There are those who celebrate Christmas in the original sense, derived from the Old English, Christ’s Mass, in celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. There are those who celebrate Christmas in the family sense, with some small echo of the religious, Christian roots, but mostly to share some time with family and friends. There are those who celebrate Christmas as a rushed holiday with shopping done just in time. Many of us have celebrated one or more of these versions of Christmas over the course of our lives, but nowadays Christmas has become something else even beyond these; a civic holiday stripped of all religious meaning and which must, by civil right, have equivalents in other faiths, or at least not impose itself on those other faiths. In Maryland, we have the logical outcome of this evolution. A school superintendent for the Montgomery County Board of Education, has dropped the names of Christian and Jewish holidays from its calendar to avoid offending Muslims. Or more to the point, to avoid, or delay, having to name Muslim holidays on its calendar.

Did the Founding Fathers intend this? It is not an ironic question entirely as some lines of historical reasoning emphasize the Deism of many of the framers of the Constitution. And Deism at it’s essence is a rejection of any kind of revealed authority while professing a single creator behind all known life. One can rustle through Washington’s personal correspondence, for example, to attempt to deduce whether he was evangelical. Apparently the evidence suggesting he was is scant. But assuming that a reasonable proportion of the framers were deists and free masons, deliberately removing Christian – and Jewish – holidays from a public school board calendar in what is obviously a desperate tactical measure by a superintendent faced with Muslim protests, feels more like an atheist attack rather than a deist posture. And atheism might be rational but is hardly reasonable. And further, revealed authority has throughout history, especially Christian revealed authority, an organizing force for Western Society, even as it did battle with rational philosophy. In America, it is literally and legally framed within the Constitution in rituals small and large. Whether the framers intended it that way or not, the Constitution and the government they bequeathed America has had at its core a faith in that very document that embodies at the same time the very best of the rational principles of the Enlightenment. As other faiths, and deists, and atheists, continue to advocate for their place in the cultural and social fabric of American society, Christ’s Mass will remain central to America, whether a superintendent lists it in his school board’s holidays or not.

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