Sunday, December 10, 2006

White House Projects Largely Secular Christmas So Far

Those who follow church-state issues closely like each year to examine the White House's public celebration of Christmas to see how religious it is in content. This year, so far the secular and commercial elements of Christmas seem to clearly outweigh the religious ones in the White House celebration. This year's White House theme is Deck the Halls and Welcome All.

Prominently featured on the White House website is an amusing video titled Barney's Holiday Extravaganza. Barney is the President's dog-- a Scottish terrier, and apparently this is his eighth video . The short movie stars the President and Mrs. Bush, Press Secretary Tony Snow, Karl Rove, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, OMB Directory Rob Portman, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, country music star Dolly Parton, football and reality show star Emmitt Smith, and others. The only religious element in the video comes from a close focus on some of the instrumental musical score. Interestingly the White House furnishes a link to the iTunes website, apparently for members of the public who wish to legally download the music.

This year's White House Christmas card has just been sent out. Wall of Separation blog goes to great lengths to point out that the card does not mention the word "Christmas", and includes a quotation from Psalms ( "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path"), but nothing from the New Testament. The card is not yet on the White House website, but is available online from U.S. News & World Report.

The one exception to the overwhelmingly secular and commercial celebration of the holidays by the White House was the President's remarks at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree last Thursday. His statement, while largely non-religious in nature, included these lines: "Christmas is a season of glad tidings, and a time when our thoughts turn to the source of joy and hope born in a humble manger 2000 years ago... We come together to celebrate a simple and inspiring story. It's a story of a miraculous birth in a humble place. It is a story of a single life that changed the world -- and continues to change hearts. And for two millennia, this story has carried the message that God is with us and He offers His love to every man, woman and child."