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Jesus Nearly Banned at White House Inn

Christmas_tree_WH_reuters09.jpg

Reuters

I can see the headlines now: "Gate-crashers Enter White House; Jesus Kept Out!" Except it almost happened. Really.

I was reading the New York Times Sunday Styles section yesterday (yep, I'm straight) when I came across an article about embattled White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers -- she's the one who broke with previous White House tradition by inviting herself to the state dinner when she should have been at the door keeping out the loopy riff-raff.

But in the twelfth paragraph of the article there was a real bombshell: It said that earlier this year at a luncheon with other previous White House social secretaries, Ms. Rogers claimed that this year the White House would have a "non-religious" Christmas celebration. (For those of you confused by that, it's just like a "non-religious" Yom Kippur celebration, or a "non-Irish" St. Patrick's Day celebration, or an "international" July 4th celebration.)

The Times article continued: 

"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.)"

In the next sentence we learn that this radical idea was eventually scotched. (Perhaps the "audible gasp" from the bipartisan audience tipped them off.) But the fact that it was going to happen reveals a level of political tone-deafness in the current administration that is staggering. To most average Americans -- who did not grow up in an Ivy-League, inside-the-Beltway hothouse governed by the rules of the French Revolution -- the idea of keeping Jesus out of "the people's  house" at Christmas evokes disturbing images of the Holy Family being turned away from the Inn, or worse yet, images of Herod. But to a super-secular White House afraid to offend anyone -- except for average Americans -- it probably just seemed like another fab "progressive" innovation.

If President Obama wanted to fuel the fears of every serious Christian in America and actually prove that he is every bad thing they've ever heard about him on every crazy Web site, the idea of symbolically taking Jesus out of the White House at Christmas would be just the ticket!

Let's face it: "Brand Obama" dodged a bullet by not going forward with this terrible idea, but only barely dodged it. After all, the facts of the story are right there in The New York Times for all to see.

What can be said of an administration so out of touch with the people it governs? Previous American presidents seemed to understand that while America is not "officially" a Christian nation, it is a nation whose Founders all believed in a Creator, and whose people are overwhelmingly Christian. Even Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton had the créche displayed during their administrations. What is going on?

Is this administration so afraid to offend people of other beliefs that they will seriously consider obliterating basic American traditions? As a friend of mine put it: their logic is like saying that serving American food at the White House state dinner might offend the Indians in the room.

But it's never offensive to simply be yourself. What can be terribly offensive is bending over backwards when its absolutely unnecessary. Or bowing when it's absolutely unnecessary. People may begin to suspect that you simply have spine issues -- and yes, I mean that metaphorically.

Eric Metaxas is The New York Times bestselling author of "Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery." His new book, "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About God (But Were Afraid to Ask): The Jesus Edition," will be published this month by Regal Publishers. For more information visit www.ericmetaxas.com.

Eric Metaxas is the author of several books, including "Bonhoeffer" and "Amazing Grace." His latest book is "Jesus Hates Dead Religion" (Thomas Nelson May 2012).