, their right to celebrate in public this joyous occasion?
This mockery and hatred of Christmas testifies not only to the character of those who engage in it, it says something as well about who is winning the culture war for the soul of America.
Not long ago, the Supreme Court (1892) and three U.S. presidents -- Woodrow Wilson, Harry Truman and Jimmy Carter -- all declared America to be a "Christian nation."
They did not mean that any particular denomination had been declared America's national religion -- indeed, that was ruled out in the Constitution -- but that we were predominantly a Christian people.
And so we were born.
Around 1790, America was 99 percent Protestant, 1 percent Catholic, with a few thousands Jews. The Irish immigration from 1845 to 1850 brought hundreds of thousands more Catholics to America. The Great Wave of immigration from 1890 to 1920 brought millions of Southern and Eastern Europeans, mostly Catholic and Jews. As late as 1990, 85 percent of all Americans described themselves as Christians.
And here one must pose a question.
How did America's Christians allow themselves to be dispossessed of a country their fathers had built for them?
How did America come to be a nation where not only have all Christian prayers, pageants, holidays and holy days been purged from all government schools and public institutions, but secularism has taken over those schools, while Christians are mocked at Christmas in ways that would be declared hate crimes were it done to other religious faiths or ethnic minorities?
Was it a manifestation of tolerance and maturity, or pusillanimity, that Christians allowed themselves to be robbed of their inheritance to a point where Barack Obama could assert without contradiction that we Americans "do not consider ourselves to be a Christian nation"?
What are these Christmas-bashers, though still a nominal minority, saying to Christians with their mockery and ridicule of the celebration of the birth of Christ?
"This isn't your country anymore. It is our country now."
The question for Christians is a simple one: Do they have what it takes to take America back?