Courthouse Christmas displays gone mad

Christmas time is here, so it must be time for controversies over Christmas displays at the county courthouse.  Every year we have one here in Loudon County, Virginia.  Having a Nativity Scene, including one that had been donated by a local family and that had become a tradition, would seem to violate the separation of church and state.  Even Christmas trees have a Christian association.  So surely if the courthouse displays Christian symbols, it would be appropriate to display a Jewish menorah, since Hannukah takes place in the same season.  And we had better display an Islamic Crescent, even though no Muslim holidays are really at issue.  But now the imperative of being “interfaith” has given way to the imperative of including no-faith and anti-faith displays.

What the county officials did, to solve the annual controversy, was to agree to put up symbols of the first 10 people or groups to apply for a space.  So here is what we ended up with:

- The Welsh family nativity scene

- A sign calling Christian figures “myths” and promoting the Loudoun Atheists submitted by a Leesburg resident

- A banner promoting the separation of church and state by American Atheists and NOVA Atheists, submitted by a Leesburg resident

- A banner calling for “reason in the holiday season” submitted by a Lansdowne resident

- A holiday display possibly including the Tree of Knowledge from a Sterling resident

- A letter from Jesus submitted by a Middleburg resident

- A Santa Claus on a cross to depict the materialistic nature of the holiday, submitted by a Middleburg resident

- Two signs from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, one from a Leesburg resident and the other from a Reston resident

The tenth application, which may or may not be allowed to present a display, is Christmas-themed and submitted by Potomac Falls Anglican Church.

via WMAL 105.9 FM/AM 630: Stimulating Talk – Breaking News.

So in this Christmas display, there will be at most three Christian symbols (depending on what the “letter from Jesus” says, and depending on whether the Anglicans get their display accepted).  Maybe just one, the traditional Nativity scene.   The others will be signs from atheists, either directly attacking Christianity (saying that Jesus is a myth), or mocking God (“the flying spaghetti monster,” which atheists pretend to argue for, as just as valid as the arguments for the existence of God), or just being blasphemous (Santa Claus crucified on a Cross).

If the county is indeed advocating Christianity by allowing displays of its symbols to mark a Christian holiday, then by the same logic  the county is now advocating atheism.

Wouldn’t it be better not to have anything?  Is there some other solution, such as allowing different religious groups to have displays, but not groups that are, by definition, not religious?  Or just leave it to churches to celebrate the birth of Christ, cutting the government out of it, even though that, of course, is what the atheists are trying to achieve?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • SKPeterson

    Why doesn’t every church have its own Nativity with anti-atheist signs placarded everywhere instead? Let the atheists put their displays up on their own property.

    And, again, why do I feel like there won’t be a peep from these folks whenever Eid begins for the Muslims in Loudon?

  • SKPeterson

    Why doesn’t every church have its own Nativity with anti-atheist signs placarded everywhere instead? Let the atheists put their displays up on their own property.

    And, again, why do I feel like there won’t be a peep from these folks whenever Eid begins for the Muslims in Loudon?

  • #4 Kitty

    Why doesn’t every Pastafarian have their own Nativity with anti-Christian placards everywhere instead? Let the Christians put their displays up on their own property.

    ~there fixed that for you.

  • #4 Kitty

    Why doesn’t every Pastafarian have their own Nativity with anti-Christian placards everywhere instead? Let the Christians put their displays up on their own property.

    ~there fixed that for you.

  • Tom Hering

    If displays spaces were given to the first ten people or groups applying for them – a fair enough system – then, obviously, Christians were late out of the gate. Which doesn’t have to happen next year. Heck, given the way it turned out this time, I would hope local churches are applying for 2012 right now.

  • Tom Hering

    If displays spaces were given to the first ten people or groups applying for them – a fair enough system – then, obviously, Christians were late out of the gate. Which doesn’t have to happen next year. Heck, given the way it turned out this time, I would hope local churches are applying for 2012 right now.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Veith asks:

    Wouldn’t it be better not to have anything?

    At the courthouse? Probably. I can’t see any good reason why Christians need to use public property to do their work, especially when Christians have so much property of their own in this country. Of course, the Culture Warriors will disagree, and feel the need to fight these squabbles in an attempt to prove … something.

    Is there some other solution, such as allowing different religious groups to have displays, but not groups that are, by definition, not religious?

    But they aren’t, by definition, “not religious”. And Christians frequently make that exact argument. Groups that are making anti-Christian or anti-religious statements are very much making religious statements. So no, there’s no good solution that will somehow allow only Our Side to continue to use government property to proselytize.

    Or just leave it to churches to celebrate the birth of Christ, cutting the government out of it, even though that, of course, is what the atheists are trying to achieve?

    Of course, the mere fact that atheists are “trying to achieve” it is largely all the animus that Culture Warriors need. “You want X, so I will do everything I can to prevent X.” The problem being that, in this case, X is a fairly reasonable idea. And Christians will acknowledge that much more clearly when or if we are not the dominant force in this culture. Heck, we already decry religions using the force of government in other countries … if they’re Muslim-majority countries, that is.

    Seriously, how is this courthouse thing not a pathetic contest? The only way to win is not to play.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Veith asks:

    Wouldn’t it be better not to have anything?

    At the courthouse? Probably. I can’t see any good reason why Christians need to use public property to do their work, especially when Christians have so much property of their own in this country. Of course, the Culture Warriors will disagree, and feel the need to fight these squabbles in an attempt to prove … something.

    Is there some other solution, such as allowing different religious groups to have displays, but not groups that are, by definition, not religious?

    But they aren’t, by definition, “not religious”. And Christians frequently make that exact argument. Groups that are making anti-Christian or anti-religious statements are very much making religious statements. So no, there’s no good solution that will somehow allow only Our Side to continue to use government property to proselytize.

    Or just leave it to churches to celebrate the birth of Christ, cutting the government out of it, even though that, of course, is what the atheists are trying to achieve?

    Of course, the mere fact that atheists are “trying to achieve” it is largely all the animus that Culture Warriors need. “You want X, so I will do everything I can to prevent X.” The problem being that, in this case, X is a fairly reasonable idea. And Christians will acknowledge that much more clearly when or if we are not the dominant force in this culture. Heck, we already decry religions using the force of government in other countries … if they’re Muslim-majority countries, that is.

    Seriously, how is this courthouse thing not a pathetic contest? The only way to win is not to play.

  • MichaelZ

    This was exactly the reason I did not sign the silly “keep the nativity scene on the courthouse lawn” petition last year. It seems like it may be time for the county to rein in all of these displays, or else these nasty eyesore signs are going to get out of hand quickly.

  • MichaelZ

    This was exactly the reason I did not sign the silly “keep the nativity scene on the courthouse lawn” petition last year. It seems like it may be time for the county to rein in all of these displays, or else these nasty eyesore signs are going to get out of hand quickly.

  • Aloysius

    “Wouldn’t it be better not to have anything? Is there some other solution, such as allowing different religious groups to have displays, but not groups that are, by definition, not religious? Or just leave it to churches to celebrate the birth of Christ, cutting the government out of it, even though that, of course, is what the atheists are trying to achieve?”

    That has not always been my inclination, but it now is, given that we do not live in a theocracy.

    “If the county is indeed advocating Christianity by allowing displays of its symbols to mark a Christian holiday, then by the same logic the county is now advocating atheism.”

    It seems that this highlights an area where those with gifts and a calling in apologetics should train their fire. Is not atheism also a religion? That is, does it not also involve faith-commitment to ultimate assumptions that provide the glasses through which all data is interpreted? If so, then should it not be put on a level playing field with all other religions, politically speaking?

  • Aloysius

    “Wouldn’t it be better not to have anything? Is there some other solution, such as allowing different religious groups to have displays, but not groups that are, by definition, not religious? Or just leave it to churches to celebrate the birth of Christ, cutting the government out of it, even though that, of course, is what the atheists are trying to achieve?”

    That has not always been my inclination, but it now is, given that we do not live in a theocracy.

    “If the county is indeed advocating Christianity by allowing displays of its symbols to mark a Christian holiday, then by the same logic the county is now advocating atheism.”

    It seems that this highlights an area where those with gifts and a calling in apologetics should train their fire. Is not atheism also a religion? That is, does it not also involve faith-commitment to ultimate assumptions that provide the glasses through which all data is interpreted? If so, then should it not be put on a level playing field with all other religions, politically speaking?

  • SKPeterson

    Kitty @ 2 – Your’s is the simple corollary to my post. There must be at least one or two churches in Loudon County that could put up Nativity scenes, and maybe a few families can put them up in their yards along with some festive lighting – I’ve heard of people doing that in some parts of the country. If the atheists want to do the same, fine. They are perfectly within their rights so to do.

  • SKPeterson

    Kitty @ 2 – Your’s is the simple corollary to my post. There must be at least one or two churches in Loudon County that could put up Nativity scenes, and maybe a few families can put them up in their yards along with some festive lighting – I’ve heard of people doing that in some parts of the country. If the atheists want to do the same, fine. They are perfectly within their rights so to do.

  • Tom Hering

    “The only way to win is not to play.”

    Sorry, Todd. That sounds nicely paradoxical, but all it really expresses is a desire not to dirty one’s hands – to remain “above” a fray. Which I think is an odd position to take in this case, as it’s a fray that can be easily won, by simply being the first to apply. And why not desire to win it? It’s an opportunity to display Our Savior, out in the world, at Christmastime. What in heaven’s name is wrong with that? Especially when the courthouse has, with its policy, made it impossible for others to accuse Christians of sneaky theocracy?

  • Tom Hering

    “The only way to win is not to play.”

    Sorry, Todd. That sounds nicely paradoxical, but all it really expresses is a desire not to dirty one’s hands – to remain “above” a fray. Which I think is an odd position to take in this case, as it’s a fray that can be easily won, by simply being the first to apply. And why not desire to win it? It’s an opportunity to display Our Savior, out in the world, at Christmastime. What in heaven’s name is wrong with that? Especially when the courthouse has, with its policy, made it impossible for others to accuse Christians of sneaky theocracy?

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Todd’s right. SKP is right. Don’t play this pathetic game. There is plenty of church-owned and other private property where displays could be set, if we must have them.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Todd’s right. SKP is right. Don’t play this pathetic game. There is plenty of church-owned and other private property where displays could be set, if we must have them.

  • Cincinnatus

    Yes, it would be better not to have anything on public property in the sense that it demonstrates the sheer impossibility of truly pluralistic culture. When there was substantial cultural agreement on certain fundamental cares and concerns, a nativity scene was never an issue, and most would have scoffed at the idea that the boundaries between church and state were being transgressed (blah blah the amendment means noninterference of government in church affairs, not necessarily vice versa).

    (Un)Fortunately, contemporary jurisprudence on the question is gravitating toward a “plural” public square in which all symbols are welcome rather than the “naked” public square of midcentury jurisprudence.

  • Cincinnatus

    Yes, it would be better not to have anything on public property in the sense that it demonstrates the sheer impossibility of truly pluralistic culture. When there was substantial cultural agreement on certain fundamental cares and concerns, a nativity scene was never an issue, and most would have scoffed at the idea that the boundaries between church and state were being transgressed (blah blah the amendment means noninterference of government in church affairs, not necessarily vice versa).

    (Un)Fortunately, contemporary jurisprudence on the question is gravitating toward a “plural” public square in which all symbols are welcome rather than the “naked” public square of midcentury jurisprudence.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    This is not a Christian country. Although there may be quite a lot of Christians in it.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    This is not a Christian country. Although there may be quite a lot of Christians in it.

  • Jon

    The public square is what it is–public. So, it is about the competition of ideas. As long as the Government recognizes a Christian holyday, the detractors will want to have their say.

    I think the government should get out of the holiday business altogether. We need a consitutional amendment to grant every citizen seven annual “personal days” of their choosing. No government endorsement necessary for anyone’s choice of personal day, reasonable accomodation.

    The IRS could surely monitor such a program after we go to a flat tax system.

  • Jon

    The public square is what it is–public. So, it is about the competition of ideas. As long as the Government recognizes a Christian holyday, the detractors will want to have their say.

    I think the government should get out of the holiday business altogether. We need a consitutional amendment to grant every citizen seven annual “personal days” of their choosing. No government endorsement necessary for anyone’s choice of personal day, reasonable accomodation.

    The IRS could surely monitor such a program after we go to a flat tax system.

  • Joe

    We have jumped the shark on this issue by continual pushing for the right to have a nativity on public property. The current jurisprudence has said its okay as long as you let everyone play. In light of that, and because local gov’t officials will probably never pass an ordinance taking the nothing approach, Christians will have to keep putting up their displays at the courthouse, local park, etc. or there will be no Christian imagery at all. Just a park full of spaghetti monsters.

  • Joe

    We have jumped the shark on this issue by continual pushing for the right to have a nativity on public property. The current jurisprudence has said its okay as long as you let everyone play. In light of that, and because local gov’t officials will probably never pass an ordinance taking the nothing approach, Christians will have to keep putting up their displays at the courthouse, local park, etc. or there will be no Christian imagery at all. Just a park full of spaghetti monsters.

  • Dennis Peskey

    I vote for letting the government focus on governing, and the Church focus on Christ. Nativity scenes belong on church property for inside is where Christ is to be found. If you go searching for Christ at the county courthouse, your search is in vain. Display Him; proclaim Him; most of all, preach Him each and every Lord’s Day.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Dennis Peskey

    I vote for letting the government focus on governing, and the Church focus on Christ. Nativity scenes belong on church property for inside is where Christ is to be found. If you go searching for Christ at the county courthouse, your search is in vain. Display Him; proclaim Him; most of all, preach Him each and every Lord’s Day.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    The wrong hill to die on. Where you have a cliamte where there is a public acknowledgement of a shared cultural heritage (presuming there is such a heritage), AND there is a public acknowledgement of a “socio-cultural contract”, then a public display of religious imagery, such as a nativity scene, would work quite well. This still exists in parts of Europe, most notably in some Catholic countries. The reason this is such an issue in the US, and. In parts of Canada occassionaly, is because there is big resistance against the “socio-cultural contract”. In a me-me society, the rights and feelings of a small group will quickly triumph over the beliefs of even the majority. Freedom of becomes freedom from, and special interest groups make a farce of all freedoms. This stage is what is now visible in cases like this. Reason and logic have left the building.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    The wrong hill to die on. Where you have a cliamte where there is a public acknowledgement of a shared cultural heritage (presuming there is such a heritage), AND there is a public acknowledgement of a “socio-cultural contract”, then a public display of religious imagery, such as a nativity scene, would work quite well. This still exists in parts of Europe, most notably in some Catholic countries. The reason this is such an issue in the US, and. In parts of Canada occassionaly, is because there is big resistance against the “socio-cultural contract”. In a me-me society, the rights and feelings of a small group will quickly triumph over the beliefs of even the majority. Freedom of becomes freedom from, and special interest groups make a farce of all freedoms. This stage is what is now visible in cases like this. Reason and logic have left the building.

  • Gary

    “Reason and logic have left the building.”

    Well put. Reason and logic both hit the road some time ago. They left when the culture wars became nothing more than a struggle for power.

  • Gary

    “Reason and logic have left the building.”

    Well put. Reason and logic both hit the road some time ago. They left when the culture wars became nothing more than a struggle for power.

  • DonS

    I’m with Tom — if the government is going to have this silly “first ten applicants” policy, then by golly, Christians ought to jump in line next year. We should be out in the world proclaiming the message of Christ whenever possible, and here’s a golden opportunity both to do so and to prevent the substitution of an atheistic message.

    As to the current status of the extremely overzealous modern notions of “separation of church and state”, which somehow twist the Constitution’s prohibition against state-established religion to be that anything with a government tinge must be religion-free, that is an abomination which has mightily contributed to the corrosive secularization of our society, particularly as government has grown to ungainly levels and thus pushed religious expression into the dark corners of our culture. Our real efforts should be to push back against the growth of government and the swallowing up of so much property by government agencies, thus putting it off limits to religious expression.

    Another option we have is to establish an encampment at the Loudoun County Courthouse, claiming to be an aggrieved people. A precedent has clearly been established by OWS that camping on public property, at one’s own whim, is perfectly fine, and American in fact, — no reason why Dr. Veith and a contingent cannot do so, and fill the camp with Christian indicia.

  • DonS

    I’m with Tom — if the government is going to have this silly “first ten applicants” policy, then by golly, Christians ought to jump in line next year. We should be out in the world proclaiming the message of Christ whenever possible, and here’s a golden opportunity both to do so and to prevent the substitution of an atheistic message.

    As to the current status of the extremely overzealous modern notions of “separation of church and state”, which somehow twist the Constitution’s prohibition against state-established religion to be that anything with a government tinge must be religion-free, that is an abomination which has mightily contributed to the corrosive secularization of our society, particularly as government has grown to ungainly levels and thus pushed religious expression into the dark corners of our culture. Our real efforts should be to push back against the growth of government and the swallowing up of so much property by government agencies, thus putting it off limits to religious expression.

    Another option we have is to establish an encampment at the Loudoun County Courthouse, claiming to be an aggrieved people. A precedent has clearly been established by OWS that camping on public property, at one’s own whim, is perfectly fine, and American in fact, — no reason why Dr. Veith and a contingent cannot do so, and fill the camp with Christian indicia.

  • Helen F

    Actually, I’m still waiting for some Christian church, group, association to come up with a display that would show the truth of that old adage (not sure to whom it should be credited):
    “Christian faith in this country is a mile wide and an inch deep.”!!!

  • Helen F

    Actually, I’m still waiting for some Christian church, group, association to come up with a display that would show the truth of that old adage (not sure to whom it should be credited):
    “Christian faith in this country is a mile wide and an inch deep.”!!!

  • WisdomLover

    This country is peopled by Christians in a vast majority. When our holidays come, we’re going to celebrate them. Sorry, but I’m not sorry.

    Our celebrating Christmas is no rational basis for offense. So we need to stop apologizing for that. Non-Christians sure as heck don’t ever apologize for offending Christians, even when it is quite rational for Christians to be offended.

    Here’s what should be done:

    1. Christian politicians should grow a set and stop being afraid of offending the whining class.
    2. Non-Christians should grow-up and stop taking offense because their precious eyes catch sight of the dreaded baby Jesus.

  • WisdomLover

    This country is peopled by Christians in a vast majority. When our holidays come, we’re going to celebrate them. Sorry, but I’m not sorry.

    Our celebrating Christmas is no rational basis for offense. So we need to stop apologizing for that. Non-Christians sure as heck don’t ever apologize for offending Christians, even when it is quite rational for Christians to be offended.

    Here’s what should be done:

    1. Christian politicians should grow a set and stop being afraid of offending the whining class.
    2. Non-Christians should grow-up and stop taking offense because their precious eyes catch sight of the dreaded baby Jesus.

  • Helen K.

    Wisdom Lover @19
    +1 good for you

  • Helen K.

    Wisdom Lover @19
    +1 good for you

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Tom (@8) said:

    That sounds nicely paradoxical, but all it really expresses is a desire not to dirty one’s hands – to remain “above” a fray.

    Actually, it’s a reference to (and quote from) 1983′s WarGames, but never mind that now.

    And I very much disagree. Surely you’re familiar with the concept of knowing when to pick your battles. Not every battle is worth fighting, not every dare is worth taking.

    We as Christians don’t only send messages when we “win” whatever skirmish that has been laid out. We also send messages by our participation — by whether we choose to fight in the first place.

    Yes, we as Christians could seek to place (or shove) our message into every public space possible — “it’s a fray that can be easily won”, as you note. But that doesn’t mean that everyone (i.e. the public) will therefore only receive the message that we intend — to wit, “Jesus your savior was born in Bethlehem”.

    Heck, when I (a Christian) see Christians playing these petty games, the actual message of the Nativity is not the message I hear, either. Instead, I hear Christians saying that Christianity is actually about control — control of the culture, making sure they get their “fair share” of government property. I don’t hear much of anything about love, about Gospel, about Jesus, really. I mean, it’s there, but it’s buried under “We must oppose these godless heathen and how they’re ruining our culture with their sinful acts.” Seriously. Read DonS’s comment (@17).

    Faced with that (much louder) subtext, I don’t see the value in trying to win that fight. Let the Pastafarians (et al.) win their stupid “victory”, because, really, anyone in the company of those ten “victors” at the courthouse is going to look as stupid as them. I’d much rather see the Nativity scene on church property, where it will actually have meaning and value, and not be competing with idiocy.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Tom (@8) said:

    That sounds nicely paradoxical, but all it really expresses is a desire not to dirty one’s hands – to remain “above” a fray.

    Actually, it’s a reference to (and quote from) 1983′s WarGames, but never mind that now.

    And I very much disagree. Surely you’re familiar with the concept of knowing when to pick your battles. Not every battle is worth fighting, not every dare is worth taking.

    We as Christians don’t only send messages when we “win” whatever skirmish that has been laid out. We also send messages by our participation — by whether we choose to fight in the first place.

    Yes, we as Christians could seek to place (or shove) our message into every public space possible — “it’s a fray that can be easily won”, as you note. But that doesn’t mean that everyone (i.e. the public) will therefore only receive the message that we intend — to wit, “Jesus your savior was born in Bethlehem”.

    Heck, when I (a Christian) see Christians playing these petty games, the actual message of the Nativity is not the message I hear, either. Instead, I hear Christians saying that Christianity is actually about control — control of the culture, making sure they get their “fair share” of government property. I don’t hear much of anything about love, about Gospel, about Jesus, really. I mean, it’s there, but it’s buried under “We must oppose these godless heathen and how they’re ruining our culture with their sinful acts.” Seriously. Read DonS’s comment (@17).

    Faced with that (much louder) subtext, I don’t see the value in trying to win that fight. Let the Pastafarians (et al.) win their stupid “victory”, because, really, anyone in the company of those ten “victors” at the courthouse is going to look as stupid as them. I’d much rather see the Nativity scene on church property, where it will actually have meaning and value, and not be competing with idiocy.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Joe said (@13):

    Christians will have to keep putting up their displays at the courthouse, local park, etc. or there will be no Christian imagery at all.

    Um … are there no churches where you live? No Christians who own private property? Or is your “at all” rather hyperbolic?

    Why is it that the people who arguably are opposed to the increasing size and influence of government in modern society are so willing to concede the importance — indeed, the necessity — of government in getting their message out?

    Are we, as Christians, so incapable of influencing our culture from our own property that we need the government to do our work? Do we really believe that the courthouse is the place people go to be informed on religious concepts? Have we really given up on the notion that maybe, just maybe, the church is a better place for that?

    Just a park full of spaghetti monsters.

    Yes, bring it. What could better convey the pointlessness of government-aided messages than a park full of Spaghetti Monsters? When the public passes by the courthouse and sees nothing but reactionary anti-messages, and then sees a church property that conveys the message of sin and Savior, which will look better?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Joe said (@13):

    Christians will have to keep putting up their displays at the courthouse, local park, etc. or there will be no Christian imagery at all.

    Um … are there no churches where you live? No Christians who own private property? Or is your “at all” rather hyperbolic?

    Why is it that the people who arguably are opposed to the increasing size and influence of government in modern society are so willing to concede the importance — indeed, the necessity — of government in getting their message out?

    Are we, as Christians, so incapable of influencing our culture from our own property that we need the government to do our work? Do we really believe that the courthouse is the place people go to be informed on religious concepts? Have we really given up on the notion that maybe, just maybe, the church is a better place for that?

    Just a park full of spaghetti monsters.

    Yes, bring it. What could better convey the pointlessness of government-aided messages than a park full of Spaghetti Monsters? When the public passes by the courthouse and sees nothing but reactionary anti-messages, and then sees a church property that conveys the message of sin and Savior, which will look better?

  • Donegal Misfortune

    They should do just like what my city did. The chamber of commerce bought a parcel of land in front of the courthouse/city-hall making it private property and then put up their own nativity.

  • Donegal Misfortune

    They should do just like what my city did. The chamber of commerce bought a parcel of land in front of the courthouse/city-hall making it private property and then put up their own nativity.

  • http://quiacreeds.blogspot.com/ David Oberdieck

    I am pulled in two directions. I don’t like religion being thrust out of the public square, but we need not make this a battle. The church proclaims Christ. The world attacks Christ. That’s the way it is so let’s put our focus on proclaiming Him.

    BTW — I am not a big fan of the “Keep Christ in Christmas” bumper stickers. It seems to be too much culture war and too little a proclamation of the incarnation.

  • http://quiacreeds.blogspot.com/ David Oberdieck

    I am pulled in two directions. I don’t like religion being thrust out of the public square, but we need not make this a battle. The church proclaims Christ. The world attacks Christ. That’s the way it is so let’s put our focus on proclaiming Him.

    BTW — I am not a big fan of the “Keep Christ in Christmas” bumper stickers. It seems to be too much culture war and too little a proclamation of the incarnation.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS said (@17):

    If the government is going to have this silly “first ten applicants” policy, then by golly, Christians ought to jump in line next year.

    In other words, you will take on any dare, wisdom be damned. They won’t call you chicken, no sir!

    We should be out in the world proclaiming the message of Christ whenever possible…

    Really, whenever “possible“? Do you witness to the guy standing next to you at the urinals, every time? Because that’s possible. But I fear it may be really creepy, as well, and that creepiness would most likely overshadow any message you hoped to send.

    What about wisdom? Because I’m pretty certain wisdom doesn’t do everything that’s “possible”. A list of patently ridiculous witnessing concepts practically writes itself. Unfortunately, in modern America, many of these concepts are actually enacted by Christians who can’t tell the difference between what’s wise and what’s possible. I mean, a clown Eucharist is possible. Unfortunately.

    government has grown to ungainly levels and thus pushed religious expression into the dark corners of our culture

    Do you really think so little of your own church’s efforts, of your own personal witness, Don? Can God not work in our culture unless we wage battles to control the meager public spaces — which are arguably darker corners than the ones inhabited by our churches, or at least they should be?

    Our real efforts should be to push back against the growth of government and the swallowing up of so much property by government agencies

    Yeah, let’s get the government out of our courthouses! ;P

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS said (@17):

    If the government is going to have this silly “first ten applicants” policy, then by golly, Christians ought to jump in line next year.

    In other words, you will take on any dare, wisdom be damned. They won’t call you chicken, no sir!

    We should be out in the world proclaiming the message of Christ whenever possible…

    Really, whenever “possible“? Do you witness to the guy standing next to you at the urinals, every time? Because that’s possible. But I fear it may be really creepy, as well, and that creepiness would most likely overshadow any message you hoped to send.

    What about wisdom? Because I’m pretty certain wisdom doesn’t do everything that’s “possible”. A list of patently ridiculous witnessing concepts practically writes itself. Unfortunately, in modern America, many of these concepts are actually enacted by Christians who can’t tell the difference between what’s wise and what’s possible. I mean, a clown Eucharist is possible. Unfortunately.

    government has grown to ungainly levels and thus pushed religious expression into the dark corners of our culture

    Do you really think so little of your own church’s efforts, of your own personal witness, Don? Can God not work in our culture unless we wage battles to control the meager public spaces — which are arguably darker corners than the ones inhabited by our churches, or at least they should be?

    Our real efforts should be to push back against the growth of government and the swallowing up of so much property by government agencies

    Yeah, let’s get the government out of our courthouses! ;P

  • SKPeterson

    Important question – will the Spaghetti Monster displays be made fresh daily with plates and forks handy? Nothing says Christmas like hot spaghetti and meatballs served on the County courthouse lawn by a few of the local churches.

  • SKPeterson

    Important question – will the Spaghetti Monster displays be made fresh daily with plates and forks handy? Nothing says Christmas like hot spaghetti and meatballs served on the County courthouse lawn by a few of the local churches.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    WisdomLover said (@19):

    When our holidays come, we’re going to celebrate them. Sorry, but I’m not sorry.

    And when they come, are you going to celebrate them at your home and in your church, or are you going to celebrate your Christian holidays down at the courthouse? Because who does that?

    Our celebrating Christmas is no rational basis for offense.

    Um … really? Because the Bible is pretty clear that people will be offended by Jesus, by the Cross, by the Gospel. God himself tells us people will hate us for these things, just as they hated Jesus. Do you want to argue otherwise, WisdomLover?

    Non-Christians sure as heck don’t ever apologize for offending Christians, even when it is quite rational for Christians to be offended.

    So should we look to non-Christians as the basis for how we should act? Are they are measuring rod for what is right? Should we sink to their level, as it were? Is this your reading of the Golden Rule?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    WisdomLover said (@19):

    When our holidays come, we’re going to celebrate them. Sorry, but I’m not sorry.

    And when they come, are you going to celebrate them at your home and in your church, or are you going to celebrate your Christian holidays down at the courthouse? Because who does that?

    Our celebrating Christmas is no rational basis for offense.

    Um … really? Because the Bible is pretty clear that people will be offended by Jesus, by the Cross, by the Gospel. God himself tells us people will hate us for these things, just as they hated Jesus. Do you want to argue otherwise, WisdomLover?

    Non-Christians sure as heck don’t ever apologize for offending Christians, even when it is quite rational for Christians to be offended.

    So should we look to non-Christians as the basis for how we should act? Are they are measuring rod for what is right? Should we sink to their level, as it were? Is this your reading of the Golden Rule?

  • Tom Hering

    For what it’s worth, a story about the way a local government in my area is handling the issue:

    http://centralwisconsinhub.wausaudailyherald.com/article/20111129/WDH0101/111290555/Wisconsin-Rapids-restores-Nativity-scene?odyssey=tab|mostpopular|text|FRONTPAGE

  • Tom Hering

    For what it’s worth, a story about the way a local government in my area is handling the issue:

    http://centralwisconsinhub.wausaudailyherald.com/article/20111129/WDH0101/111290555/Wisconsin-Rapids-restores-Nativity-scene?odyssey=tab|mostpopular|text|FRONTPAGE

  • Dust

    WisdomLover at 19…..those are good points, if that’s the result you desire. To that end, it would be helpful to find a way to motivate the the politicians and businesses.

    Have always thought if the Christian community would boycott Christmas just one year, even if just 50% less gifts, it would get the serious attention of businesses that depend on that revenue, and thus the politicians would pay attention?

    Seems over the past few years the businesses have been listening better and beginning to replace the “happy holiday” jargon with a simple “Merry Christmas” so perhaps a little more “heat” will take it back to where many folks would apparently like to see it?

    Cheers!

  • Dust

    WisdomLover at 19…..those are good points, if that’s the result you desire. To that end, it would be helpful to find a way to motivate the the politicians and businesses.

    Have always thought if the Christian community would boycott Christmas just one year, even if just 50% less gifts, it would get the serious attention of businesses that depend on that revenue, and thus the politicians would pay attention?

    Seems over the past few years the businesses have been listening better and beginning to replace the “happy holiday” jargon with a simple “Merry Christmas” so perhaps a little more “heat” will take it back to where many folks would apparently like to see it?

    Cheers!

  • WisdomLover

    Todd-

    I’ll take your points in reverse order.

    I’d always assumed that the golden rule is a rule for me not for the church (and is, by the way, withering law that I will never live up to). The fact that you and I manage to do a poor job of kinda-sorta following the golden rule keeps the world from becoming a jungle. And, more importantly, it drives me back to the cross.

    The church is, at least in part, a political body subject to all the messy left-hand kingdom issues that any other political body is subject to. There’s no piety in pretending that this is not true.

    My point about offense is that there is no rational basis for offense in Christians celebrating Christmas in a predominately Christian society. This is entirely compatible with the fact that people do take offense. It does imply that those who take offense are behaving irrationally. So the Bible accurately predicts that people will behave irrationally in their treatment of Christians. No problem with what I said here.

    As for where we may celebrate our Christian holidays. The answer is that we may celebrate them anywhere that it is both practical and morally permissible to celebrate them. If a Christian family wants to pay for a Creche, and a city council composed of Christians wants to have the Creche set up on city land, there is just no good reason they shouldn’t do so. And no they’re not obligated in any way to give equal or proportional city space to atheists or Muslims.

    Again sorry, but I’m not sorry.

  • WisdomLover

    Todd-

    I’ll take your points in reverse order.

    I’d always assumed that the golden rule is a rule for me not for the church (and is, by the way, withering law that I will never live up to). The fact that you and I manage to do a poor job of kinda-sorta following the golden rule keeps the world from becoming a jungle. And, more importantly, it drives me back to the cross.

    The church is, at least in part, a political body subject to all the messy left-hand kingdom issues that any other political body is subject to. There’s no piety in pretending that this is not true.

    My point about offense is that there is no rational basis for offense in Christians celebrating Christmas in a predominately Christian society. This is entirely compatible with the fact that people do take offense. It does imply that those who take offense are behaving irrationally. So the Bible accurately predicts that people will behave irrationally in their treatment of Christians. No problem with what I said here.

    As for where we may celebrate our Christian holidays. The answer is that we may celebrate them anywhere that it is both practical and morally permissible to celebrate them. If a Christian family wants to pay for a Creche, and a city council composed of Christians wants to have the Creche set up on city land, there is just no good reason they shouldn’t do so. And no they’re not obligated in any way to give equal or proportional city space to atheists or Muslims.

    Again sorry, but I’m not sorry.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @10 Yes, it would be better not to have anything on public property in the sense that it demonstrates the sheer impossibility of truly pluralistic culture.

    Religious displays on government property are easier to do when the overwhelming majority support them and when dissenters fear offending that majority. The US holds together due at least largely, if not only due to its prosperity. Folks come here to become prosperous. For this reason they leave their homes to come here and live better in this world. They don’t come because they feel affection or community with those already here.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @10 Yes, it would be better not to have anything on public property in the sense that it demonstrates the sheer impossibility of truly pluralistic culture.

    Religious displays on government property are easier to do when the overwhelming majority support them and when dissenters fear offending that majority. The US holds together due at least largely, if not only due to its prosperity. Folks come here to become prosperous. For this reason they leave their homes to come here and live better in this world. They don’t come because they feel affection or community with those already here.

  • Joe

    tODD – I don’t disagree. I think you may have misunderstood (or, perhaps more likely, I failed to clearly articulate) what I was trying to say. I was basically saying that this current situation (i.e. everyone gets to put up their sign) is the fault of those Christians who pushed and pushed to have the nativities at the courthouse. I don’t think having them there is a good idea. I would rather they were not there, they belong at churches and homes. In fact, I think all of the groups should NOT be there. I just don’t think it is actually ever going to come to pass that the local county board will say, “no displays for anyone.” And, since that is were we find ourselves, we ought to put up the nativity or else the courthouse lawn will have everyone except Christ represented. That was what I meant to convey.

    Now your comment:

    “Yes, bring it. What could better convey the pointlessness of government-aided messages than a park full of Spaghetti Monsters? When the public passes by the courthouse and sees nothing but reactionary anti-messages, and then sees a church property that conveys the message of sin and Savior, which will look better?”

    is pretty spot on. I can get behind this all day long. This is a better course of action than what I proposed.

  • Joe

    tODD – I don’t disagree. I think you may have misunderstood (or, perhaps more likely, I failed to clearly articulate) what I was trying to say. I was basically saying that this current situation (i.e. everyone gets to put up their sign) is the fault of those Christians who pushed and pushed to have the nativities at the courthouse. I don’t think having them there is a good idea. I would rather they were not there, they belong at churches and homes. In fact, I think all of the groups should NOT be there. I just don’t think it is actually ever going to come to pass that the local county board will say, “no displays for anyone.” And, since that is were we find ourselves, we ought to put up the nativity or else the courthouse lawn will have everyone except Christ represented. That was what I meant to convey.

    Now your comment:

    “Yes, bring it. What could better convey the pointlessness of government-aided messages than a park full of Spaghetti Monsters? When the public passes by the courthouse and sees nothing but reactionary anti-messages, and then sees a church property that conveys the message of sin and Savior, which will look better?”

    is pretty spot on. I can get behind this all day long. This is a better course of action than what I proposed.

  • mikeb

    David Oberdieck @ 24

    BTW — I am not a big fan of the “Keep Christ in Christmas” bumper stickers.

    I agree. I’m so tired of the anti- X-Mas crowd. Seems we’ve been hit with lots of Facebook chatter this year. I rarely abbreviate to X-Mas but I go out of my way to gently explain that it’s the letter “Chi” and note anti-Christian when I see see someone complaining about it. It seems such the wrong fight–complaining about a slight that doesn’t exist–rather than proclaiming even if in a subtle way.

  • mikeb

    David Oberdieck @ 24

    BTW — I am not a big fan of the “Keep Christ in Christmas” bumper stickers.

    I agree. I’m so tired of the anti- X-Mas crowd. Seems we’ve been hit with lots of Facebook chatter this year. I rarely abbreviate to X-Mas but I go out of my way to gently explain that it’s the letter “Chi” and note anti-Christian when I see see someone complaining about it. It seems such the wrong fight–complaining about a slight that doesn’t exist–rather than proclaiming even if in a subtle way.

  • Tom Hering

    “… the fault of those Christians who pushed and pushed to have the nativities at the courthouse.”

    I think in most cases it’s been a matter of keeping nativities on public land, or getting them back on public lands. The only “push” I remember is the push to have them removed.

  • Tom Hering

    “… the fault of those Christians who pushed and pushed to have the nativities at the courthouse.”

    I think in most cases it’s been a matter of keeping nativities on public land, or getting them back on public lands. The only “push” I remember is the push to have them removed.

  • Dust

    I use Xmas a lot, but always draw a line going up thru the center and with a loop on top, someone told me it was the rho figure, and
    put together they are an abbreviation for Christ? Sure generate a lot of questions from inquiring minds :)

    P
    | /
    | /
    |/
    /|
    / |
    / |

    Someone told me it’s the same figure Beck uses on the cover of his bible translation?

    Cheers!

  • Dust

    I use Xmas a lot, but always draw a line going up thru the center and with a loop on top, someone told me it was the rho figure, and
    put together they are an abbreviation for Christ? Sure generate a lot of questions from inquiring minds :)

    P
    | /
    | /
    |/
    /|
    / |
    / |

    Someone told me it’s the same figure Beck uses on the cover of his bible translation?

    Cheers!

  • Dust

    oops, my attempt at drawing it turned out really, really bad :(

  • Dust

    oops, my attempt at drawing it turned out really, really bad :(

  • Rose

    Notice that those who call the nativity “offensive” are themselves the rather nasty folk. Projection?

  • Rose

    Notice that those who call the nativity “offensive” are themselves the rather nasty folk. Projection?

  • Tom Hering

    “my attempt at drawing it turned out really, really bad”

    Ya, it looks like a symbol for someone p-ing. :-D

  • Tom Hering

    “my attempt at drawing it turned out really, really bad”

    Ya, it looks like a symbol for someone p-ing. :-D

  • helen

    Show search tools Chi Rho – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    The Chi Rho is one of the earliest forms of christogram, and is used by Christians.
    It is formed by superimposing the first two (capital) letters chi and rho (ΧΡ) of …

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chi_Rho – Cached – SimilarImages for CHI RHO

    You’re right about the Chi_Rho, and wikipedia has several examples at this site.

  • helen

    Show search tools Chi Rho – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    The Chi Rho is one of the earliest forms of christogram, and is used by Christians.
    It is formed by superimposing the first two (capital) letters chi and rho (ΧΡ) of …

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chi_Rho – Cached – SimilarImages for CHI RHO

    You’re right about the Chi_Rho, and wikipedia has several examples at this site.

  • mikeb

    Tom and Helen,

    If I recall correctly David Oberdieck @ 24 wore a green stole last week with a Chi Rho symbol on it. We’ve switched to purple vestments and paraments for Advent and I don’t recall what symbols that stole has–the new banners behind the altar are all I could see!

    Both the Chi Rho symbol and the more common icthus (fish icon) are beautiful symbols with great histories. Someone will correct me if I’m wrong, but the word icthus means fish in Latin, hence the drawing, but the letters form an acronym that roughly translates into English as “Jesus Christ the Son of God”.

  • mikeb

    Tom and Helen,

    If I recall correctly David Oberdieck @ 24 wore a green stole last week with a Chi Rho symbol on it. We’ve switched to purple vestments and paraments for Advent and I don’t recall what symbols that stole has–the new banners behind the altar are all I could see!

    Both the Chi Rho symbol and the more common icthus (fish icon) are beautiful symbols with great histories. Someone will correct me if I’m wrong, but the word icthus means fish in Latin, hence the drawing, but the letters form an acronym that roughly translates into English as “Jesus Christ the Son of God”.

  • Gary

    mikeb–”the word icthus means fish in Latin” no, in Greek.

    Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior

  • Gary

    mikeb–”the word icthus means fish in Latin” no, in Greek.

    Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior

  • mikeb

    Gary @ 41

    Thanks and I stand corrected; it’s all Greek to me! (Yes, that was on purpose.)

    Just for fun I Googled to see what the Greek words are:

    The Greek spelling for ichthus [looks something like] IXOYE. These are the first letters of the Greek words Iesous (Iota), Christos (Chi), Theou (Theta), Uios (Upsilon), and Sotor (Sigma).– “The History of the Icthus“by Dr. Gregory B. Dill

  • mikeb

    Gary @ 41

    Thanks and I stand corrected; it’s all Greek to me! (Yes, that was on purpose.)

    Just for fun I Googled to see what the Greek words are:

    The Greek spelling for ichthus [looks something like] IXOYE. These are the first letters of the Greek words Iesous (Iota), Christos (Chi), Theou (Theta), Uios (Upsilon), and Sotor (Sigma).– “The History of the Icthus“by Dr. Gregory B. Dill

  • steve

    Iconoclasm has happened quite a bit throughout history; mostly perpetrated by religious (often posing as irreligious) zealots. The only difference here is the use of the legal system to carry out the removal. There is really no reason to prohibit the display of nativity scenes on public property in a country with such a strong Christian heritage. No, that doesn’t make us a Christian country; but it does mean that Christianity has played pivotal roles in it’s history and in the lives of many of it’s key figures. If anyone doubts the importance of the Christian tradition of Christmas in America they need only look at the sales figures. I don’t care that some say it’s simply a sign of rampant commercialism. Please note that Hanukkah, Eid, Diwali, nor any other religious tradition is so widely observed. Is it a bad thing? Does it promote Christianity? Does it make us a Christian country? I’ve spent a large amount of time in theocratic countries. I know what they look like. This is not that. It simply means Christianity is important in our country. To not just ignore this fact, but blatantly, purposefully avoid this fact on our public properties is just silly. It’s living in denial. Of course, those who run our public services must be used to living in denial but still.

  • steve

    Iconoclasm has happened quite a bit throughout history; mostly perpetrated by religious (often posing as irreligious) zealots. The only difference here is the use of the legal system to carry out the removal. There is really no reason to prohibit the display of nativity scenes on public property in a country with such a strong Christian heritage. No, that doesn’t make us a Christian country; but it does mean that Christianity has played pivotal roles in it’s history and in the lives of many of it’s key figures. If anyone doubts the importance of the Christian tradition of Christmas in America they need only look at the sales figures. I don’t care that some say it’s simply a sign of rampant commercialism. Please note that Hanukkah, Eid, Diwali, nor any other religious tradition is so widely observed. Is it a bad thing? Does it promote Christianity? Does it make us a Christian country? I’ve spent a large amount of time in theocratic countries. I know what they look like. This is not that. It simply means Christianity is important in our country. To not just ignore this fact, but blatantly, purposefully avoid this fact on our public properties is just silly. It’s living in denial. Of course, those who run our public services must be used to living in denial but still.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    WisdomLover (@30):

    My point about offense is that there is no rational basis for offense in Christians celebrating Christmas in a predominately Christian society.

    Which completely misses the point that the offense here isn’t being registered about whether Christians celebrate Christmas, it’s the way in which some Christians are asserting a right — possibly even a somewhat exclusive right (with an eye to barring certain groups from using the same right) — to use public property to do so.

    As for where we may celebrate our Christian holidays. The answer is that we may celebrate them anywhere that it is both practical and morally permissible to celebrate them.

    Notably missing from your consideration — especially ironic, given your handle here — is the notion of wisdom. And love. Love even to our enemies.

    Seriously. Insisting on rights, and exercising our rights to insist on getting our way because we happen to be in the majority or in power (for now) is no way to win friends, and it obviously doesn’t feel like love to many of the non-Christians in the country.

    Read the parable of the shrewd manager. That guy knew how to make friends with the earthly gifts he had. But Culture Warriors seem intent on expending every last drop of political power to make everyone know just how Important they are … until they lose that power. I’m sure that will send the right message to non-believers, and that Christians won’t face any backlash from such behavior.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    WisdomLover (@30):

    My point about offense is that there is no rational basis for offense in Christians celebrating Christmas in a predominately Christian society.

    Which completely misses the point that the offense here isn’t being registered about whether Christians celebrate Christmas, it’s the way in which some Christians are asserting a right — possibly even a somewhat exclusive right (with an eye to barring certain groups from using the same right) — to use public property to do so.

    As for where we may celebrate our Christian holidays. The answer is that we may celebrate them anywhere that it is both practical and morally permissible to celebrate them.

    Notably missing from your consideration — especially ironic, given your handle here — is the notion of wisdom. And love. Love even to our enemies.

    Seriously. Insisting on rights, and exercising our rights to insist on getting our way because we happen to be in the majority or in power (for now) is no way to win friends, and it obviously doesn’t feel like love to many of the non-Christians in the country.

    Read the parable of the shrewd manager. That guy knew how to make friends with the earthly gifts he had. But Culture Warriors seem intent on expending every last drop of political power to make everyone know just how Important they are … until they lose that power. I’m sure that will send the right message to non-believers, and that Christians won’t face any backlash from such behavior.

  • WisdomLover

    Todd-

    Of course the issue is whether Christians celebrate Christmas. Do you honestly think that if Christians stop putting up religious displays on public land that the atheists will stop whining. Nonsense. The next issue will be that Christians put up religious displays that are visible from public land. And once Christians cave in to that, it will be something else.

    Christians have been using public and private property to celebrate Christmas for as long as Christians have been celebrating Christmas in America. And Christians have been placing religious displays on public land for as long as Christians have been in America. What’s new is not the way Christians are now asserting an exclusive right to do so. What’s new is the manifestly false claim that we do not have that exclusive right while Christianity is the majority religion.

    As for the whole issue of Christians happening to be in the majority now and fearing a backlash. There is no doubt in my mind that if Atheists were ever the majority Christianity and all other religions would soon be outlawed no matter what we do now. Read atheists thinkers and look at the history of atheist regimes in the world and try to draw a different conclusion.

    And, while Muslims would probably be a much more tolerant than Atheists, there’s nothing we do now about celebrating Christmas or any other religious observance that would make a gnat’s navel of difference if this country ever becomes Ameristan. Christians will be second-class citizens if that ever happens, and nothing we do now will prevent that.

    I’m not quite as worried should Judaism, Buddhism or Hinduism get the upper hand. We wouldn’t get to put up Creches anymore, and I’d expect the new majority religion to exercise its exclusive rights to use public property for various religious displays (again, within the limits of morality and practicality). Grown-up Christians will accept that. I’d expect, for example, that if Jews control the city council, they would be well within their rights to put up menorahs and other Jewish symbols anywhere they want. Ditto for the Hindus and Buddhists.

    As for my handle, nothing about it implies that I have any wisdom. No doubt I don’t, making me just like you and everyone else. Nor does it imply any particular love of my fellow man. I’m probably every bit the stodgy misanthrope that you judge me to be. It does imply that I love wisdom. Though that’s largely an aspiration rather than a fact.

    I will say that I don’t think wisdom is a pastiche of liberal policy. I’m inclined to think that that’s folly. For example, it seems that a sure way for Christians to really become a minority is to be intimidated into giving up longstanding traditions and observances.

  • WisdomLover

    Todd-

    Of course the issue is whether Christians celebrate Christmas. Do you honestly think that if Christians stop putting up religious displays on public land that the atheists will stop whining. Nonsense. The next issue will be that Christians put up religious displays that are visible from public land. And once Christians cave in to that, it will be something else.

    Christians have been using public and private property to celebrate Christmas for as long as Christians have been celebrating Christmas in America. And Christians have been placing religious displays on public land for as long as Christians have been in America. What’s new is not the way Christians are now asserting an exclusive right to do so. What’s new is the manifestly false claim that we do not have that exclusive right while Christianity is the majority religion.

    As for the whole issue of Christians happening to be in the majority now and fearing a backlash. There is no doubt in my mind that if Atheists were ever the majority Christianity and all other religions would soon be outlawed no matter what we do now. Read atheists thinkers and look at the history of atheist regimes in the world and try to draw a different conclusion.

    And, while Muslims would probably be a much more tolerant than Atheists, there’s nothing we do now about celebrating Christmas or any other religious observance that would make a gnat’s navel of difference if this country ever becomes Ameristan. Christians will be second-class citizens if that ever happens, and nothing we do now will prevent that.

    I’m not quite as worried should Judaism, Buddhism or Hinduism get the upper hand. We wouldn’t get to put up Creches anymore, and I’d expect the new majority religion to exercise its exclusive rights to use public property for various religious displays (again, within the limits of morality and practicality). Grown-up Christians will accept that. I’d expect, for example, that if Jews control the city council, they would be well within their rights to put up menorahs and other Jewish symbols anywhere they want. Ditto for the Hindus and Buddhists.

    As for my handle, nothing about it implies that I have any wisdom. No doubt I don’t, making me just like you and everyone else. Nor does it imply any particular love of my fellow man. I’m probably every bit the stodgy misanthrope that you judge me to be. It does imply that I love wisdom. Though that’s largely an aspiration rather than a fact.

    I will say that I don’t think wisdom is a pastiche of liberal policy. I’m inclined to think that that’s folly. For example, it seems that a sure way for Christians to really become a minority is to be intimidated into giving up longstanding traditions and observances.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 25: “In other words, you will take on any dare, wisdom be damned. They won’t call you chicken, no sir!” — I don’t understand your point. The Loudoun County policy is not a dare. They’re not daring anybody to do anything. They are providing an opportunity for expression on public land. Why not take them up on it? If there is going to be expression on public land, during the Christmas season, I would rather see Christian expression be a part of that mix than not present at all.

    “Really, whenever “possible“? Do you witness to the guy standing next to you at the urinals, every time? ” — yeah, OK. It’s sort of a given that I was advocating for reasonable expression, but whatever. And, of course, wisdom should be a part of the process. Or is it your position that, by definition, a church putting a nativity scene on public land is not exercising wisdom?

    Do you really think so little of your own church’s efforts, of your own personal witness, Don? Can God not work in our culture unless we wage battles to control the meager public spaces

    Who’s talking about waging a battle? The policy is in place — my point was simply that Christians should apply and play a role in the expression that is destined to occur.

    Do you really think that public spaces are “meager”? My whole point is that they aren’t. Which is the problem. Government has encroached ever more into heretofore private spaces, thus forcing faith expression further into the margins. In the west, government owns 40% of the land in many states. In urban areas and high cost areas, many churches don’t have private property to put their creches on. They purchase or rent warehouse space, with severe signage restrictions, or rent schools for their services. If they can’t express themselves on public land, they can’t do it at all. Moreover, government funding is a proxy for government land ownership, insofar as it forces religious expression out of whatever sector of society is infused with that funding. That is a concern to me — perhaps not to you. And it’s largely because of a serious misunderstanding of the meaning of the prohibition against government establishing religion, which misunderstanding is abetted and furthered by a fervent anti-faith lobby. The apostles didn’t allow themselves to be silenced by government authorities who wanted their message suppressed — nor should we.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 25: “In other words, you will take on any dare, wisdom be damned. They won’t call you chicken, no sir!” — I don’t understand your point. The Loudoun County policy is not a dare. They’re not daring anybody to do anything. They are providing an opportunity for expression on public land. Why not take them up on it? If there is going to be expression on public land, during the Christmas season, I would rather see Christian expression be a part of that mix than not present at all.

    “Really, whenever “possible“? Do you witness to the guy standing next to you at the urinals, every time? ” — yeah, OK. It’s sort of a given that I was advocating for reasonable expression, but whatever. And, of course, wisdom should be a part of the process. Or is it your position that, by definition, a church putting a nativity scene on public land is not exercising wisdom?

    Do you really think so little of your own church’s efforts, of your own personal witness, Don? Can God not work in our culture unless we wage battles to control the meager public spaces

    Who’s talking about waging a battle? The policy is in place — my point was simply that Christians should apply and play a role in the expression that is destined to occur.

    Do you really think that public spaces are “meager”? My whole point is that they aren’t. Which is the problem. Government has encroached ever more into heretofore private spaces, thus forcing faith expression further into the margins. In the west, government owns 40% of the land in many states. In urban areas and high cost areas, many churches don’t have private property to put their creches on. They purchase or rent warehouse space, with severe signage restrictions, or rent schools for their services. If they can’t express themselves on public land, they can’t do it at all. Moreover, government funding is a proxy for government land ownership, insofar as it forces religious expression out of whatever sector of society is infused with that funding. That is a concern to me — perhaps not to you. And it’s largely because of a serious misunderstanding of the meaning of the prohibition against government establishing religion, which misunderstanding is abetted and furthered by a fervent anti-faith lobby. The apostles didn’t allow themselves to be silenced by government authorities who wanted their message suppressed — nor should we.

  • Dust

    Tom at 38…..you’re right, ha! But didn’t draw it that way in the comment box. All those spaces must have “leaked” out :)

  • Dust

    Tom at 38…..you’re right, ha! But didn’t draw it that way in the comment box. All those spaces must have “leaked” out :)

  • DrJoan

    I can’t find any mention here that Christmas (December 25th) is a FEDERAL holiday!

  • DrJoan

    I can’t find any mention here that Christmas (December 25th) is a FEDERAL holiday!

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    WisdomLover said (@45):

    Nonsense. The next issue will be that Christians put up religious displays that are visible from public land.

    It’s not clear to me why you think your paranoiac fantasies are supposed to be convincing me. Is it possible we could stick to the actual facts here? Because to me, it just sounds like you don’t know any atheists, and you’re scared of all of them.

    And Christians have been placing religious displays on public land for as long as Christians have been in America.

    [Citation needed]

    What’s new is not the way Christians are now asserting an exclusive right to do so. What’s new is the manifestly false claim that we do not have that exclusive right while Christianity is the majority religion.

    Wait, you really believe Christians have an “exclusive right” to do … whatever … based merely on the fact that, as you reckon things, “Christianity is the majority religion”? Seriously?

    Are you just lumping every conceivably Christian group together so as to arrive at some convenient majority to make your predetermined case? Because the Christian groups aren’t acting in concert here, you know. They’re acting as individual groups, at least when it comes to Nativity displays, etc. And not all the other Christians agree with what some of these Christians groups are doing. So if you’re going to assert that Christians are “the majority”, then at least show your math.

    I’m pretty sure that the modern American Evangelical Christianity that seems to underlie most of the animus here is actually quite in the minority, numerically speaking. Are the Evangelicals suddenly going to pretend that all the liberal mainstream denominations are their friends just so they can pretend they’re a majority acting with one voice?

    Not that that’s really the point. Since when, in America, are “exclusive rights” determined by simple-majority demographics? Do you labor under the false pretense that this is a democracy, not a republic? Is the Bill of Rights meaningless? Are you just making crap up?

    It seems that a sure way for Christians to really become a minority is to be intimidated into giving up longstanding traditions and observances.

    Yeah? Then I’d really recommend you (re)read Galatians and Hebrews. Because that attitude kind of gets a smackdown in those letters, among others. The power of Christianity has never been in numbers or in “traditions and observances”, and focusing on either of those is, historically, a surefire way to lose track of what Christianity is actually about.

    But sure, whatever, go ahead. Fight this battle to the death, as if it were actually commanded by God to set up your creche next to the other fools on that courthouse property. Waste all your money, your political capitol, and your public good will on this trivial fight. See where it gets you. Have at it.

    Just don’t call it “wisdom”, will you?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    WisdomLover said (@45):

    Nonsense. The next issue will be that Christians put up religious displays that are visible from public land.

    It’s not clear to me why you think your paranoiac fantasies are supposed to be convincing me. Is it possible we could stick to the actual facts here? Because to me, it just sounds like you don’t know any atheists, and you’re scared of all of them.

    And Christians have been placing religious displays on public land for as long as Christians have been in America.

    [Citation needed]

    What’s new is not the way Christians are now asserting an exclusive right to do so. What’s new is the manifestly false claim that we do not have that exclusive right while Christianity is the majority religion.

    Wait, you really believe Christians have an “exclusive right” to do … whatever … based merely on the fact that, as you reckon things, “Christianity is the majority religion”? Seriously?

    Are you just lumping every conceivably Christian group together so as to arrive at some convenient majority to make your predetermined case? Because the Christian groups aren’t acting in concert here, you know. They’re acting as individual groups, at least when it comes to Nativity displays, etc. And not all the other Christians agree with what some of these Christians groups are doing. So if you’re going to assert that Christians are “the majority”, then at least show your math.

    I’m pretty sure that the modern American Evangelical Christianity that seems to underlie most of the animus here is actually quite in the minority, numerically speaking. Are the Evangelicals suddenly going to pretend that all the liberal mainstream denominations are their friends just so they can pretend they’re a majority acting with one voice?

    Not that that’s really the point. Since when, in America, are “exclusive rights” determined by simple-majority demographics? Do you labor under the false pretense that this is a democracy, not a republic? Is the Bill of Rights meaningless? Are you just making crap up?

    It seems that a sure way for Christians to really become a minority is to be intimidated into giving up longstanding traditions and observances.

    Yeah? Then I’d really recommend you (re)read Galatians and Hebrews. Because that attitude kind of gets a smackdown in those letters, among others. The power of Christianity has never been in numbers or in “traditions and observances”, and focusing on either of those is, historically, a surefire way to lose track of what Christianity is actually about.

    But sure, whatever, go ahead. Fight this battle to the death, as if it were actually commanded by God to set up your creche next to the other fools on that courthouse property. Waste all your money, your political capitol, and your public good will on this trivial fight. See where it gets you. Have at it.

    Just don’t call it “wisdom”, will you?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS asked (@46):

    They are providing an opportunity for expression on public land. Why not take them up on it?

    Well, to repeat myself, because it might not be wise. Or winsome. Or come across as very loving. Or any combination of these. I really don’t see any consideration of these factors among those advocating that we simply have to join this battle to win control of the culture!!!!

    I mean, if my city hall were holding a belching contest, I would not, for some bizarre reason, feel the need to convince my church that we simply have to have a member enter the contest, with the result that our congregation’s pastor belches out “Our God is an Awesome God” in some attempt at influencing the culture wherever there’s an opportunity.

    And lest you think a belching contest is an over-the-top comparison, let me remind you that this courthouse is going to feature a Pastafarian entry. That tells you about the quality of the other entrants. Why do you want to be associated with that?

    If there is going to be expression on public land, during the Christmas season, I would rather see Christian expression be a part of that mix than not present at all.

    Why? You know that Christians can and will be expressing their message from their church properties and from the homes and private businesses of their congregants, as they do every year. So why do you — who supposedly want to see less government influence in our society — place such a high value on government-aided expression? Why, in short, do you care at all what goes on the courthouse lawn? I mean, I can’t tell you what’s on my courthouse lawn right now. I could tell you what display they have up at my local supermarket. Because that has actual cultural relevance in people’s daily lives.

    It’s sort of a given that I was advocating for reasonable expression…

    So you’d hope, I guess. And yet, here we are, discussing how to outshine the Pastafarian exhibit at the courthouse, in some bizarre attempt to win souls by controlling the culture. So I’m not really sure you get the benefit of the doubt for “reasonable expression”.

    Or is it your position that, by definition, a church putting a nativity scene on public land is not exercising wisdom?

    It could be — it likely was in the past. But, to belabor the point, when it becomes about control, about wielding power, about making sure you get yours, about a race to the bottom with all the other fools, well, I really don’t see where wisdom comes in there. It’s not like the courthouse is our only option for expression, after all, is it?

    Do you really think that public spaces are “meager”?

    Well, yes. Because the only people I ever hear expressing opinions about what goes up at the courthouse lawn are Culture Warriors and the people who fight them out of sheer bloody-mindedness. Not anybody I actually ever talk to, day to day. This is such a pathetically unimportant battlefield. And yet, Culture Warriors seem hellbent on associating Christianity with such pettiness.

    Government has encroached ever more into heretofore private spaces, thus forcing faith expression further into the margins. In the west, government owns 40% of the land in many states.

    I’m sure that’s an important issue for you. But try to keep in mind what we’re actually talking about here. We’re talking about a courthouse lawn. Are you objecting to government owning the property on which a courthouse sits? Is that a problem for you?

    In urban areas and high cost areas, many churches don’t have private property to put their creches on. They purchase or rent warehouse space, with severe signage restrictions, or rent schools for their services. If they can’t express themselves on public land, they can’t do it at all.

    You know, I’ve spent most of my time in Portland in churches that met in warehouses and schools, and I’m pretty sure that we had members with private property at most of those churches, so I kind of think your complaint is vastly overblown here. Is there some reason you think the courthouse lawn is such an important venue for speech that it simply must be available to Christians to put up their Biblically-mandated creches?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    DonS asked (@46):

    They are providing an opportunity for expression on public land. Why not take them up on it?

    Well, to repeat myself, because it might not be wise. Or winsome. Or come across as very loving. Or any combination of these. I really don’t see any consideration of these factors among those advocating that we simply have to join this battle to win control of the culture!!!!

    I mean, if my city hall were holding a belching contest, I would not, for some bizarre reason, feel the need to convince my church that we simply have to have a member enter the contest, with the result that our congregation’s pastor belches out “Our God is an Awesome God” in some attempt at influencing the culture wherever there’s an opportunity.

    And lest you think a belching contest is an over-the-top comparison, let me remind you that this courthouse is going to feature a Pastafarian entry. That tells you about the quality of the other entrants. Why do you want to be associated with that?

    If there is going to be expression on public land, during the Christmas season, I would rather see Christian expression be a part of that mix than not present at all.

    Why? You know that Christians can and will be expressing their message from their church properties and from the homes and private businesses of their congregants, as they do every year. So why do you — who supposedly want to see less government influence in our society — place such a high value on government-aided expression? Why, in short, do you care at all what goes on the courthouse lawn? I mean, I can’t tell you what’s on my courthouse lawn right now. I could tell you what display they have up at my local supermarket. Because that has actual cultural relevance in people’s daily lives.

    It’s sort of a given that I was advocating for reasonable expression…

    So you’d hope, I guess. And yet, here we are, discussing how to outshine the Pastafarian exhibit at the courthouse, in some bizarre attempt to win souls by controlling the culture. So I’m not really sure you get the benefit of the doubt for “reasonable expression”.

    Or is it your position that, by definition, a church putting a nativity scene on public land is not exercising wisdom?

    It could be — it likely was in the past. But, to belabor the point, when it becomes about control, about wielding power, about making sure you get yours, about a race to the bottom with all the other fools, well, I really don’t see where wisdom comes in there. It’s not like the courthouse is our only option for expression, after all, is it?

    Do you really think that public spaces are “meager”?

    Well, yes. Because the only people I ever hear expressing opinions about what goes up at the courthouse lawn are Culture Warriors and the people who fight them out of sheer bloody-mindedness. Not anybody I actually ever talk to, day to day. This is such a pathetically unimportant battlefield. And yet, Culture Warriors seem hellbent on associating Christianity with such pettiness.

    Government has encroached ever more into heretofore private spaces, thus forcing faith expression further into the margins. In the west, government owns 40% of the land in many states.

    I’m sure that’s an important issue for you. But try to keep in mind what we’re actually talking about here. We’re talking about a courthouse lawn. Are you objecting to government owning the property on which a courthouse sits? Is that a problem for you?

    In urban areas and high cost areas, many churches don’t have private property to put their creches on. They purchase or rent warehouse space, with severe signage restrictions, or rent schools for their services. If they can’t express themselves on public land, they can’t do it at all.

    You know, I’ve spent most of my time in Portland in churches that met in warehouses and schools, and I’m pretty sure that we had members with private property at most of those churches, so I kind of think your complaint is vastly overblown here. Is there some reason you think the courthouse lawn is such an important venue for speech that it simply must be available to Christians to put up their Biblically-mandated creches?

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