There already have been several articles about President Joe Biden’s 2022 Christmas message. And while some might see this type of scrutiny as nitpicking or quite a tedious hobby of the right wing or right-leaning individuals in general, it is essential that one is always aware and awake, as the reality of faith and the burden of freedom demand. Analyzing the actions and words of our leaders is vital to understanding our potential futures.
However, firstly, one must acknowledge that both he and his speech writer are human, and therefore cannot be expected to be free of flaws. On the other hand, they are also not expected to be all flaws.
Secondly, let us take into consideration that this is probably not an easy time for him, as the memory of the death of his first wife and one of his children many years ago around this time is not one which will ever go away. We should offer prayers for the souls of his departed loved ones and be understanding of this difficult time for him and his family.
Finally, whether he is in the (arguably) early stages of Alzheimer’s, or he lies habitually, or is no longer the Christian he claims to be, or perhaps he is doing the very work of those who would see the church dismantled around the world, makes no difference in one respect: he is, somehow, the President of the United States.
His influence on the well-being of the country and its citizens, the laws and the economy, as well as on many generations of young Americans is set in the stone of the executive branch. He is making history every day, through what he signs into law, what he says, what he does, and what he does not do. And this is all for the better or (as most often has been the case) for the worse.
Thus, the importance of his Christmas message is great, because of what he expresses as president, but also because of what he is showing us of the workings of his administration and all those who are part of the system that supports him.
So what was his message?
At first glance, it was one that called people to unity, to remember the light for which we all stand, no matter our beliefs, and to be kind and empathetic to one another. In a nutshell, it was a classic example of ‘do as I say not as I do’ rhetoric — his messages to the electorate have rarely been uniting or empathetic or ones to steer people toward the light of goodness.
Encouraging the mutilation of children through speedy so-called gender-affirming care, treating children in the womb as if they were parasites there to steal the mother’s independence, and calling for an end to patience with the unvaccinated, among other things, did anything but unite or inspire kindness in people.
An important part of the speech revolved around, as some have noted, hinting to Christ rather than saying His name. This is true. But perhaps the more noteworthy concern was the way he talked about Christianity and the picture he painted of religion and faith in general.
To start off, the language used was one of an objective observer rather than a participant in faith. He stated that Christmas is about the birth of a child that “Christians believe to be the son of God.” It would perhaps have been more appropriate for a practicing Christian to have noted “ a child all of us Christians know as the Son of God, the Christ.”
By distancing himself from his declared faith, Catholicism, he made a clear statement. Perhaps they did not want him to seem overzealous or fanatical, but rather inclusive. But the problem with this approach is the message that it sends to everyone.
The fact that a declared Christian would water down the meaning of his own convictions and then gather all other personal beliefs together diminishes the importance of the uniqueness of religion. The attitude behind the message was that religion in general is not to be taken seriously — as if personal and common beliefs are whims, or charming little guilty pleasures we allow ourselves to have some fun or look for a reason to get the family together at certain times.
But one’s beliefs, whether spiritual or not, are what shape one’s worldview, the whole framework of existence, the way one sees and treats oneself and others. They make up the centerpoint of identity.
Biden states, “ Yes, it’s a story that is two thousand years old, but it’s still very much alive today.” The tricky part here is the wording, which shows that he apparently considers the whole thing outdated, despite trying to claim otherwise. This is not “a story,” after all, it is the history of the Christian faith.
Someone who understands the importance of the birth of Christ would realize that the age of the religion surrounding the event is a testament to its significance and timeless relevance, not an argument against this.
“Yes, even after two thousand years Christmas still has the power to lift us up” he noted. That “still” conspicuously placed there changes the meaning of the sentence. The sense goes from “it has the power” to “for now, it still works.”
I doubt anyone waking up to a message from their spouse or boyfriend stating “I still love you” would be pondering the word “love” as much as they would be thinking about that strategically placed “still.” It paints the picture of a tired, overstretched, perhaps waning feeling, of whose permanence one cannot be sure.
Biden also tried to make the case that our different faiths (or lack thereof) unite us because they all essentially seek the same thing: light, peace, joy, and so on. However, all faiths and personal beliefs do not seek the same thing, nor are they expressed in the same way. Some people prefer to build their lives around hedonistic and selfish principles, while others can be truly monstrous in what they both accept as true and what they practice.
In the end, the way the message was presented was almost like saying, “I don’t really believe this. And let’s face it, you don’t either. What you really believe is the power of light and joy and peace. It is enough to be a good person, you don’t need all this ancient mumbo jumbo. Let’s all just have a global, unified idea of spirituality and be done with it already.”
Unfortunately, the “you just have to be a good person” argument becomes dangerous when the definition of good is not clear or is relative. It is enough to look at how easily “pedophile” was rephrased “as minor-attracted person,” to dim the moral outrage and numb the senses of those witnessing the transition from moral absolutes to moral relativity.
Of course, I could be wrong and he could truly have meant to speak of joy and unity and show himself as the president of all Americans, not just Christians. But even then, you cannot stand and defend peoples’ faiths while distancing yourself from your own. Not to say that he should be the most devout Christian, but if he just does not trust in Christ anymore, why lie about it? His actions speak quite clearly. And many would probably call him brave for stating his disbelief or change of creed.
Or perhaps he has not pondered nor does he care about the discrepancies between his words and actions. This is politics after all. But then again, even politicians have to tell some truths sometimes, otherwise there is no point to any political system. So, where are Biden’s truths?
The real issue is that he is diminishing the idea of religion and faith in general and shrouding it in a light of embarrassment and myth. This is a more diplomatic version of what the communists did in Socialist Romania. They ridiculed faith and church so that no “serious scientist” and “man of reason” would ever dare think of “such nonsense.”
This is the direction the Christmas message was heading. It was not the avoidance of the words Jesus Christ or the watered-down presentation of his own declared faith, but the combination of what was blurred and what was made clear.
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