‘When people hear of the ‘war on Christmas,’” Sarah Palin writes in her new book, Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas, “they sometimes don’t get it.” The former governor of Alaska and Republican vice-presidential nominee explains:
Americans live in the red-and-green mistletoed world of Christmas in December, hearing “Santa Baby” on a perpetual loop at the mall, hushing the kids in the Swagger Wagon when “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” comes on the radio, and dealing with Christmas ads even before November’s Thanksgiving turkey has time to cook to the appropriate internal temperature. If there is a “war on Christmas,” they must wonder, surely the green glitter and constant car-with-a-gigantic-bow ads mean Christmas is a winning battle.
“Sure, the commercial aspects of Christmas are stronger than ever,” Palin goes on to observe, “but the essence of Christmas is being lost in the shuffle. And that’s at least partly by design. What is the essence of Christmas? The magic of Christmas morning and seeing the joy that comes when your kids discover Santa really did give the new Lego sets — or dictionaries — they desperately wanted?”
What is the essence of Christmas, what the true joy of it? How is it all about so much more than December 25? In the hours before Christmas, Palin answered some e-mail questions from National Review Online
’s Kathryn Jean Lopez.
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: “People who reject Christianity, who turn their noses up at the religious origins of Christmas, are also rejecting the faith of many of the men and women who have made this world a better place: Martin Luther King, Jr., William Wilberforce, Mother Teresa.” Why do you find this important to point out? Non-Christians, too, make positive contributions to the world, after all.
SARAH PALIN: It’s amazing that people like Martin Luther King Jr., William Wilberforce, and Mother Teresa are universally loved while their faith is scorned. Has it not occurred to the secular elite that faith motivated these great heroes’ actions? In an age when Christianity is increasingly scorned, few people realize they live with and take for granted the benefits of Christian thought. Ending slavery, ending segregation, the great wave of concern for combating poverty — each of these movements has been motivated to a large degree by Christian faith. The fact that these movements also had non-Christian supporters does not diminish the truth of this point, and we are not dishonoring other religions when we honor Christianity.
LOPEZ: You dedicate your book to your mother and father, crediting them with giving you a “unique and inspiring upbringing.” What was unique and inspiring about it?
PALIN: The greatest gift they gave me was my upbringing in Alaska, where I gained respect for the work ethic and competition and a foundation of faith.
LOPEZ: What is Eskimo Bingo, and do you recommend it?
PALIN: I’m literally, right now as I take a minute to email you these answers, baking and wrapping gifts for tomorrow’s big game. You’ll have to read my book to learn the rules.
LOPEZ: What’s the Alaskan difference — from the lower 48 — and yet what’s uniquely American about it?
PALIN: My brother and dad recently wrote a book about Alaska where they spent chapters answering this by discussing everything from what motivates people to move here to what kind of humor they develop because of living in Alaska. I could spend days discussing this and we’d still only scratch the surface. You need to live here for at least a decade and become a Sourdough before you really “get” it. Alaska is uniquely a land of extremes — extremes in weather, in vastness, in rich natural resources, in awe-inspiring beauty, and in independence. It was the inexpressible beauty of Alaska that led me to truly know that God exists because only an omnipotent Creator could create something as complex and wondrous as my surroundings up here!
LOPEZ: “It’s a miracle what families can endure,” you write. You’ve had some incredibly public family challenges. How does a family do it?
PALIN: I don’t know how other families deal with problems without having a sustaining faith. Our faith in God and knowing all things happen for a reason, our love for each other, our recognition that others take tougher shots than we do, our compassion for those with unique challenges — these things sustain us. And keeping a sense of humor when the yahoos come out in force to spew their frustration when they spend their time reading interviews like this one!
LOPEZ: Is there something about that sense of family that we’ve lost as a culture?
PALIN: Sometimes it seems that way. I sure appreciate having a big extended, diverse family. They’re my rock and I hope others have that same bedrock foundation in their lives. There’s no substitute for the multigenerational love, wisdom, and support of an extended family.
LOPEZ: How can Christmas help?
PALIN: Traditions matter, especially this tradition. There is tremendous value in gathering annually in a spirit of love, generosity, and festivity. Most importantly, we need to remember the “reason for the season,” that God sent His only begotten Son, so that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. When we gather for Christmas, we enjoy each other and we honor Christ. What could be better for a family?
LOPEZ: Do you worry about gifts at Christmas? That they miss the point of the holiday? How can we redeem Christmas so it is about the Savior?
PALIN: Nope. I don’t worry about gifts — I love that part of the tradition! When people wring their hands about the presents, I get it, though. It costs money and sometimes people aren’t as thankful as you think they should be when you spend your time and money on them. But presents aren’t the problem. Our hearts — as ungrateful as they sometimes are — need a fresh application of the gospel at Christmas more than ever.