Enemies of Tiny Tim?

TinyTimBaptist Press ran an intriguing story this week. It was one of those laugh-to-keep-from-crying stories from the sort-of-secular public square.

Hang on. Sit down, in fact. You’re not going to believe this one.

Nine U.S. Representatives voted against a resolution expressing support for Christianity in general and Christmas specifically.

Ho hum, you say? Here’s the punch line to the story. When similar resolutions were put up for a vote on behalf of Ramadan and Diwali, no House members voted against them.

The resolution’s sponsor expressed astonishment over the “no” votes. Rep. Steve King, R.-Iowa, said he could not understand how members of Congress could vote against the measure after the House approved without opposition similar resolutions honoring observances of Islam and Hinduism.

… “I would like to know how they could vote ‘yes’ on Islam, ‘yes’ on the Indian religions and ‘no’ on Christianity when the foundation of this nation and our American culture is Christianity. … I think there’s an assault on Christianity,” King told Fox News, according to a release from his office.

Of the nine representatives, all Democrats, who voted against the Christmas resolution, seven supported both the Ramadan and Diwali measures. Those seven were Reps. Gary Ackerman and Yvette Clarke, both of New York; Diana DeGette of Colorado; Jim McDermott of Washington; Bobby Scott of Virginia; and Pete Stark and Lynn Woolsey, both of California. Rep. Alcee Hastings of Florida did not vote on the Diwali resolution, and Rep. Barbara Lee failed to record a vote on the Ramadan measure.

Rod “Friend of this blog” Dreher suggested that the House vote was a waste of time. But as you might guess, I disagree.

After all, why did the nine U.S. representatives oppose the Christian resolution but not the other ones? Do they oppose Christianity in general or find some of its principles abhorrent? Perhaps they simply cannot cast a vote that would cause a conservative Christian or two to cheer?

Baptist Press reporter Tom Strode might want to go back and ask these kinds of questions to a few of the House members who voted against the Christian resolution.

The notion that some House members actually oppose Christianity is not far-fetched.

Earlier this year, Rep. Pete Stark of California announced that he doesn’t believe in God; he called himself a “non-theist.” Why does Stark oppose a resolution expressing support for Christianity but not other major religions? Having covered Stark for a couple of years for the old San Francisco Examiner, I know from firsthand experience that he is not exactly a tight-lipped pol.

Maybe it’s just me, but I find that the Christian press runs a lot of stories like this one. The reporter has a great story to tell, one that the mainstream media overlook, but he or she fails to report it thoroughly. Perhaps they struggle with a lack of time and resources.

It need not be this way. Just read Dickens’ Christmas Carol.

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  • http://catholidoxy.blogspot.com Irenaeus

    What’s really, really interesting is that Jim McDermott is a Wheaton College alumnus (’58). I’d be interested to see if he’s (a) really turned on his faith since then — one has always had to be a committed evangelical to attend Wheaton; or if he’s (b) one of those Christians who takes separation of church and state very seriously (although then one might ask what’s with voting for the other two holidays).

    Any Wheaties out there have any ideas?

  • Michael

    The Seattle P-I asked him that very question.

    http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/343463_mcdermott14.html

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    Great link on the Seattle story.

    It’s all about making sure that the Religious Right loses. A symbolic battle about symbols.

  • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog.html Jason Pitzl-Waters

    Maybe they just didn’t want to participate in a resolution that seemed like a salvo in the ongoing “War on Christmas” that seems to surface every Winter lately.

    I also love how a resolution that passed resoundingly in favor of Christianity, with plenty of Democrats voting for it, is gaining press and commentary on “the scrooge nine”. Who has the miserly heart here? The defiant no-voters or the sore winners?

  • http://blingdomofgod.com JT

    There may be a little bit more to this than symbolicly telling the Religious Right to stuff it. One could even argue that the resolution implicitly endorses–or at least makes an argument for–Christianity as our de facto state religion.

    Beyond the above-noted assertions re “the role played by Christians and Christianity in the founding of the United States and in the formation of the western civilization” (sic), what makes the Christmas resolution problematic is that it does not simply note the number of adherents to Christianity–a la the Ramadan and Diwali texts–but draws specific conclusions from those numbers.

    Note the following two paragraphs:

    “Whereas there are approximately 225,000,000 Christians in the United States, making Christianity the religion of over three-fourths of the American population;

    Whereas there are approximately 2,000,000,000 Christians throughout the world, making Christianity the largest religion in the world . . . .”

    In a nutshell, these two passages make an argument that Christianity is the majority’s religion. This majoritarian claim just happens to be used by some Christians to claim a democratic mandate for basing laws on the Bible.

    This matters for a couple reasons. One, of course, is the First Amendment, which would at the very least seem to stand for the principle that Congress shouldn’t be in the business of recognizing *any* particular faith as the majority religion or the foundation of American democracy.

    In addition, we should also consider the effects of such arguments globally. The Christmas resolution condemns bigotry and persecution of Christians worldwide. However, a not insignificant amount of such persecution occurs in countries that recognize another faith as its majority religion and the historical root of its law. Instead of making statistical arguments for which religion is number one, wouldn’t we provide a better example by abstaining from such claims altogether?

  • http://www.getreligion.org/?p=2677 dpulliam

    There are plenty of Christians out there that do not believe in celebrating Christmas because of what they believe is its pagan origins.

  • http://mithras.blogs.com Mithras

    JT, I love you.

  • http://www.msu.edu/~chasech5 Christopher W. Chase

    Yes, the Seattle Times has been doing some follow-up work here.

    The Christmas measure was approved 372-9. Democrats cast all the no votes. Ten lawmakers, including Republican Mike Pence of Indiana, voted “present.”

    And as another poster’s link pointed out:

    As did Steve King Neither the Ramadan nor the Diwali resolutions drew any opposition. King voted “present” on both resolutions, meaning he took no position. King said opposition to his resolution stemmed from “an anti-Christian bias,” one that leads people to say “happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” for fear of offending someone

    King certainly draws a lot of attention. But one wonders if the reporter might have asked his opinion on “anti-Christian” bias in other recently reported contexts. Perhaps the notation of King’s vote on the Diwali and Ramadan resolutions in the story is designed to contextualize his complaint about “bias.” Is this about symbolic language? Sure. But one could also as simply say its about Bread and Circuses, especially given the fight over SCHIP recently. Good follow-up from the Seattle Times on this.

  • Scott

    “The notion that some House members actually oppose Christianity is not far-fetched.”

    Why don’t you ask them.

    On another blog which also had questions concerning this vote, a commentator did ask. The person called Rep DeGette office and asked why she voted as she did. (Comment #2)

    https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=14410967&postID=5805636446316477802

    “I just called her office and her secretary (or someone in the office) explained that she thought the Ramadan vote was for religious tolerance, and the Christmas vote was a veiled recognition of Christianity as the US state religion. That is why she says she voted as she did. The staffer also mentioned that she celebrates Christmas herself.”

    This is a reasonable answer. There is a big difference between opposing Christianity and opposing Christianity as the state religion.

  • Jerry

    Were the resolutions really worded differently or is ignorance the defense to the charge of bias?

    I also have to wonder how it would have been reported if a conservative Christian had voted for Christmas and against Ramadan and Diwali?

  • http://religiousliberal.blogspot.com Dwight

    The difference between the Christmas resolution and the Ramadan resolution are pretty much as has been noted:

    1. The Christmas resolution is a statement expounding on our Christian origins, doctrinal claims on vicarious atonement, and claims about “persecution” in the US. It was loaded wording that went far beyond Christmas.

    http://pastorbobcornwall.blogspot.com/2007/12/congressional-defense-of-christianity.html#links

    2. The Ramadan resolution is a pretty straight forward short resolution recognizing Ramadan and a statement of support for Muslims in the US.

    http://islamabad.usembassy.gov/pakistan/h07100401.html

    Now..I’m a Christian, I would have voted against both resolutions because it’s out of the purview of Congress. But I can see a qualitative difference between the two resolutions.

  • http://www.getreligion.org/?p=2677 dpulliam

    Here is an answer from an Indiana Congressman:

    Pence: Holidays not for representatives’ vote
    U.S. Rep. Mike Pence, R-Columbus, tells people that he’s a “Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.”

    But Pence voted “present” last week rather than take a position on a resolution recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith.

    Pence said he was being consistent with his “present” vote in September on a resolution recognizing the start of the Islamic holiday Ramadan.

    Pence said both resolutions violate the First Amendment ban against making laws that establish religion.

    The resolution honoring Christmas passed 372-9 with 10 members voting “present.”

    – Maureen Groppe

  • http://www.downeastpagan.com/ Ananta Androscoggin

    I have noticed over the decades that the “Christian Press” is often more involved in indoctrination of the flock, and rabble-rousing, than it is interested in telling the whole story about anything. Especially, is left out, anything which does not affirm or bolster the indoctrination.

    Unfortunately, the secular press seldom does much better.


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