The Lion And The Lamb

One of the great benefits of our increasingly digitized age is that we can now watch politicians advertising themselves at the touch of a mouse. They’ve all been at it, but last year’s Obama Christmas ad was particularly good. There he was with tree, hearth, stockings, presents, family, and very heartwarming it was too, especially the cute greetings from the children. “Merry Christmas!” piped one, “Happy Holidays!” the other – altogether a great message of warm, traditional, Christmas Spirit, and who couldn’t fail to be moved by the adorable daughters? 

Peace and Unity

But there’s more to it than that; consciously or otherwise, the PR team who gave us Obama’s yuletide greetings, managed to market ideological peace. In “Happy Holidays” and “Merry Christmas”, we not only find the two approximate halves of American religious opinion directly appealed to, we actually see them living together in harmony, under one roof. And the truth of this is so guilelessly, innocently simple as to proceed best from the mouths of babes. There you have it, the happy secular lion has lain down with the merry Christian lamb.

So what’s wrong with that? At one level, nothing at all. Leaving aside the fact that I would far rather be merry as a Christian than hopefully happy as a godless secularist, despite all that, surely its no bad thing for us all to live together in unity. That, I suppose, comes close to heart of our current thinking about the separation of Church and State, with everyone being free to believe or not as they will, all living together in peaceful tolerance under the protective umbrella of commonly held values. It’s a powerful vision in which each individual is free to hold their deeply held personal beliefs under the beneficent oversight of an impartial State. 


It seems to me that this comes close to the ‘civic religion’ endorsed by our newly elected President in his 2004 interview with Cathleen Falsani. He states:

"Alongside my own deep personal faith, I am a follower, as well, of our civic religion. I am a big believer in the separation of church and state.
"As I said before, in my own public policy, I'm very suspicious of religious certainty expressing itself in politics.
"Now, that's different from a belief that values have to inform our public policy… I want my government to be operating for all faiths and all peoples, including atheists and agnostics, while also insisting that there are values that inform my politics that are appropriate to talk about."

It sounds good, and is surely consonant with what most Americans actually believe; strong adherence to ‘values’ going hand in hand with tolerance for personal opinion, or ‘religion’. Excellent, it appears that we’ve found a recipe for world peace, or have we?

Perhaps, but only if "value" is readily discernible, and this is sadly not the case. For example, the values of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" can be interpreted to proscribe the inalienable right of every woman to terminate unborn, or partially born, life within her body; likewise, the reverse applies. 

Less controversially, we might assume the above principles to be fulfilled in the largest possible private ownership of land and property – ultimately the "means of production." Another school of thought, notably Reagan’s "evil empire," had another understanding altogether. 

The point here is that values, even of the most self-evident variety, have to be interpreted and deployed; we take, as it were, our religion to them. This, at first sight, seems to be ignored by the model of secular government outlined above, but in fact it isn’t, and the result is sinister.

Massive Attack

Far from being a neutral purveyor of justice for all, our new civic religion is just that, a religion, and a strangely intolerant one. Presumably based on universal value, this faith has found the truth and is therefore allowed to evince itself with political certainty. Other religions, such as Christianity, are relegated to the status of opinions, and denied the privilege. 

Ironically enough, this isn’t tolerance at all but the ascendancy of one particular brand of religion over all the others. And lets be honest, it’s a belief system backed up by all the legislative powers of the State. If this were genuinely neutral, and leaving historical precedent aside, it might not be such a bad project, but neutrality’s not in it. 

Quite apart from its political monopoly, our new religion sides with a particular aspect of the spiritual spectrum; it’s secularist, and thus on the side of agnostics and atheists. To put it simply, these are allowed to desacralise the public square and what’s next to follow? Woe betide Christians whose opinion is deemed against the common good by an effectively atheist legislature in the future. 

Still, maybe this is scare-mongering, after all, didn’t ‘Merry Christmas’ exist hand in hand with ‘Happy Holidays’ in ‘07’s Christmas ad? 

Yes, but as we’ve seen, the hands in question aren’t particularly balanced, which leaves us with the uncomfortable suspicion that the Christian lamb is resting in the jaws of the secular lion. These will one day snap shut unless we regain the courage of our convictions and stand up for the one truth that gives the life, freedom and the happiness we all desire – the Truth that God became Man in the person of an infant so that we may be redeemed. 

Because of this we are merry and our holidays happy, and therein lies a cause that all, without exception, should contend for.

Forward in Christ

Proclaiming the Faith and Order of the Church, given to us by Christ.