Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas And The New Puritans

The season of joy and merriment once again is upon us, and anti-Christmas fascists are out in force.

In the “greatest deliberative body on earth” – that would be the U.S. Congress – we find that senators “may use officially related funds to mail holiday cards to constituents,” but they may not use “the frank to mail holiday cards,” even though the funds from both sources come from the same plundered taxpayers.

The prohibition against sharing joyous greetings in the House is considerably more forbidding. House members must submit official mailings for review to the congressional franking commission. The Grinches there regularly tell House members that no Holiday Greetings – and especially not ‘Merry Christmas’ – can be sent in official mail.

Just prior to Christmas, an inquiring reporter who called the commission “for clarification” was told that “Merry Christmas” always and everywhere was verboten. Also House members may not, under pain of de-frankification, wish their constituents a “Happy New Year.” However, House members may include in their franked mail the expression “have a happy new year,” because the lower case greeting references “the time period of a new year, but not the holiday.”

Got it?

It is said that excessively pedantic scholastics around the time of St. Thomas Aquinas spent much of their time debating how many angels might fit on the head of a pin. Such deliberators were babes in the crib when compared to the members of the congressional franking committee. House members, it turns out, are lashed, but senators escape the whip; this inequitable treatment is only fair in a congressional body in which some pigs, to borrow an expression from George Orwell, are more equal than others.

Crushing news for those who suppose that national forests belong to the nation's people: The Mariposa Gazette, California's oldest weekly newspaper of continuous publication, has sent out an advisory that culprits who acquire a Christmas tree from a nearby national forest or transport said tree are subject to a penalty of “$200 with a maximum of $5,000 and/or six months in jail. If more than one tree is taken, violators are fined the value of the trees at maturity.”

Maturity, as they say in Norway, lies in the roots of things. In 2004, a Norway Spruce “of the species traditionally used to decorate European homes during Christmas,” a shrubby mountain survivor, was found “at an altitude of 2,985 feet (910 meters) in Dalarna Province,” according to a report in the authoritative National Geographic. The mature tree sprouted from a root system that “has been growing for 9,550 years.” Apparently, these Christmas trees clone themselves from undisturbed roots.

Nature has nothing to fear from Christmas tree thieves. And Christians have everything to fear from pedantic bureaucrats and lawmakers who uproot joyous traditions for the pure pleasure of destruction. The anti-Christmas crowd, a sad bunch, has become “puritanical” in the sense in which Henry Mencken used the word when he defined puritanism as “The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”

The new Puritans, every bit as energetic and menacing as the old ones, are never so joyful as when they are sprinkling ashes on the joy of Christians. Their idea is not to engage in a frontal attack on public displays of Christianity but to use the engine of government, most especially the courts, to disturb its message. In this, they have been largely successful. But the season itself blasts through their crusty secularism. On the first day of joy, the first crèche, as in modern times, was crowded round with the sad remnants of paganism and unbelief. But joy, never-the-less managed to find a way into a world thirsty for joy.

"Joy, said C. S. Lewis, “is the serious business of Heaven." And, of course, God being a very tricky fellow, one can never be too careful. It may break out anytime, anywhere.

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