A War on Xmas? Blame It on Ike and the 1950s

Monday, December 18, 2006

A War on Xmas? Blame It on Ike and the 1950s

Slate.com's David Greenberg has written an interesting article that provides an appropriate rejoinder to the hysterical Christian conservatives who keep whining about a supposed "war on Christmas." Greenberg writes:
Mary Evans Seeley's book Season's Greetings from the White House: The Collection of Presidential Christmas Cards, Messages, and Gifts shows that "Season's Greetings" was used on White House holiday correspondence by no less than Dwight D. Eisenhower in the 1950s. Likewise, Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Reagan, and Clinton all took care, as well, not to alienate non-Christian recipients of holiday mail.

Few people expressed a problem with this long-standing practice until now.

It's fitting that Eisenhower should have pioneered the tradition of all-purpose holiday messages. ... [the 1950s were] also the golden age of the "interfaith" movement and the spread of that insipid public-relations neologism Judeo-Christian (a phrase that crystallizes the conflation of Christmas and Hanukkah).

Will Herberg's classic Protestant-Catholic-Jew (1955) captured the detente achieved among America's three leading religions. The book examined the Eisenhower Era condition of "pervasive secularism amid mounting religiosity."

Herberg concluded that Americans (not unlike Ike) placed a high value not so much on God as on religion itself.

"One's particular religion is, of course, to be cherished and loyally adhered to," he wrote, "but it is not felt to be something that one 'flaunts' in the face of people of other faiths."

Most Americans in the 1950s believed in God, yet insisted that their beliefs didn't impinge much on their politics or business affairs.

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