For the anti-Christmas warriors, it’s OK to observe the religious holiday of one faith or several other faiths, but not the major one of the Christian faith. That’s why it’s accurate to say that the war on Christmas is not just a misguided crusade of secularist liberalism, it’s pretty much a concerted attack on America’s Christian identity.

But that’s the point Krauthammer, as a neo-conservative, doesn’t quite seem to get. His objection to the war on Christmas is that Christmas is essentially harmless. He has two other objections, also.

One is that the anti-Christmas crusade is “ungenerous,” and the other that it’s “a failure to appreciate the uniqueness of the communal American religious experience. Unlike, for example, the famously tolerant Ottoman Empire or the generally tolerant Europe of today, the United States does not merely allow minority religions to exist at its sufferance. It celebrates and welcomes and honors them.” His first reason is fine, but in his second, we begin to approach the issue of what’s wrong with neo-conservatism.

What’s wrong with neo-conservatism is that it is a form of liberalism, and as such it is incapable of saying flatly and clearly that while Americans certainly enjoy a right to practice whatever religions they wish, Christianity remains the public religion of the nation—whether one believes in it or likes it, or not. Liberals (and neo-cons) can’t say that because they don’t believe in public religions and (especially) that America should have one. ~Samuel Francis

I agree strongly with Sam Francis’ response to Mr. Krauthammer’s surprising piece, though I would add a few more points that should strengthen what Mr. Francis has said. First, there is the basic problem that Mr. Krauthammer’s targeting of fearful deracinated religious minorities is rather disingenuous if we recall his own scathing, bitter and all together “ungenerous” March 4 response to the release of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Regarding it as a “singular act of interreligious aggression,” because he purported to see in it the traditional ‘blood libel’ against all Jews everywhere, Krauthammer condemned Gibson’s film as anti-Semitic in the harshest terms. Perhaps some think his unmitigating hostility to faithful expressions of Christianity that offend him can be separated from his willingness to defend the celebration of Christmas against more rabid secular critics, but I cannot agree. He can be more easily reconciled to the story of Nativity, even though Nativity foreshadows and promises all of the things to come at Pascha, because the truths about Christ that so deeply offend Mr. Krauthammer have not yet become entirely clear. The Passion rankles the anti-Christian, because many of the truths about Christ–that He is God and Saviour, died and rose again for our salvation and was rejected by His own–are inescapable and cannot be sidestepped with pleasantries and sentimentality. Krauthammer’s goodwill towards Christianity at Christmas will be noticeably absent come spring, when his slumbering hostility to America’s public religion will emerge once more from hibernation.

A more minute point is Krauthammer’s laughable comparison of the United States with the “famously tolerant Ottoman Empire,” which was largely famously tolerant only in the sense that there were relatively few massive, violent persecutions of Christian minorities in the history of the empire.

It cannot be stressed too much that Christians were penalised for being Christians (as were, needless to say, Jews for their faith) and existed as distant second-class citizens in ways that scarcely applied to any religious minorities in the Europe of the same time. At no time, under any Christian or Western regime, was there anything like the forced slave conscription of the devshirme, as clever a device to keep subjugated peoples subservient as can be found in recent history.

It should also be noted that Christian states consistently aimed, with a few exceptions, at the conversion (and therefore social inclusion) of their subjects when they conquered new territories, and there was scarcely occasion for Christian states to confront the problems of coping with Muslim minorities, as the geographical expansion of Christianity did not depend on conquest and it was not the general practice of pre-modern Christendom to do much conquering of non-Christian peoples.

The Bulgarians and Armenians massacred under Ottoman rule, or the Georgians occasionally subjugated to their rule by force, or indeed all Orthodox nations subjugated by force did not perceive this period of history as one of famous tolerance, but one of oppression and the ruination of Christ’s Church. That the Muslim subjects of later and contemporary European colonialism enjoyed far more extensive rights than did dhimmis under Islamic rule is only too obvious. It may seem a small point, but it is such glaring misunderstandings of modern history that often leave Mr. Krauthammer arriving at some bizarre conclusions.

Finally, to end on a perhaps more appropriate note about Christmas itself, I would just add that Nativity, while a great and holy feast, has not usually been regarded as the most important Christian holiday outside the English-speaking and Protestant worlds (nor even within those until fairly late). The Nativity of the Lord is a glorious and wondrous mystery, without which we could not be saved, but the true victory of Christ is realised in the Feast of Pascha. Yet the wonder of Nativity is the way in which the victory of Pascha is already before us.

As the one magus brings the gift of myrrh for the One who will die, we are already anticipating the Myrrh-Bearing Women discovering the empty Tomb and the celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord, and, as St. Ambrose tells us in his exposition of the Gospel according to St. Luke, the Child was wrapped in swaddling clothes that we might be freed from the fetters of death. On Christmas Christ is born that we might no longer taste death. The Heir is born, and we prepare for Him to deliver His people into His Kingdom.

Let me therefore end this post with a wish for a joyful and blessed Nativity for all. Merry Christmas!

Christ is Born! Glorify Him! Christos razhdaetsya! Slavite! Christos gennatai! Doxasate!