Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Decking the Halls in the White House?

Christmas decorations at the White House include a crèche in the East Room (despite reports that White House social secretary Desirée Rogers suggested that the Obamas were planning a "non-religious Christmas.") Should the White House, whose residents serve all Americans, display a crèche or a menorah or any strictly religious symbols during the holidays?

As a religious woman, I have to ask, does it really matter? In a perfect world, the White House would display decorations from every religious tradition, including atheist decorations (I am not exactly sure what those would look like). Maybe the Obamas thought about this, and maybe they realized that would show the world that they were working just a little too hard and that that is just a little too ironic when we still have the words “In God We Trust” printed on our money. And we still recite “One Nation, Under God” as children when we make our pledge of allegiance.

The Obamas are Christians. Always have been. And they live in a house. Therefore, decorations of that house will most likely include decorations that are slanted towards their persuasions. Just like the “style” of the interior changes with each new president and family, so too will hopefully the religion one day. I have a feeling that if the President were Jewish, this conversation would not be taking place for a couple of reasons. The creche would not be appropriate for what the occupants believed. Just as the creche is appropriate for what the Obamas believe, maybe a Santa Claus isn’t? Who knows.

I think the issue we are looking at is one of parenting. The Obamas have two young girls that they must raise in terribly difficult circumstances. Amidst all of the security and formality, these girls need to learn about their family’s morals and values. If the Obamas are Christian, which they have explicitly illustrated themselves to be, then the jobs of Michelle and Barack go beyond President and First Lady. They must also be the ones to explain their faith to their children, and where else can that be done than in their own house? In such a materialistic world, showing the girls what the season really means to their family is very important.

Maybe the Obamas are still working on getting the rest of their decorations up, like so many other families. Maybe the menorah is still in a box yet to be unpacked. Maybe the Kwanzaa Unity Cup is still being delivered. But all I can say is that let’s allow this family to have some aspect of normalcy in such a crazy predicament that is being the First Family.


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