I hope I’ll be forgiven if, as an outsider, I ask about the state of Christmas in America. My impression, based on inadequate information, is that Christmas is in a slow but noticeable decline. My neck of the woods is pretty urban and dominated by apartment buildings. Still, there seems very little in the way of Christmas decoration around here. Despite the occasional Christmas pop song, radio stations have long since given up playing real Christmas music. I have a pretty poor sense of television, but I don’t think there’s been much new or interesting with a Christmas theme. The Charlie Brown special was a nice example of a Christmas update in the best spirit of the holiday. Is there anything new like that? The great exception on this score, as in so much else, is Country music. The Alan Jackson special, which keeps the traditional meaning of the holiday in mind, is becoming a standard on CMT–which has lots of other Christmas themed stuff. Christian radio, it seems to me, is almost afraid of Christmas. It has its own repertoire of Christmas songs and segments, all of which have the same theme: Christmas should not be made too much of–Christmas is all year round because Christ should be a constant force in our lives. Christian radio almost palpably dreads the appeal of the secular and commercialized holiday. But right now, even the seductive and semi-secular version of Christmas that used to dominate popular culture seems to me to be on the decline. I think this is less because of a fear by Christians of offending religious minorities than because increasing secularization has turned cultural sensitivity itself into the new religion. At least in blue America, where I’ve always lived, Christmas seems on the decline, and secularism on the rise. I’m ready to stand corrected in all this, because I haven’t been paying close enough attention. But is it coincidence that the big cultural event this season is about a pagan fantasy world? I think Lord of the Rings carries some of the moral weight that Christmas used to carry–good and evil are still there–but in a way that safely appeals to an increasingly secular and culturally divided public.