Common sense prevails over Christmas tree flap
It is the sort of thing we’ve come to expect at places like the University of California at Berkley where atheistic Marxists are on faculty, or at Princeton University in New Jersey, a school founded by orthodox Presbyterians which now hires faculty who value animal life more than human. Such institutions of “higher learning” are where secularism/humanism is too often the religion of choice and is enforced by political correctness. Christianity is often mocked and America’s history is rewritten to fit some liberal’s political agenda rather than telling the truth.
This is where Missouri State University (MSU), located in the state’s largest conservative city located smack in “America‘s Heartland,” found itself in recent weeks after a faculty member complained about a Christmas tree erected in Strong Hall. Apparently the faculty member felt it was “insensitive” to other religions. As soon as this one complaint became known the university bureaucrats went into crisis mode.
The school’s so-called “diversity” crowd called for emergency sessions of university leaders to discuss appropriate holiday decorations at the state’s second-largest university. The media got involved and soon reporters were canvassing the campus asking students what they thought. The school’s Diversity Commission (usually the entity where the so-called “thought police” and politically correct crowd are charged with imposing secularism on everyone) went into full spin cycle. Chris Craig, co-chair of the Diversity Commission, said taking down the tree was the right thing to do. “This is not about legal issues,” he told the Associated Press. “It’s about being more inclusive.”
I guess it is, unless you’re a Christian or someone who cherishes our nation’s rich heritage. How is removing a symbol, historically part of Americans’ lives at this time of the year, being “inclusive?” Of course, it’s not, but in our post-modern age, words mean different things to different people and truth does not matter because it cannot be known anyway.
The tree was taken down after the dean of the College of Humanities and Public Affairs was told by Craig that a Jewish faculty member said the tree showed “a lack of sensitivity” to those of other religions. One problem with that argument: Courts have ruled that Christmas trees are secular symbols if they do not bear religious decorations, such as a cross. This tree bore only secular symbols. So what was the problem?
This was really an attack on Christianity and on America’s heritage. Even though the courts have ruled Christmas trees to be secular symbols, Americans still traditionally identify Christmas trees in conjunction with the observance of Jesus’ birth. When the Jewish faculty member logged the complaint, university officials rightly offered to let the Jewish community on campus put up a menorah, but they declined. What was their excuse? They were afraid it would be stolen. If there is a crime problem on campus, perhaps it is because Judeo-Christian values are being eradicated and replaced with secular values (man doing what is right in his own eyes).
In the face of this outrageous behavior — and to his credit, university President Michael Nietzel intervened. He announced that it is up to individuals and departments on how to decorate their offices and buildings for the holidays. Fair enough. Southern Baptists are for religious freedom and for the free expression thereof. In a public setting, if a Jewish group wants a menorah by a Christmas tree with crosses all over it, fine. But do not tell Christians they cannot have theirs just because someone is offended. To be sure, the Cross of Calvary is an offense to men, but the One who hung on it is also The Truth and The Life whether one believes it or not.
In addition, Christmas trees have been part of America’s tradition since its beginning. It should be pointed out that no public institution is required by law to include a menorah or other religious symbols to create diversity.
“Christmas is a federal and state holiday and for centuries has been recognized and celebrated from the time of our Founding Fathers,” Springfield attorney Dee Wampler, a member of Second Baptist Church, Springfield, told the Springfield News-Leader. “It isn’t a religious thing. It’s a historical, traditional celebration. Leave Christmas alone. Leave our history alone.”
The controversy caught the eye of a couple of other Missouri Southern Baptists.
Gov. Matt Blunt, who also attends Second Baptist Church, criticized the tree’s removal from a building that houses the university’s religion department.
“I was deeply troubled by MSU’s decision to take down a campus Christmas tree,“ he said. “President Nietzel’s reversal of this outrageous decision by university bureaucrats was the only proper decision and I thank him for it. The historical underpinnings and meaning of Christmas cannot be ignored because some university office received a complaint.”
Missouri Baptist Convention Interim Executive Director David Tolliver was contacted by news media about the incident and did not hold back.
“The decision by university officials to take down a Christmas tree on the campus of MSU was cowardly and insulting to Christians,” he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “In America, all citizens, even Christians, have the right to their religious observances and symbols. I am grateful for President Nietzel’s decision to put it back.”
“Today, I issued a directive to state agencies that no state employee will be reprimanded, cautioned or disciplined for saying ‘Merry Christmas’ to others. I strongly recommend that MSU as well as all other taxpayer supported institutions adopt my policy.“
The MSU Christmas tree controversy is another example of how America’s true history and Christianity is under attack, even in our backyard. Christians need not be shy and “check their beliefs or expressions at the door” in the public arena. We must engage with the life-changing message of the Gospel and when rejected, stand firm and declare anyway, “Thus saith the Lord.”