Many people get exercised about the reluctance of retailers and politicians to say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Chanukah” of late, and cringe when they hear “Happy Holidays” instead. Critics see this as a secular erosion of the religious nature of the holiday, and some of the more militant advocates refer to it as the Christmas War. I don’t find the secular greeting offensive, but I do appreciate the acknowledgment of Christmas when it occurs.
Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen has decided to up the ante, however, in his choice of imagery for his official Christmas cards:
Gov. Phil Bredesen has given an unusual twist to his family’s Christmas card: He is marking a Christian holiday with a card depicting a Muslim girl.
The card’s cover is a print of a painting by the governor of a young woman he met when he toured Afghanistan in March.
“May the peace and joy of this Christmas season be with you and your loved ones throughout the coming year,” the card reads.
“While it may seem odd to put a portrait of a young Muslim woman on a Christmas card, this Season reminds us that He loves His children most of all,” Bredesen stated on the back of the card.
If Bredesen thought this would mollify those who want more religion in their Christmas, he’s going to be sorely disappointed. Christians want religion in their holiday, all right — but they prefer it to be Christianity. We know God loves all his children, but Christianity has plenty of its own imagery for the holiday; we hardly need to borrow from Muslims for holiday greetings, especially these days.
And it hardly pacified the Muslims, either. I don’t think they’ll appreciate the Governor’s concluding thought that Christmas should bring peace to Afghanistan, for one thing. The image itself will prove troubling for devout Muslims as well, which the spokesman for the Nashville Islamic center points out. The woman’s face is uncovered and her hair shows, which might look beatific to Bredesen but offends conservative Muslims.
It’s hard to understand what Bredesen was thinking with this choice, except for mindless political correctness. The message from Tennessee this holiday appears to be, “Have Yourself A Dhimmi Little Christmas.” I’ll pass. (via CQ reader Jim Brown in TN)
UPDATE: I forgot to include a link to Power Line, who’s also linking to this. Commenters are making the argument that Bredesen is emphasizing the effort that Christians should make to love their enemies, but since when do we define Christianity through those who oppose it? I don’t recall the use of Communist imagery for Christmas cards during the Cold War, for instance, especially in 1981 when Bulgaria’s secret police tried to assassinate John Paul II. I’d prefer that Christmas references to religion focus on the birth of Christ and Christianity, and I don’t think that’s asking too much; I’d expect Chanukah references to focus on Judaism, not Christianity or Islam in the same measure. If that’s too much to ask, then use Frosty the Snowman.
I should note that Bredesen is a rather good amateur artist; he painted this himself.
UPDATE II: Perhaps Bredesen will reciprocate by using imagery of Jesus for Ramadan next year. Any bets on that?
UPDATE III: A couple of commenters note the striking similarities between Bredesen’s portrait and National Geographic’s Afghan Girl from 1985. The similarity is rather striking, especially in the facial expression and the unusual eye color — one of the keys they used to find her twenty years later.