Tuesday, December 13, 2005

"Always winter and never Christmas"

That's the way the deplorable condition of Narnia under the White Witch is described at the beginning of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

For its author C. S. Lewis, this must have been a particularly powerful image for a world in which all real joy had been suppressed: the slushy chill of December in turn-of-the-century Belfast, but with all its excitement and anticipation gone, and nothing ahead but an imminent return to the boarding schools that Lewis loathed.

It strikes me as an apt image for what the ACLU, People for the American Way, and other such groups are trying to establish in this country: a winter "holiday" season without its chief holiday, without the event that the majority of Americans regard -- when they think of it, which is not as often as they should -- as the real source of true, deep, and everlasting joy. Oh, they'll let us have Hanukkah because they say it has become only a "cultural" event (this would probably be a surprise to most Jews, but let that go); they'll let us have Kwanzaa because it's politically correct to do so; they'll let us have the Solstice because it carries a frisson of fashionable paganism with it. And they'll let us have the counterfeit joy of frantic gift-giving and party-going and overeating because those things take our mind off the wintry chill of hearts without Christ. And besides, it's good for business.

But Christmas? Uh-uh. The public square is to be just the ultimately grim, ice-bound wasteland that Lewis wrote of: winter, but never Christmas.