The Purdue Christmas Program, O’Reilly, The War on Christmas and President Harrison, by Pr. Rossow

When it comes to the two kingdoms, I tend to be an old fashioned, quietest Lutheran. It’s getting tougher in this country to remain quiet. Here’s a collection of miscellany on this topic.

First, President Harrison makes it tough to be a cultural quietist when he goes off to Capital Hill to protest government interference in the affairs of the church and makes such a splash, with clear and probing words of Luther and a hint of civil disobedience.

Those of you who watch The O’Reilly Factor on Fox News probably get as frustrated with his often discombobulated logic as I do but there is also the occasional nugget that like the big drive on the golf course, brings you back for more. Tonight he hit the big drive with his analysis of the cultural war going on in this country, the same war that Harrison is fighting, albeit on a different front.

O’Reilly has been fighting against the secular-progressive’s war on Christmas and this month Newsweek Magazine proclaimed that he had won based on the fact that retailers are now allowing their clerks to wish people “Merry Christmas” and other small signs.

One of O’Reilly’s tactics is to distinguish the philosophy of Christian religion from the religion of Christianity. His point is that the deist founding fathers practiced the philosophy of Christianity and built this country around the moralism of this philosophy – the ten commandments. Thus he argues, the secular progressivist’s should not be upset at the creche in the public square. According to the religion of Christianity that is the Son of God laying in the manger, but according to the American Christian philosophy of religion, it is just a baby boy who inspires us to good moral behavior. That’s a pretty clever distinction and maybe even useful.

The old quietist Lutheran in me rejects O’Reilly’s distinction because it cannot accept, on principal, that there can be any Jesus but the religious one. But O’Reilly may have a good point and he may have found a way to argue for the allowance of Christian culture in the civil culture. He is right on concerning the “Christianity” of our deists forefathers.

Just when I had become comfortable making my way into the culture with O’Reilly’s philosophical Christianity argument, along comes my annual viewing of the Purdue University Christmas program which messes everything up.

I tend to leave the TV on in the background when I am studying and working and do some serious channel surfing during the numerous breaks that I take. I am a sucker for musical variety shows which are particularly prevalent during the Christmas season. Since Chicagoland borders on Indiana, our cable system includes a PBS station from the Hoosier state. A couple years ago the annual Purdue University Christmas show caught my attention on that channel. It caught my attention because it was just that – a Christmas show. Purdue is a public land grant university. What is a public university doing having a Christmas show? Even in the heartland of Iowa, where I come from, they would never dream of having a Christmas program at a public university.

The Purdue University Christmas program is genuinely Christmas. They sing hymns, a bit of the Messiah and all surrounded by actual Christmas trees (like the ones that are now banned from the Rhode Island statehouse) and a fully stocked manger scene. I am also drawn to this show each year because of some weirdness. Each year they usually include a medley of contemporary worship Christmas music. It is odd enough to see hymns sung at a public university, but Cowo? That is a freaky, but in some odd way, encouraging, I think, at least from the standpoint of the war on Christmas.

Can I just draft dodge the culture war? As a traditional, Lutheran quietest I thought I could but I have to say, President Harrison was like a general leading the troops into war when he testified in D.C. It was very inspiring. I am willing to follow, albeit still a little confused by it all. Oh well, if we ever need back-up as we wage this war, I know of an eager, Christmas hymn-singing mass choir in West Lafayette that in naivete or full awareness, can cover one of the flanks.

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