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Public Theology: The Political Misuse of Christianity
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The Political Misuse of Christianity
Fox News Commentator Bill O'Reilly claims Christian faith is under siege from the secular movement trying to keep Christ out of Christmas.

By Ed Knudson

Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly, who not long ago was embroiled in a scandal about his sex life, now feels it his duty to speak up for Christianity. On December 7, 2004, O'Reilly says "Christmas is under siege" and he blames "secular progressives" who want to reduce the influence of religion in politics. But it is O'Reilly who is misusing Christianity for his own political agenda. It is important that real Christians be able to critique what he is doing.

O'Reilly says: "All over the country, Christmas is taking flak. In Denver this past weekend, no religious floats were permitted in the holiday parade there. In New York City, Mayor Bloomberg unveiled the holiday tree and no Christian Christmas symbols are allowed in the public schools. Federated Department Stores, [that's] Macy's, have done away with the Christmas greeting, 'Merry Christmas.'"

This so-called secularization of society has been going on for a very long time now. There's nothing new here. For a long time Christian faith has not enjoyed a formal, established monopoly on public expression of symbolic life, ever since medieval times in Europe, in fact. In some local communities, yes, but not in major urban areas composed of people of many ethnic groups and religious affiliation. The United States is a liberal democratic republic with no established religion. It was the intention of the founders to create a pluralistic secular society.

So what is O'Reilly trying to do with his tirade? He wants to use Christian faith for his own political purposes. He wants to use Christmas nostalgia to stir up anger against those terrible secular progressives who "realize that America as it is now will never approve of gay marriage, partial birth abortion, euthanasia, legalized drugs, income redistribution through taxation, and many other progressive visions because of religious opposition." Each item on this list of issues can be debated, of course; there are Christians on all sides of these issues; there are moral arguments that can be legitimately made among people of many different faiths about these issues. But O'Reilly the news commentator knows what is the true "Christian" view and putting "Christ" back into Christmas is directly associated with his particular political perspective. This is really blasphemy, it is not preaching Christ, it is using Christ for political purposes.

O'Reilly states directly that his concern is not really the Christian faith. He believes not in Christ, but in the "country". He says that we will "lose the country" if secular progressives win; yes, he actually says that. He "is convinced that the USA cannot defeat terrorism and any other evil without a strong, traditional foundation that clearly defines right from wrong. The struggle today is not about Christmas, but about the spirit of our country."

It could not be more clear that O'Reilly is misusing Christian faith for his own political purposes, he is concerned about the "spirit of the country" not the Spirit of a Living God of all people in all nations. God does not need Bill O'Reilly as a spokesperson. In fact, God is demeaned by such talk. God does not need official, public recognition in society in order to do God's work of creation and redemption of all the world. In fact, Christians should be very wary about any effort to expect public institutions to use the symbols of Christian faith for their own purposes. It is the job of the church not the society or the state to witness to faith in Jesus sent into the world to reveal the love and mercy of a gracious God.

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Date Added: 12/23/2004 Date Revised: 12/23/2004 12:20:30 PM

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