Rich Manieri: Why the pushback against Christmas?

December 15, 2018

The Satanists have their statue. You might have heard that a Satanic sculpture was recently installed in the Illinois statehouse. A local group of Satanists decided that it needed to counteract the Nativity scene that also stands in the capitol rotunda during the Christmas season. The Satanic Temple applied to install a statue of an arm with a snake coiled around it, an apple in its hand. The base on which the statue sits reads, “Knowledge is the greatest gift.”

The state’s explanation was basically that it had no choice. In fact, it posted a disclaimer in the rotunda explaining that state officials “cannot legally censor the content of speech or displays.”

So, the Satanists have their statue. Who cares?

Apparently, the Satanic Temple thinks this is a big deal. On a GoFundMe page used to raise money for what it calls its “snaketivity” display, the temple posted: “The Satanic Temple — Chicago will no longer allow one religious perspective to dominate the discourse in the Illinois State Capitol rotunda during the holiday season... Please consider what you may do to help us bring Satan to Springfield!”

The “one religious perspective” to which it refers is Christianity.

The temple was trying to raise $1,500. To date, it has raised $1,810.

If you’re still wondering why you should devote another second thinking about this, consider some of the guest posts on the temple’s GoFundMe page:

“This is utterly fantastic. Great message, compelling visual.”

“Hail pluralism! Hail Satan!”

“I believe that TST is making a difference in the lives of marginalized people, fighting for their fundamental rights to be safe and be who they are in this country and this state. Therefore, I wish to support in any way I can...”

As I read these posts, and researched what various atheist organizations have planned for the Christmas season — billboards declaring Christianity a myth and so on — a question came to mind. The question isn’t “Why do we care?” It’s “Why do they?”

If faith in God is folly and a waste of time, why aren’t atheists content to let us wallow in our ignorance? Why their proactivity? Why this strange desire to rid the public square of any mention of God or Christ? Is a Nativity scene really that offensive?

These are weighty, theological questions and I’m neither a theologian nor am I an expert in apologetics. But I do know that what atheists seems to miss, or intentionally bypass, is the historical aspect of the Christmas story and the life of Jesus. A baby named Jesus was born in Bethlehem. He was raised in Nazareth and became an influential rabbi. He made spectacular claims about his divinity and eyewitnesses saw him perform several miracles. He was executed by crucifixion and his followers claim to have seen him alive after his death.

Atheists can reject the message and dismiss the Bible as myth. But they can’t get past the history and, perhaps, this is why atheists find the message of the Gospel and the claims of Christ so threatening and feel the need to fight against them.

It seems we’re all faced with the same choice this Christmas and the choice is not knowledge versus faith. The Christmas story says a savior has been born and he came to rescue us from our predicament.

Whether we accept or reject him is the choice, and a statue in a statehouse doesn’t make that choice any less obvious.

Rich Manieri is a Philadelphia-born journalist and author.

He is currently a professor of journalism at Asbury University in Kentucky. His book, “We Burn on Friday: A Memoir of My Father and Me” is available at amazon.com. You can reach him at manieri2@gmail.com.

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