Meacham vs. Meacham: Is there or is there not a "secular battle" against Christmas and Easter?

››› ››› JOE BROWN

On The O'Reilly Factor, Newsweek managing editor Jon Meacham echoed Bill O'Reilly's previous assertion that secular forces have declared "war" on the Christian observances of Christmas and Easter. But on CNBC's Tim Russert, Meacham apparently backtracked, stating that he found it "hard[] to understand" the complaints of those who say that "[t]here's a war on Christianity in this country."

On the April 11 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, Newsweek managing editor Jon Meacham echoed host Bill O'Reilly's previous assertion that secular forces have declared "war" on the Christian observances of Christmas and Easter. But Meacham apparently backtracked on the April 15 edition of CNBC's Tim Russert, stating that he found it "hard[] to understand" the complaints of those who say that "[t]here's a war on Christianity in this country." Meacham appeared on both programs to promote his new book, American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation, (Random House, April 2006).

As Media Matters for America previously noted, O'Reilly and other conservatives have repeatedly argued that secular forces are fighting a "war" against Christmas, and O'Reilly recently spoke of a war against Easter before apparently repudiating that claim.

During the April 11 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, when O'Reilly asked Meacham to comment on the "culture war in this country," specifically asking him why secularism has "risen to the point where it controls a lot of the media and a lot of the courts," Meacham stated that "the secular battle against Christmas, against Easter" is "one field" on which the purported struggle between the secular "left" and "the Christian Right" occurs.

But on the April 15 edition of CNBC's Tim Russert, Meacham apparently backtracked on his previous claim. After asserting that -- following electoral victories by religious conservatives -- secular Americans "feel surrounded" by "Christians who are coming to get them," Meacham stated that he "find[s] it harder to understand exactly what" "a lot of very famous ministers" are talking about when they "say Christianity is under assault" and that "[t]here's a war on Christianity in this country."

From the April 11 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

MEACHAM: George Washington clearly understood that the victory in the revolution -- he said, "I can only attribute it to the hand of providence." These were men of intense, private, often complicated faith. Not simple Christianity in many cases.

O'REILLY: All right. So it was just a benevolence on their part. They thought religion was good for them; it would be good for everybody else. In my research, I came up with another reason, that the federal government was too weak to regulate conduct, and they thought that religious restraints would do that for them.

MEACHAM: Well, they left the state oaths in place. Many states left -- you had to be of a certain religion, you had to profess a certain faith to --

O'REILLY: Yes, and they left that alone.

MEACHAM: They left the states alone, but in the Constitution they eliminated the religious test because they wanted to create something that was unique. They wanted to avoid the worst parts of the European experience, where we went to war over the articles of faith, where we went to war --

O'REILLY: Yes, they didn't want abuses and to create strife. But it now has created strife in the culture war in this country. So why now, 2006, has secularism risen to the point where it controls a lot of the media and a lot of the courts? How did that happen?

MEACHAM: I have a theory that -- first of all, that the secular battle against Christmas, against Easter, against these kinds of things that you're talking about, against "under God" in the Pledge --

O'REILLY: You don't deny that battle is taking place?

MEACHAM: No.

O'REILLY: OK. Some of your ilk do.

MEACHAM: I always like being called "ilk." It doesn't happen enough. I don't -- I think part of it is that both sides feel besieged. Give me one second here.

O'REILLY: But we only have 45. So make it fast.

MEACHAM: All right. On the right, since Roe [v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion], really, the Christian right has been involved in politics, worked very hard to elect leaders that they believe would implement their agenda. I think they're frustrated, because there's no pro-life amendment in the Constitution. There's no school-prayer amendment in the Constitution. I think the left is completely frustrated, because it's been 40 years since they have had a president they really liked, and that was Lyndon Johnson.

O'REILLY: All right. So the frustration is boiling over. And that's why we're at loggerheads.

MEACHAM: And that's one -- that's one field on which that battle takes place.

From the April 15 edition of CNBC's Tim Russert:

MEACHAM: So one of the things that puzzles me to some extent, is why, particularly on the right, there's such extreme anger, and such an extreme sense that the secular culture, whatever that is, is against them. And I -- I have a nickel theory about why that is - that -- about why secular people feel surrounded by believers, and why believers feel beleaguered. I believe that the secularists are feeling the pain of 40 years of being in the wilderness.

It's been 40 years exactly, 41, since the high-water mark of the Great Society. Carter and Clinton did not fulfill their dreams, and so they've watched as the Religious Right, in its current incarnation -- beginning to be fueled by the school-prayer decisions in the early '60s, but really, it took off after Roe in '73 -- have won election after election, and they feel that they are surrounded by these Christians who are coming to get them, who are going to break into their house, and instead of stealing something they're going to leave a bunch of Bibles.

On the other side, you--you and I both talk to a lot of ministers, a lot of very famous ministers, who will say Christianity is under assault. There's a war on Christianity in this country. I find it harder to understand exactly what they're talking about. But I think the psychological reason for it is given that, beginning with 1968 forward, they have won so many political victories in broad election terms, and yet there's no pro-life amendment in the Constitution. There hasn't even been a serious effort to pass it. There's no school-prayer amendment in the Constitution. There's been no serious effort to pass it. They had Ronald Reagan, they had George Bush the first, they had George W. Bush. They haven't really gotten what they wanted in the temporal world. And so I think, to some extent, there are many Christians who are thinking, 'Is this worth the candle?' You know, should I be rendering to Caesar that which is Caesar's and to God that which is God's?

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, Religion
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel, CNBC
Person
Jon Meacham
Show/Publication
The O'Reilly Factor
Stories/Interests
Religion
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