Let’s conclude our look at the good, the bad, and the ugly in Sarah Palin’s book about the War on Christmas, Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas (read part 1 here).
In a book by a Tea Party figurehead, you’ve got to expect a nod to conservative values, and Palin nods like a bobblehead. We hear about Nancy Pelosi’s outrageous budget and the “Lamestream media,” how guns are great, how abortion and the ACLU are terrible, that “under God” must stay in the Pledge, how the secular Left has little but a failed welfare state as its legacy, that Obamacare sucks, and isn’t it great that Chick-fil-A said what had to be said about same-sex marriage?
The heartbreak of “Happy Holidays”
Palin is primarily outraged at two things, that non-Christians protest government promotion of Christian holidays (discussed in part 2 here) and stores saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”
After a long discussion of the anguish this causes Christians, she declares victory by quoting a Wal-Mart spokesperson:
[In 2006,] we’re not afraid to say, “Merry Christmas.” (79)
Whew! That takes care of one the items on my Top Ten list (and I’m delighted to see that this problem has been resolved for years). If we could get World Peace figured out, that would be the icing on the cake.
The naughty list
I’ll conclude this over-long review with a partial list of errors in Palin’s book. There are too many to discuss in detail, but they are too important to let pass without a quick response. These mindless talking points can rally the troops but only if those troops have no interest in thinking through the issues.
- Declaration of Independence. “Our Declaration of Independence states that we are endowed by our ‘Creator’ with our rights.” In the first place, the Declaration makes clear that “Governments [derive] their just powers from the consent of the governed,” not God, and in the second, the Declaration doesn’t govern the country, the very secular Constitution does. More here.
- 9/11 Cross. American Atheists protested putting this piece of cross-shaped rubble (that wasn’t actually found in the Twin Towers site) in a publicly supported museum and notes that God “couldn’t be bothered to stop the terrorists or prevent 3,000 people from being killed in his name.” Palin is offended, just like those thin-skinned atheists. (I discuss this issue more here.)
- Here’s why no one likes you. “There’s a reason why voters don’t necessarily like voting for an atheist. Voters don’t want to give power to someone who doesn’t believe he or she will someday have to answer to the Ultimate Authority.” And should that apply in a country governed by a secular constitution that rejects any religious test for public office (see Article 6)?
- Hey, gang! Find the error in this sentence! “Our Judeo-Christian heritage is the source of the very freedoms [the atheists] so angrily use to denounce Christ and to rid His very mention from the public square.” Wrong again. The freedoms we see as fundamental—democracy, trial by jury, no slavery, freedom of religion, and so on—are the last things the Bible would have encouraged. More here.
- Objective moral truth? “Without God as an objective standard, who’s to say what’s wrong and what’s right?” Nope. God doesn’t ground laws made in this country. Laws are made through secular means—think back to high school Civics class. More here.
- Charity. “Studies show Christians are America’s most generous givers.” Not really. Remove giving to churches (which are no more charities than country clubs) and you see a different story. More here.
- Gee, how does evolution work again? “I bet Charles Darwin never understood this. If the world could be described as truly ‘survival of the fittest,’ why would people collectively be stricken with a spirit of generosity in December? … It doesn’t make sense.” Do you even understand what “survival of the fittest” means? Read a little more broadly, and you’ll discover that nice qualities like cooperation and trust can make a population fitter. More here.
- What would baby Jesus think? In any book on the War on Christmas, abortion is always relevant. “A culture that reveres our Creator and respects the sanctity of innocent life does not condone killing its own children.” Since “our Creator” ends half of all pregnancies, I don’t see why baby Jesus should cry about abortion. More here.
- Morality. “No matter how much the liberals protest, there’s a relationship between Christianity and a healthy civilization.” Yeah—a negative relationship. Researcher Gregory Paul compares European countries and the U.S. and concludes, “Of the 25 socioeconomic and environmental indicators, the most theistic and procreationist western nation, the U.S., scores the worst in 14 and by a very large margin in 8, very poorly in 2, average in 4, well or very in 4, and the best in 1.” More here.
- Morality is deteriorating. Social change can be stressful, but we must ignore the headlines of the moment to look at the big picture. In fact, U.S. violent crime has plunged more than 70% in the last twenty years. Red states have higher crime rates than blue states. In the year since the school shootings at Sandy Hook, Republican legislatures have helped make the majority of new gun laws loosen gun restrictions. This isn’t quite the picture of morality Palin’s book suggests. She seems to imagine the America of her childhood as a 60s sitcom world, where the problems were small and everyone got along. But when she was born, the Civil Rights Act that outlawed much discrimination by race, gender, religion, and national origin hadn’t been signed. Laws prohibited mixed-race marriage in 17 states. Laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation were decades away. Social change isn’t easy, but some has been good. Think more deeply before concluding that things are going downhill. More here.
- How’s that atheism workin’ out for you, Comrade? “Soviet Communism is organically linked to atheism.” That’s true, but that’s because Communism saw the church as competition, not because atheism created Communism. “Atheism’s track record makes the Spanish Inquisition seem like Disneyland by comparison.” Oh? Show me just one person killed in the name atheism. Let’s be clear on cause and effect: Stalin was an atheist because he was a dictator, not vice versa. More here.
- Christianity’s fight against slavery. Palin quotes Thomas Sowell, who says that business, religion, and Western imperialism “together destroyed slavery around the world.” It’d be nice if that were true. Slavery was made illegal but it wasn’t eliminated, and there are an estimated 27 million slaves today. That’s almost forty times the number of Alaska residents. In absolute numbers, slavery is bigger today than it’s ever been. Yes, Christians were important in the war against slavery, but they were on the other side as well. That’s because pretty much everyone in the West was a Christian, and the Bible gives powerful support for slavery. More here.
Palin’s book is much ado about nothing. She’s determined to feel offended and see injuries to Christianity everywhere she looks. Unfortunately, she misses an opportunity to use her credibility within the conservative community to point out that Christian-only displays on state-supported property are both unfair and illegal.
Palin has embraced what I’m still having a hard time with: “Can’t we all just get along?” doesn’t sell.
Every atom in your body came from a star that exploded.
And, the atoms in your left hand probably came
from a different star than your right hand.
It really is the most poetic thing I know about physics:
You are all stardust.
So, forget Jesus.
The stars died so that you could be here today.
— Lawrence M. Krauss
Photo credit: Photo Dean