Friday, December 23, 2011

Zimmerman: Honoring King while shutting out Jesus reeks of hypocrisy

I've witnessed the success of the political war against Christmas in public school in my own generation. I remember well the excitement and joy of my fourth-grade public school Christmas party in 1970 (complete with nativity scenes of the infant Jesus), but in 2008 I experienced the virtual prohibition of even a secular Christmas party for my fourth-grade daughter in the neighborhood public school.
Contemplating the motivation of government school bureaucrats and politicians for the gradual repression of Christmas over the decades led me to examine the public schools' treatment of two well-known political and religious figures — one Jesus of Nazareth and one Martin Luther King Jr. I conclude that the motivation has to do with justifying and consolidating government power, which bureaucrats must consider easier to do with the life of King than with the life of Christ.

It's first necessary to demonstrate a war on Christmas exists, as a chorus of secular voices claim there is no such war.  Consider the Plano school district "candy cane" case. The district in December 2004 instructed parents that they could only supply white plates and white napkins for the "Winter Break Party," that red and green were to be avoided at all costs, that a ban on the words "Merry Christmas" should be observed, that candy cane pens and other "religious oriented items" should be prohibited on "school property" (as if that property belongs to government bureaucrats, instead of the parents and taxpayers who paid for it), and other such extreme absurdities.  This month, the Fort Worth school district issued a memo saying schools cannot "endorse or sponsor any religious activity or doctrine" and that "students should not be allowed to exchange gifts or distribute personal holiday messages." The arrogance here is the implication that respect for individual choices — arbitrarily labeled "religious activity" — amounts to government endorsement or sponsorship of such choices, and I believe that is the key to understanding the government's war on Christmas.  It's as if freedom of individual conscience and choice, and the appeal to a higher authority (either one's God, or one's individual conscience) for justification of that choice, offends a power hungry, womb-to-tomb government that demands the dependence of, and obedience from, the people it aims to control.

Consider Jesus and King, and school policy toward recognizing these two men.
Most honest scholars and educators recognize Jesus as the "greatest teacher who ever lived" — who by example, not coercive political force, changed history immeasurably for the better. Christ was bitterly opposed by the most powerful religious forces of his day — forces which eventually collaborated with the hated Roman political state to have Jesus executed without legal cause.
In like manner, Martin Luther King was a spiritual and organizational force in an effective crusade against discrimination that had powerful religious and political overtones.
King, the Baptist minister who quoted Christ in his sermons and political writings, was jailed 20 times, stabbed in the chest, had his home firebombed, endured countless religious and political attacks, and was eventually assassinated.

So we should question why King — a Baptist minister and student of Christ — is universally honored by the Austin school district in an "annual celebration honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King," while the life and legacy of Christ is universally ignored, and Christmas virtually prohibited.  A key to understanding this might be seen in a Beacon Publishing commentary: "with a universal message of hope that continues to resonate, King demanded an end to global suffering, powerfully asserting that humankind — for the first time — has the resources and technology to eradicate poverty."  If one accepts this humanistic assertion that King trusted "humankind" exerting collective political force, rather than Christ working individualized personal transformations, as the best hope for humanity, then it would make sense that government would embrace this King as morally justifying ever increasing government control — including the repression of Christ and Christmas.

I certainly don't consider myself knowledgeable enough about Jesus Christ or Martin Luther King yet, but it's already evident that the public school engages in a dangerous hypocrisy when it censors Santa for an affiliation with Christ, while endorsing a political agenda it affiliates with King.

Zimmerman is a Travis County member of the Texas State Republican Executive Committee.

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