The Week‘s Jon Terbush wrote recently that the war on Christmas is over and the secularists have won, citing new polls showing that Christmas has gradually become less of a religious holiday and more of a cultural one. “Younger Americans are far less likely than older ones to view Christmas as a religious holiday,” he writes.
While it’s true the fight is no longer the cultural flash point it once was, its legacy remains in ongoing local battles over religious expression in schools and on government property. One such battle is playing out now in Florida.
Florida officials attracted the ire of atheists this holiday season when they erected a Nativity scene in their state Capitol rotunda, and for a minute it looked like Christmas was going to get a taste of its own medicine. Secular groups quickly moved to erect their own monuments to atheism alongside baby Jesus, successfully installing a Festivus pole (read: a stack of empty beer cans) as well as a Flying Spaghetti Monster.
But Florida state officials drew the line at Satanists. After getting an initial go-ahead, the Satanic Temple of Florida was all set to put up its display when it received an email from the state’s Department of Management Services calling the display “grossly offensive.” The design Satanists submitted, featured above, depicts a scene from Isaiah 14:12 that some interpret as the moment when Satan was cast down to earth, or “born.” The text reads: “How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, You who have weakened the nations!”
Lucien Greaves, spokesman for the Satanic Temple, said the Satanist design adheres to every guideline required by the state. “Our proposed structure does not present any images that would be inappropriate for people of any age,” Greaves wrote in an email to state officials. “Like the Nativity scene, it presents an image from a biblical story, which is shared with other religious traditions besides our own. In addition, a positive sentiment of ‘Happy Holidays’ is displayed.” Greaves is still waiting on a response.
A few days before Christmas, the war rages on …
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Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
“We haven’t seen a true leftist since FDR, so many millions are coming out of the woodwork to vote for Bernie Sanders; he is the Occupy movement now come to life in the political arena.” So says Bill Maher in his Hollywood Reporter cover story (more a stream-of-consciousness riff than an essay, actually). Conservative states may never vote for a socialist in the general election, but “this stuff has never been on the table, and these voters have never been activated.” Maher saves most of his bile for Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, writing that by nominating Palin as vice president “John McCain is the one who opened the Book of the Dead and let the monsters out.” And Trump is picking up where Palin left off.