It’s been a slow year for the Christmas bashing that’s become rather routine at the Capitol rotunda in Tallahassee, Florida. Pam Olsen, president of the Florida Prayer Network, the group that has provided a Nativity scene there for the last two years, is taking a pass. “After much prayer, I truly want the message of Christ, The Son of God, born in a manger so long ago in Bethlehem, to be heard very clearly at this difficult time, instead of the dissension in the Capitol rotunda — this is not the year for that kind of debate in our rotunda,” Olsen said in an open letter.
The “debate” to which Olsen refers has been the recent effort to turn the rotunda into a citadel of competing displays, that mostly illuminate the determination of those who can’t stand to see Christians enjoying themselves during the holidays. It is coupled with the timidity of public officials cowed by political correctness. Political correctness that demands equal respect for the sacred and the profane.
Thus in 2014, for the sake of “balance,” the rotunda sported a protest display from the Satanic Temple. It featured an angel falling into a pit of fire. “There’s no significance to it; it’s just a display that we put up to counteract the Nativity scene,” explained Satanic Temple member John Porgal at the time. “It’s all or none, and this represents the other side of the manger scene.”
All or none also included a six-foot pole comprised of beer cans celebrating “Festivus,” a fictitious holiday spawned by the sitcom “Seinfeld.” Other atheist banners, including a display from the “Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster” whose followers are known as “Pastafarians,” were also part of the mix.
This year, because the FPN is taking a pass, the Satanic Temple is too. But they warn that could change if another group decides to put up a Christmas display. “As the assertion of plurality is always primary in our holiday displays, and many of our activities, we feel that our Satanic Holiday displays work best in a forum where a Nativity is present,” the Satanic Temple stated in an email.
Plurality? One suspects a willful dilution of the Christmas message is more accurate.
As of Dec. 7, the only applications for a display were submitted by the Chabad Lubavitch of the Panhandle-Tallahassee, a group that wished to display a menorah, and Chaz Stevens, a political blogger from Deerfield Beach, who wants his Festivus pole.
Make no mistake: All of this is perfectly legal. Any doubt of that was removed last year, when the state caved following the Satanic Temple’s enlistment of legal counsel from Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which threatened to sue lawmakers to get its display into the rotunda. Comically, the same lawmakers that countenanced Festivus and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster had somehow determined that a display by the Satanist group was “grossly offensive.” “Free speech is for everyone and all groups,” said Americans United executive director Barry Lynn. “State officials simply can’t get into the business of deciding that some unpopular messages are ‘offensive’ and must be banned.”
That is certainly correct, but it provokes an essential question: When did Americans become so petty and self-righteous that every display of genuine religious conviction had to be offset with absurdities designed to offend? And not just in Florida. A Satanist in Oklahoma plans to pour fake blood, along with sulfur powder and ash, over a statue of the Virgin Mary outside of St. Joseph Old Cathedral on Christmas Eve. “The purpose of the blood is to add another layer of corruption to Mary, which is an emblem of the Catholic Church,” contends Adam Daniels, whose display is entitled “Virgin Birth is a Lie.”
Such insults are only possible in a country that has embraced a culturally suicidal proposition: All ideas have equal merit. Thus a religion with more than a billion followers over thousands of years is “no better or worse” than one created by TV sitcom writers in the 1990s, or one whose adherents call themselves Pastafarians.
This is the essence of “nonjudgmentalism,” a progressive-based theory that asserts any discrimination of thought constitutes some type of bigotry. This nonsense has been pounded into the heads of public school children over the better part of two decades, and the results are both predictable and tragic: for millions of Americans, freedom and license are now interchangeable terms.
Yet conferring equal amounts of legitimacy on solid and dubious concepts is hardly limited to religious displays. Bums, drug addicts, alcoholics and mentally disturbed people are now homeless, and illegal aliens are undocumented immigrants. One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. There is no right and wrong, only shades of gray. Everyone gets a trophy just for showing up. And despite one’s genitalia and chromosomal makeup, one is a woman trapped in a man’s body — or black person trapped in a Caucasian one.
Blowback against such perniciousness was inevitable. Yet in perhaps the greatest irony of the ages, the most indoctrinated generations of Americans have not only rejected the notion that all ideas have equal merit, but think that any idea with which they disagree has no merit whatsoever, and must be labeled with trigger warnings at best, or stricken altogether from the national conversation at worst.
Last week, Congress passed a massive “bipartisan” spending package that will add billions of additional dollars to the national debt. Donald Trump remains on top in the GOP presidential polls. The spending package testifies to the reality that any judgment regarding the mathematical certainty of national bankruptcy has no more value than the “spirit of compromise” used to sell this monstrosity. Trump’s continuing popularity testifies to the reality that millions of Americans have had quite enough of the notion all ideas have equal merit — especially those that could get us killed by religious extremists.
Perhaps there will be an Islamic State flag hanging in the Capitol rotunda in Tallahassee next Christmas.