(The series on the future of the Republican party will continue tomorrow.)
Yes, we can no longer ignore the signs that the Christmas season is upon us. Apart from the snow, Salvation Army bell ringers, and store decorations, the definitive event is the arrival of the whiners who claim that Christians are a persecuted group in America whose special holiday has become so secularized that they cannot even say “Merry Christmas” to others for fear of being set upon and beaten by the atheistic hordes who roam the streets looking to stamp out any sign of genuine Christian cheer.
Bill O’Reilly is as usual valiantly at the forefront of the defense of Christmas. His Fox News ally in the past John Gibson, however, has lost his show (probably as a result of an anti-Christian purge) and so no longer has a highly visible platform to show his love for Jesus.
But this year brings a new defender of the faith, one Daniel Henninger, and he has a startling new theory. He claims that the current economic crisis was actually caused by the War on Christmas! Yes, indeedy.
Henninger paints with a broad brush.
And so it will come to pass once again that many people will spend four weeks biting on tongues lest they say “Merry Christmas” and perchance, give offense. Christmas, the holiday that dare not speak its name.
This year we celebrate the desacralized “holidays” amid what is for many unprecedented economic ruin — fortunes halved, jobs lost, homes foreclosed. People wonder, What happened? One man’s theory: A nation whose people can’t say “Merry Christmas” is a nation capable of ruining its own economy.
Of course, that is quite a leap and he labors mightily to get there from here. He first goes through the list of well-known proximate causes of the crisis such as shaky mortgage loans to unqualified borrowers, securitization of debts, failure of ratings agencies to exercise due diligence, yadda, yadda, yadda, all things by now familiar to anyone even faintly familiar with the crisis and discussed at length in this blog too.
So what has all that got to do with the War on Christmas, you ask? Be patient, he’s coming to that. You see, all those factors that led to the crisis are merely symptoms of a deeper underlying malaise that is rotting the very moral fiber of the country and has led to all this bad behavior by the financial sector.
What really went missing through the subprime mortgage years were the three Rs: responsibility, restraint and remorse. They are the ballast that stabilizes two better-known Rs from the world of free markets: risk and reward.
Responsibility and restraint are moral sentiments. Remorse is a product of conscience. None of these grow on trees. Each must be learned, taught, passed down.
He then delivers the punch line, explaining that what caused people who would otherwise have been moral to abandon their principles was, among other things, their inability to say “Merry Christmas.”
And so we come back to the disappearance of “Merry Christmas.”
It has been my view that the steady secularizing and insistent effort at dereligioning America has been dangerous. That danger flashed red in the fall into subprime personal behavior by borrowers and bankers, who after all are just people. Northerners and atheists who vilify Southern evangelicals are throwing out nurturers of useful virtue with the bathwater of obnoxious political opinions.
The point for a healthy society of commerce and politics is not that religion saves, but that it keeps most of the players inside the chalk lines. We are erasing the chalk lines.
And he ends with a dire warning that this war on Christmas can only lead to the apocalypse, “Feel free: Banish Merry Christmas. Get ready for Mad Max.”
One doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Laugh, because the whole argument is so patently stupid. Cry, because Daniel Henninger is not some random nutcase ranting at the internet equivalent of street corners. He is actually the deputy editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and this drivel appeared in an opinion piece on November 20, 2008.
This seems to provide further evidence of the view among newspaper cognoscenti that the WSJ is a schizophrenic newspaper.
On the one hand, its news pages are respected for their solid and reliable news coverage. This is to be expected. After all, businesspeople, who are its target audience, have no use for fantasies. They need a realistic view of the way things are in the world if they are to make informed decisions.
On the other hand, its editorial and opinion pages seem to be under the control of people on the far fringes of loopiness.
POST SCRIPT: Happy birthday, Origins!
On this day in 1859, the first edition of Charles Darwin’s groundbreaking book On the Origin of Species appeared in print.
This is probably a good time to tell readers that my own new book THE CASE OF GOD v. DARWIN: Evolution, Religion, and the Establishment Clause will be published sometime in the middle of 2009.
The book looks at how the attempts to oppose the teaching of evolution in schools have themselves evolved due to the setbacks received in the courts. My book looks at the legal history of the trials and the role of religion in schools, starting with the Scopes trial in 1925 and ending with the Dover intelligent Design trial in 2005.