Where Have All the Christmas Decorations Gone?

(Dreamstime image: Chasdesign1983)
A meditation on joyless secularism

Where I live – near Los Angeles – you can drive for blocks without seeing a single home with Christmas lights, let alone a manger scene or some other religious decoration. And you can drive miles and see fewer than a dozen.

I grew up in Brooklyn, in an area most of whose residents were either Italian or Jewish. So many homes had Christmas decorations that you could almost be sure that if the home wasn’t decorated, a Jewish family lived in it. And while I was, and remain, a committed Jew, I loved – and still love – those decorated homes. It makes December special.

But today, in large swathes of America, December is not special. Secularism has taken its toll. The lack of color at this time of the year as compared with decades ago perfectly exemplifies some of the consequences of secularism.

Secularism literally and figuratively knocks color out of life.

Without God and religion, there is, of course, much to enjoy in life. You can enjoy Bach without believing in God (though Bach would not have composed anything if he hadn’t believed in God); you can enjoy sports, books, travel, and so much more.

But there is a monochromatic character to life without God and religion. And you can literally see it this month. When I compare blocks of homes without Christmas decorations with blocks filled with homes that have Christmas decorations, I think of my trips to the Soviet Union and other Communist countries. One of the first things that struck any visitor from the West was how gray everything looked. There was essentially no color – just as today’s decoration-free homes appear in comparison with those with decorations.

Secularism in the West has a deadening effect. It tends to suck the joy of life out of individuals and out of the larger society. It is particularly noticeable in young people. Secular kids are more likely to be jaded and cynical than kids raised in religious Christian and Jewish homes. (Conversely, secularism has an enlivening effect in fundamentalist Muslim countries, which tend to suck the joy out of life even more than secularism does in the West. That’s one reason — the immorality of Islamism, the desire to impose sharia on everyone, is the greater reason — one can root for secularism in Iran and against secularism in the West.)

What secular joys can compare to a family putting up Christmas decorations and a Christmas tree, going to church together, singing or listening to Christmas carols, and engaging in the other rituals surrounding Christmas? There are none.

The same question can be posed to Jews: What secular joys compare to having Shabbat meals every week with family and friends? Or building a sukkah (the holiday booth) with your children for Sukkot (Tabernacles)?

There are none. Neither for adults nor for children.

A Christian caller to my radio show told me about his son-in-law who doesn’t celebrate Christmas – but who does celebrate “the first snow.”

With all respect, celebrating “the first snow” or the Winter Solstice does not bring the joy to an individual or family’s life that celebrating Christmas does.

The indoctrinated, better known as the well-educated, have been misled to believe that because secular government is good and theocracy is bad, secularism must be good. But it isn’t.

Secularism literally and figuratively knocks color out of life.

Secularism not only knocks out joy. It also destroys ultimate meaning. Without God and religion, life is ultimately no more than random coincidence. You and I have no more meaning or purpose than puffs of clouds. The only difference is that clouds don’t need to believe that they have meaning.

This lack of meaning in secular society is the reason for the development of the post-Christian -isms and movements in the West. They give people meaning. Marxism, Communism, Fascism, Nazism, not to mention all the nonviolent but socially destructive left-wing movements of our day, are all secular substitutes for what religion once gave – meaning.

Secularism also destroys moral absolutes. Without God and moral revelation, morality is entirely subjective: “What you or your society says is good is good, and what I or my society says is good is good.” Is it any wonder that the most secular institution in the West – the university – is also the place of the greatest amount of moral idiocy?

#related#Secularism also destroys art. Contemporary art museums are filled with nihilism and talent-free meaninglessness masquerading as art – and, worse, they are increasingly filled with the scatological. One of the Guggenheim Museum’s latest featured works is a pure-gold toilet bowl – usable by visitors to the museum. It’s titled “America,” so that one can literally urinate and defecate on America. And feel sophisticated while doing so.

America is a society in decline because Americans have abandoned the religious foundations of their country. The colorless and joyless Christmas manifested in the increasing number of homes without Christmas decorations is a clear, and dispiriting, example.

— Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and columnist. His latest book, The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code, was published by Regnery. He is the founder of Prager University and may be contacted at © 2016


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