Tony Perkins is President of Family Research Council. This article appeared in The Daily Signal on November 29, 2017.
There’ve been a lot of wise men in the White House. But this Christmas, there are three more in the East Room, where the Trumps are highlighting a Nativity scene.
That’s just one of the ways the first family is separating itself from the Obamas, who came dangerously close to ditching the 50-year-old display in 2009. There wasn’t room for Jesus at the inn—and for eight years, there wasn’t much room for him at 1600 Pennsylvania either.
The Obamas famously wanted a “nonreligious Christmas” (which makes about as much sense as a vegetarian barbecue). But they were outed by their social secretary, Desiree Rogers, in an eye-opening profile piece for The New York Times.
The lunch conversation inevitably turned to whether the White House would display its crèche, customarily placed in a prominent spot in the East Room. Ms. Rogers, this participant said, replied that the Obamas did not intend to put the manger scene on display—a remark that drew an audible gasp from the tight-knit social secretary sisterhood. (A White House official confirmed that there had been internal discussions about making Christmas more inclusive and whether to display the crèche.)
Ultimately, the Obamas caved to pressure and included a Nativity scene in their décor. For two terms, that was the extent of Christmas in the White House. There were no mentions of Christmas on official cards—and only a smattering of references in eight years of greetings and special events. After eight years of making political correctness a state religion, it’s really no wonder Americans flocked to a man who isn’t afraid to call the season what it is.
“You go to stores, you don’t see the word Christmas,” then-candidate Donald Trump argued on the campaign trail. “It says ‘Happy Holidays’ all over. I say, ‘Where’s Christmas? I tell my wife, ‘Don’t go to those stores’ … I want to see Christmas.”
Thanks to the president and first lady, Americans are seeing Christmas. The White House is alive with tradition, from the “Merry Christmas” on the White House card to its official hashtag #WHChristmas. To the Trumps, it’s just another way of keeping their promise.
“Something I said so much during the last two years, but I’ll say it again, as we approach the end of the year, you know we’re getting near that beautiful Christmas season that people don’t talk about anymore,” the president said at last month’s Values Voter Summit. “They don’t use the word Christmas because it’s not politically correct. You go to department stores, and they’ll say, ‘Happy New Year,’ and they’ll say other things. It’ll be red. They’ll have it painted. Well, guess what? We’re saying Merry Christmas again.”
The crowd erupted in cheers—completely baffling the media. Like most liberals, they couldn’t understand why the issue resonated so much with conservatives. Other reporters almost mocked the line, latching on to it as another silly soundbite on an issue they consider so trivial. But to every Christian in that room, the president was talking about a lot more than the war on Christmas. He was speaking directly into the fight for religious liberty in America.
Maybe the mainstream media didn’t notice how stifled Christians were under President Barack Obama’s government—how everything they said or wore or posted was scrutinized (or worse, punished). After two terms of the most hostile administration to faith the country has ever seen, I guarantee no one takes the simplest expression—”Merry Christmas”—for granted.
To the people who elected Trump, this isn’t just about putting Christ in a day. It’s about putting faith back in American life.