And So This Isn't Christmas?
SCOTT SIMON, host:
President Bush and Laura Bush sent out holiday cards to more than a million people, including the Reverend Jerry Falwell, Bono and King Abdullah of Jordan. There's a sweet cheery scene on the front, a White House clad softly in new snow with the Bush family dogs and cat romping through the drifts. There's a Bible verse inside, `The Lord is my strength and my shield. In him, my heart trusts.'
This week, several people told the press they were offended to receive the card because it says seasons greetings, not merry Christmas, and the verse is from the Book of Psalms, not the New Testament. William Donahue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, says, `This clearly demonstrates that the Bush administration has suffered a loss of will and that they have capitulated to the worst elements in our culture.' Does Mr. Donahue mean the mob, terrorists, drug lords?
Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, says, `It bothers me that the White House card leaves off any reference to Jesus while we've got Ramadan celebrations in the White House. What's going on there?' Mrs. Bush's press secretary says simply, `The president and Mrs. Bush have friends of all faiths and want to be respectful.'
Now I'm puzzled as to why anyone believes that what any family chooses to say in their personal cards is any of their concern. It's a holiday card, not a Supreme Court nomination. Does Mr. Wildmon expect veto power over whether the president gives his wife floppy pink slippers or a sweater? The White House cards went out just as several groups are boycotting Wal-Mart, Costco, Target and Lands' End for saying happy holidays in displays and advertisements rather than merry Christmas. Boycott leaders say that American retailers are trying to banish all signs of Jesus Christ from Christmas and turn it into some kind of secular, seasonable, ecumenical feel-good holiday. What? Retailers corrupting the true meaning of Christmas?
Now sometimes the lack of religious symbols on display in public places these days can seem almost comic. When you walk down Fifth Avenue or State Street now, you see Santas, snowballs and candy canes but rarely a manger or an angel. I guess if you want your children to learn the story of Christmas, you just might have to take them into a church, not Wal-Mart.
I grew up in a mixed religious family. It's been my experience that most Jews, Muslims and atheists are not offended if people wish them merry Christmas, but they regard it as a sign of simple thoughtfulness if someone speaks to them in a way that takes note of their beliefs. Christmas is also an occasion for kind gestures in all languages.
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SIMON: And it's 18 minutes past the hour.
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