In the 1999 M. Night Shyamalan movie “The Sixth Sense,” a little boy complained, “I see dead people” – and he did.
Now it seems Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor and one-time vice presidential candidate, sees a battlefield littered with corpses – all of them Christian. They are causalities in a war against faith in America. But unlike that little boy, what Palin sees is entirely in her imagination.
In Palin’s fervid mind, the Antietam of this war on faith is a relentless assault on the holiday of Christmas. In her new book Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting The Heart of Christmas, Palin argues that Christians in America are being prohibited from expressing “the Christian values of the season” when they try to commemorate the birth of Jesus.
I forced myself to get through a short excerpt of the book provided by NBC’s “Today Show,” and based on what I’ve seen this book is nothing but a shameless attempt to pander to the lowest rungs of the Religious Right, which would explain why the prose is on roughly a fourth-grade level.
At one point, Palin complained that far too many people simply aren’t filled with joy for the entire months of November and December. Then she told the story of one “Joe McScrooge,” a jaded man who just doesn’t have much room in his heart for Christmas spirit.
“There, across the field, out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a cross next to a statue of a soldier kneeling in prayer,” Palin wrote. “His grip tightened on the steering wheel. ‘As if only Christians have died for their country,’ he said to himself as he watched the sweaterless dog shake free of his master’s grip on the leash. ‘Our wars aren’t holy wars, our soldiers aren’t holy men, and that’s a government park.’
“He pushed it from his mind as he drove into the center of town,” Palin continued. “Wreaths were hanging from every storefront. Christmas lights wrapped around the light poles were blinking relentlessly. Red ribbons flapped sloppily in the breeze, Joe noticed. The lights were multicolored and garish, and Joe was annoyed at their distraction. As he drove closer to the court square, however, his jaw dropped.
“There, right next to the courthouse — between a metal newspaper box and a ridiculously oversized menorah — was the unmistakable outline of a Nativity scene.”
Palin says people like McScrooge threaten “to destroy every last bit of Christmas cheer we have left.”
I’d say people like Palin threaten to destroy the U.S. Constitution and true religious freedom, because they don’t understand how harmful it is to assume all soldiers are Christian or to put up sectarian symbols on government property.
McScrooge, of course, isn’t real. He’s more likely a product of Palin’s imagination – and not a very clever one.
Maybe Palin couldn’t dig up a real story involving someone who actually wants to “destroy” Christmas because there just aren’t any to be found. After all, so many stories about the “war on Christmas” fall apart when given even casual scrutiny, such as a 2006 claim that a high school in Dodgeville, Wisc., had secularized the lyrics to numerous religious songs. It wasn’t true, but the Liberty Counsel, a Religious Right legal group allied with Jerry Falwell Jr.’s Liberty University, slimed the district over the story, leaving the school dealing with a spate of hateful emails and crank phone calls.
The district had to mount a public information campaign. School officials later wrote to the Liberty Counsel and asked the group to hand over more than $20,000 in compensation for “dissemination of false and misleading information.”
I admire their moxie, but they never got a dime, of course.
But in Palin’s world of lazy intellectualism, truth hardly matters. All she cares about is making another buck. If a guy like “Joe McScrooge” will sell, that’s the only thing of interest to her.
Palin told “Today’s” Matt Lauer yesterday, “We need to protect the heart of Christmas and not let angry atheists armed with an attorney – a scrooge – tell us that we can’t celebrate traditional faith in America.”
I’m a Christian minister, but because I don’t support the right of government to make theological decisions for all of us by erecting crèches at courthouses, I guess in Palin’s mind that makes me a scrooge. I’m not telling anyone that they can’t celebrate “traditional faith” in this country. I’m saying that it’s not all right to force your faith on other people. If that’s wrong, then I guess our Founding Fathers were wrong, too.
Sadly the appeal of the fringe ideas espoused by Palin and her kind remains strong in some political circles. After all, Palin has sold a lot of books already, and I’m sure plenty of Religious Right diehards will look forward to getting her latest tome in their stockings this year. Personally, I’d rather have a lump of coal than read any more of Palin’s thoughts on faith.
Ultimately, Palin is wrong as usual. Even if she looks long and hard, she’ll still never see the casualities of this war. They don’t exist because the war doesn’t exist.
She would do better to ask Santa for a strong pair of binoculars this Christmas – the better to see Russia from her front porch.