I’m willing to bet that President Obama’s Christmas address this week will shine with religious significance about as bright as his unusually short Thanksgiving Proclamation, which gave a token reference to God via a quote from George Washington.
Even in Obama’s superstar Christmas interviews with Oprah and Gloria Estefan, there were discussions about Santa, Christmas trees, ornaments, gingerbread houses and even their dog’s Christmas stocking. Obama even gave a Christmas shout-out to all Hispanics. But there was not one discussion of religion or a hint of the real reason for the season.
Gone are the days when presidents and most politicians publicly rejoice in the birth of Christ.
But things were not always this way. As with many of you, I still remember a day even in Washington when Christ was central to Christmas. It was an America that was far less politically correct – an America that wasn’t afraid to stand up for its belief in the babe who was born in Bethlehem.
Here’s a small sample of that America represented in personal and public presidential Christmas proclamations and events, as documented in presidential library archives, at WhiteHouseChristmasCards.com and by historian David Barton in his treatise “Christmas with the presidents.”
On Christmas Day, 1795, President George Washington celebrated Christmas with members of Congress at his Mount Vernon estate, complete with a fox hunt, feast including “Christmas pie,” music, dancing and visiting that at times continued for a solid week.
America’s second president, John Adams, was the first to hold a White House Christmas party.
Thomas Jefferson loved celebrating Christmas, from his youth considering the day as a time of “merriment” and “The day of greatest mirth and jollity.” He threw elaborate parties at the White House and his Monticello estate for family and friends, played his violin, sang his favorite Christmas song, “Adeste Fideles” (“Oh Come All Ye Faithful”), and even gave his slaves a few days off each year to enjoy the holiday due to his abolitionist leanings.
(And let’s not forget, when at the White House during the eight years of his presidency, Jefferson attended church where he did each week in the Capitol building – something that continued through the Civil War – in 1867 it was the largest church in Washington with 2,000 people attending weekly.)
During the 1835 Christmas season, President Andrew Jackson sent out invitations and cards (of sorts) to local children inviting them to an event in the East Room on Christmas Day, in memory of a boy who had never heard of Christmas, never knew his father and whose mother died at a young age. That boy was Jackson himself.
President John Tyler also enjoyed hosting Christmas parties for children.
After a chaotic political season in December 1848, in which intense debate ensued over issues relating to slavery and expanding U.S. territory, President James K. Polk described Christmas Day as “perhaps the most quiet day of my presidential term,” despite apparently not accompanying Mrs. Polk and the children to church on that particular day.
President James Buchanan, a devout Presbyterian, would have his southern Pennsylvania estate extravagantly decorated at Christmas for the community to enjoy (a tradition that is still done to this day).
President Abraham Lincoln read the Bible throughout his life and attended services at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church on a regular basis, including at Christmas time. During the Civil War, he and his wife would visit hospitals on Christmas to help care for the wounded. During one political campaign, he declared “I have never denied the truth of the Scriptures; and I have never spoken with intentional disrespect of religion in general. … I do not think I could myself be brought to support a man for office whom I knew to be an open enemy of … religion.”
In 1870, President Ulysses S. Grant signed into law the bill that made Christmas Day a national holiday.
Being credited with establishing the tradition of posting a Christmas tree in the White House (the first occurrence being with President Franklin Pierce), President Benjamin Harrison was also a deeply devout Christian, who wrote to his son Russell in 1887, “I hope you will renew your Christian faith and duties. It is a great comfort to trust God – even if His providence is [at times] unfavorable. Prayer steadies one when he is walking in slippery places – even if things asked for are not given.”
In 1898, two years before his assassination, the New York Times wrote of the encouragement that President William McKinley and his ailing wife received from these words in their pastor’s Christmas Day sermon: “God’s Christmas gift of freedom has come to the suffering and wronged through the agency of a nation that was obedient to His call, and helpfulness sent forth form angelic lips – ‘Goodwill toward men.'”
Each year on Christmas Eves, President Theodore (“Teddy”) Roosevelt traveled to Christ Church in Oyster Bay, N.Y., and, following the pastor’s sermon, gave one of his famous “sermonettes” on the meaning of Christmas. The service would end with his favorite hymn, “Christmas by the Sea.”
In 1927, in every major newspaper across the land, a Christmas admonishment from President Calvin Coolidge was published in his own hand about “the real spirit of Christmas – if we think on these things, there will be born in us a Savior and over us all will shine a star-sending its gleam of hope to the world.”
President Herbert Hoover wrote to the Nation’s Christmas Trees Association on Dec. 25, 1931: “Your annual Christmas service … is a dramatic and inspiring event of national interest. It symbolizes and vivifies our greatest Christian festival with its eternal message of unselfishness, joy, and peace.”
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared in his Christmas address to the nation on Dec. 24, 1944 (the first Christmas after D-Day), “Here, at home, we will celebrate this Christmas Day in our traditional American way – because of its deep spiritual meaning to us; because the teachings of Christ are fundamental in our lives; and because we want our youngest generation to grow up knowing the significance of this tradition and the story of the coming of the immortal Prince of Peace and Good Will. [FDR then prayed for the troops.] We pray that with victory will come a new day of peace on earth in which all the Nations of the earth will join together for all time. That is the spirit of Christmas, the holy day. May that spirit live and grow throughout the world in all the years to come.”
President Harry Truman gave these words during his Christmas Eve national broadcast on Dec. 24, 1949, “Since returning home, I have been reading again in our family Bible some of the passages which foretold this night. … We miss the spirit of Christmas if we consider the Incarnation as an indistinct and doubtful, far-off event unrelated to our present problems. We miss the purport of Christ’s birth if we do not accept it as a living link which joins us together in spirit as children of the ever-living and true God. In love alone – the love of God and the love of man – will be found the solution of all the ills which afflict the world today.”
President Dwight Eisenhower publicly proclaimed on Dec. 23, 1960, “Through the ages men have felt the uplift of the spirit of Christmas. We commemorate the birth of the Christ Child by the giving of gifts, by joining in carols of celebration, by giving expression to our gratitude for the great things that His coming has brought about in the world.”
It’s well known that President John Kennedy was a Catholic. What’s not so well known is that, in 1957, then Sen. Kennedy disclosed at the National Conference of Christians and Jews Dinner what he believed would remedy the ills in society: “Upon what can we rely? Where can we compete? In what can we find hope for the future? The answer, I believe, lies ultimately in the very principles which we honor tonight – the principles of our Judaic-Christian heritage.”
President Lyndon B. Johnson publicly declared on Dec. 22, 1963, “We were taught by Him whose birth we commemorate that after death there is life. … In these last 200 years we have guided the building of our Nation and our society by those principles and precepts brought to earth nearly 2,000 years ago on that first Christmas.”
President Richard Nixon was a Quaker and hosted church services in the East Room of White House while he was president, initiated on his first Sunday in office by none other than Rev. Billy Graham.
President Gerald Ford publicly declared on Dec. 18, 1975, “In our 200 years, we Americans have always honored the spiritual testament of 2,000 years ago. We embrace the spirit of the Prince of Peace so that we might find peace in our own hearts and in our own land, and hopefully in the world as well.”
President Jimmy Carter spoke to the nation on Dec. 15, 1977, “Christmas has a special meaning for those of us who are Christians, those of us who believe in Christ, those of us who know that almost 2,000 years ago, the Son of Peace was born to give us a vision of perfection, a vision of humility, a vision of unselfishness, a vision of compassion, a vision of love.”
President Ronald Reagan repeatedly affirmed his and the nations’ Christian faith at Christmas time, like these words on Dec. 16, 1982, “In this holiday season, we celebrate the birthday of One who, for almost 2,000 years, has been a greater influence on humankind than all the rulers, all the scholars, all the armies and all the navies that ever marched or sailed, all put together. … [I]t’s also a holy day, the birthday of the Prince of Peace, a day when ‘God so loved the world’ that He sent us His only begotten Son to assure forgiveness of our sins.”
President George H. W. Bush stated to the nation on Dec. 18, 1989, “At Christmas, we, too, rejoice in the mystery of God’s love for us – love revealed through the gift of Christ’s birth. Born into a family of a young carpenter and his wife, in a stable shared by beasts of the field, our Savior came to live among ordinary men. Yet, in time, the miraculous nature of this simple event became clear. Christ’s birth changed the course of history, bringing the light of hope to a world dwelling in the darkness of sin and death. Today, nearly 2,000 years later, the shining promise of that first Christmas continues to give our lives a sense of peace and purpose. Our words and deeds, when guided by the example of Christ’s life, can help others share in the joy of man’s Redemption.”
President Bill Clinton addressed the nation on Dec. 21, 1999, with these words, “Saint Matthew’s Gospel tells us that on the first Christmas 2,000 years ago, a bright star shone vividly in the eastern sky, heralding the birth of Jesus and the beginning of His hallowed mission as teacher, healer, servant, and savior.”
And President George W. Bush spoke in his Christmas message on Dec. 21, 2007, “During the Christmas season, our thoughts turn to the source of joy and hope born in a humble manger on a holy night more than 2,000 years ago. Each year, Christians everywhere celebrate this single life that changed the world and continues to change hearts today. … Christmas is a time to rejoice and remember the birth of Jesus Christ.”
Will President Obama’s Christmas address rival those Christian confessions of past presidents? Or will his yuletide cheer be another politically correct concoction that has already adorned the first year of his presidency?
Based upon President Obama’s first year’s utter disregard for America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and promotion of a secular-progressive agenda and pro-Islamic platforms, the only white Christmas I would count on at the White House is a continued whitewashing of religious tradition in Washington. But does America really need another version of “Away with the Manger”?
First, even during his campaign for the presidency, Obama sarcastically belittled America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and degraded its adherents with trite remarks typical of any atheistic antagonist: “Whatever we were, we are no longer a Christian nation”; “The dangers of sectarianism are greater than ever”; “Religion doesn’t allow for compromise”: “The Sermon on the Mount [is] a passage that is so radical that our own defense department wouldn’t survive its application”; and “To base our policy making upon such commitments [as moral absolutes] would be a dangerous thing.” (See the YouTube video: “Barack Obama on the importance of a secular government.”)
Second, President Obama has already denied America’s rich Judeo-Christian heritage before the eyes and ears of other countries, as he publicly declared in Turkey on April 6, 2009, for the whole world to hear: “We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation.” (Who are the “we” to whom he refers? Would our former presidents agree with his “we”?)
Third, quite contrary to Obama’s negative tone and sentiments about Judeo-Christian belief, in countless speeches over the past year he has sympathized and supported pro-Islamic theology and practice. Just recently, he encouraged Americans “not to jump to conclusions” about the Fort Hood shooter being a Muslim extremist. And he refused to say anything when the Muslim extremist and president of Iran publicly accused the U.S. of actively planning and plotting to stop mankind’s real savior: i.e. Mahdi, the imam that Muslims believe will be the ultimate savior of mankind.
Fourth, President Obama has enabled an anti-Christian agenda unlike any former president by revising America’s religious history, minimizing the role of religion today, passing secular-progressive legislation and turning a blind eye to issues like atheists’ lawsuit to remove the national motto (“In God We Trust”) off of the walls of the new Capitol Visitors Center in Washington, D.C., or the ACLU’s disposal of Veteran memorial crosses in the Mojave Desert and at Mount Soledad. Every time President Obama has had an opportunity to stand for Christianity in any way, he has not only denied it but disdained it.
A grave manifestation is Obamacare’s incorporation to use federal funds to pay for abortion and thereby force people of conscience who are pro-life to pay for the terminations of life in the womb across the country. (What a tragic piece of legislation to pass in the shadow of the day when we celebrate the birth of the world’s savior, Jesus Christ.)
What President Obama, like many other liberal politicians, needs is a paradigm shift – a new way of seeing America, which is really an old way. It’s the way our founders viewed America, and it incorporates a good ol’ fashioned Christmas proclamation of Christ’s birth. That America is the one I outline in my new (January 2010) paperback expansion of my New York Times best-seller, “Black Belt Patriotism,” which is ironically the same Christmas gift I’m sending to the president!
And there is one gift that I propose the president give this nation. Since Obama prides himself on being the technological president, in lieu of his Christmas proclamation this year, I suggest that he just send out across the nation the online link to a YouTube video that I had posted under the title, “Ronald Reagan Christmas Address (12/23/81).”