Merry Christmas

Posted: Dec 23, 2002 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- "'Tis the season to be jolly." And it is -- unless you're a reporter covering the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines deploying to Southwest Asia. In that case, you're obligated to cover only the tears, as young warriors leave loved ones behind. "Deck the halls with boughs of holly." And we have -- but you wouldn't know that from reading the business news columns about despondent retailers and warehouses full of unwanted merchandise. "I heard the bells on Christmas Day, their old familiar carols play." True for most of us -- yet the tone-deaf masters of the media covering the Catholic Church report only hurt, hate and anger. "Oh come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant." Great hymn for the season -- but now it is the theme song for the scores of litigants suing Enron, WorldCom, Global Crossing and a host of others. "God bless ye merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay." A wonderful admonition -- for all but the correspondents assigned to the Trent Lott political deathwatch. For them, it's a holiday of digging up all the dirt they can to bury ol' Trent in January. What is it with the so-called mainstream media? Are the potentates of the press such cynical Scrooges that they can find only bad news in this season of good cheer? Here's some of what they downplayed, twisted into bad news or just ignored. Last week, President George W. Bush signed an executive order reviving his faith-based charities initiative. It was an early Christmas present to the American people. Under the president's directive, religious organizations will no longer be excluded from eligibility for government contracting simply because they hire people of faith. And while federal funds may not be used to advance particular religious creeds, religious charities providing social services will no longer be forbidden to display symbols of their faith in the workplace. Thanks to the president's decision, worldwide organizations like the Salvation Army won't have to withdraw its helping hand from those in need because of some mythical barrier separating faith from funding. His order will make it possible for local charities like Youth for Tomorrow and Kid's Konnection -- two D.C.-area programs -- to help even more youngsters in communities across America. The press has gleefully reported condemnations of the president's order by the ACLU and other so-called protectors of civil liberties. They undoubtedly would like even less John Adams' observation in 1798 that "our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for a government of any other." President Bush isn't the only one in his administration who is overt about his faith. Despite the derision of The Washington Post, which once dismissed Christian conservatives as "poor, uneducated and easy to command," Attorney General John Ashcroft continues to hold morning Bible studies at the Department of Justice. But it's not only the faith of government officials that's being ignored as we spin our radio dials hoping for a rendition of "Silent Night." In an era where scandal and corruption are front-page news, there are numerous successful American businessmen whose faith guides their personal and professional decisions. There's Carl Karcher, founder and chairman emeritus of Carl's Jr., who went on to add Hardee's and several other established restaurant chains to a business that today has 3,400 fast food locations in 45 states, with annual revenues of $1.43 billion. Karcher, the husband of one and father of 12, credits all of his success to God: "God has helped me persevere and succeed in life." In Atlanta, a plaque prominently hangs inside the headquarters of another successful restaurant chain. "To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us," the mission statement on the plaque reads. "To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-Fil-A." Yes, this is the corporate home of the fast food chain that Truett Cathy founded and built, one restaurant at a time. Tom Monaghan, the founder of Domino's Pizza, is another living legend of entrepreneurship, faith and philanthropy. When he sold his pizza company in 1998, Monaghan plowed the proceeds into the Ave Marie Foundation, which today funds a wide array of educational institutions and Catholic charities. One of them is Legatus, an international organization in which Christian businessmen discuss the relationship between faith and free enterprise. Rich DeVos, the founder of Amway and the owner of the NBA's Orlando Magic, proudly credits God with his success and recovery from heart transplant surgery. DeVos and his wife, Helen, have contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to high schools, colleges and universities to enhance education, and to causes to benefit children. And though they rarely get ink in the business journals, there are a number of opportunities for individual investors to put their money where their faith is. The Aquinas Fund, the Catholic Values Investment Trust, MMA Praxis Growth Fund, Capstone Social Ethics and Religious Values Fund, the Noah Fund, Shepherd Values Fund and Timothy Plan all screen out investments that erode traditional moral practices, and offer an alternative to mutual funds that profit from the exploitation and corrosion of traditional values. It's possible that those who run our major news organizations just missed these stories. Since it's Christmas, you may want to clip this column and send it to them -- along with the other good news of the season: "Hark! The herald angels sing -- 'Glory to the newborn King.'"