Just Curious

Please state the answer in the form of a question... Just Curious is the occassional blog of Andrew Nelson. In an attempt to balance the polemical tone of most of the blogosphere, all entries hope to pose at least one useful question. Many entries simply advance useful memes. Personal entries may abandon the interrogative conceit.

Monday, December 12, 2005

what if they threw a War on Christmas and nobody came?

I'm not really interested in the "War on Christmas" debate -- many of the incidents publicized by the right-wing press are probably all examples of over-secularizing, but the idea that Christmas is about to be replaced by some humanist UN holiday is just paranoid. If anything, Stephen Colbert was probably right in his "exposé" on Coca-Cola replacing the Santa on their cans with polar bears -- the clearest "secularizing" force on Christmas is consumer culture, not the ACLU.

But this example from the Tribune intrigued me:

Every holiday season, Wheeling officials would try to purge the village's decorations of anything that could be perceived as religious, but still the complaints rolled in.

That Santa Claus figure was an official endorsement of Christianity. That tree swathed in blue lights amounted to government recognition of Hanukkah.

So this year, village leaders decided on a bold change of direction: Instead of keeping religion out, why not invite it in?

They would allow local houses of worship, along with all other organizations, to put their own decorations in front of Village Hall at 225 W. Dundee Rd. It was a risky plan----hate groups or political protesters could have insisted on being included--but in October a divided board of trustees approved the idea and girded for a possible ruckus.

All that followed, though, was silence.

"There were no hate groups, no religious groups," said James Lang, Wheeling's public relations director. "There was nobody."

In what amounts to a surprising lull in the battle to define the holidays as secular or sacred, not one person turned in an application to mount decorations. Village officials are left with mixed emotions: While they're glad the Ku Klux Klan didn't come to town, some are a bit deflated by the lack of response.

I'm not really sure what to make of this, but it seems to have the same sort of lesson as the Terri Sciavo poll numbers. My guess is that most Americans want to be left alone by the government *and* evangelicals. I have to say I'm sad that no one brought decorations to the Wheeling display though. In Evanston, more than a hundred groups with different agendas participate in the big parade at the Fourth of July. Granted, that's an inherently secular holiday celebrating freedom rather than a group of religious holidays that celebrate all sorts of different things. But I hope more people show up next time in Wheeling.