O. Ricardo Pimentel: A cease-fire in culture wars

January 4, 2014 

Now that the war on Christmas has ended -- until next year -- perhaps it's time to end the war on heathens.

I jest about that war on Christmas. Those firefights are solely in the minds of people who (1) Without an ounce of irony, denounce the alleged political correctness of both the words and the spirit of "Happy Holidays," while demanding no deviation from "Merry Christmas" -- religious correctness; (2) Know that there is no war on Christmas but recognize that nothing builds solidarity like folks feeling besieged.

But let me suggest that all this high dudgeon about not enough Christ in Christmas is a current that runs much deeper -- and yearlong. That would be a perception of godlessness run amok -- though others will call it something else.

Let's call it Americanless.

To many, this and godlessness are the same; boiled down, it's a sense that the country has slipped its moorings. In other words, "I don't recognize this place anymore!!" In this context I only half-jest about this war on heathens, though I am having fun with the label.

Atheists might make this group, but to many, the list of the malefactors allegedly making this country godless or Americanless is far longer. This isn't Mayberry anymore. And we should all be so happy about that. At some point, Aunt Bee might be wearing Andy's badge.

Enter megachurch minister John Hagee, whose recent sermon created some buzz. The famous Cornerstone Church pastor counseled that those offended by Nativity scenes and carolers can leave the country -- "Planes are leaving every hour on the hour." But other comments point to a broader meaning. These should generate the alarm. "It's time for the majority to rule this nation," he said. "Let's make sure that the silent majority is heard and put God back in the foundation of our families, of our school, of our government, of our speech and of our future."

Somehow, I don't think that even if it can be demonstrated that dreaded secularists are in the majority -- or that other groups will soon slip into the majority -- that this will change Hagee's mind about the size or will of the "silent majority." This "majority," even now, is numerous mostly in imagination. And this is the real issue. Large parts of the nation are changing hue. In these and other places, women are in high places. And an increasing number of states, some aided by courts (even those with GOP-appointed judges), are seemingly more welcoming of gay rights.

This might also have something to do with these perceptions of godlessness. It is, in other words, already about majorities in select places or looming majorities elsewhere. Welcome to the land of heathens. This land, by the way, is run by secularists who believe in God. Really. You can believe in a bright line of church/state separation and in God.

Yet, there's this constant demand that we put God back into … well, virtually everything. It's just that God never left.

Politicians professing their faith are part of modern-day campaigning, nowhere more pronounced than in Texas. When's the last time you heard a candidate publicly embrace atheism? God is embedded. And, guess what? Most of us heathens -- believers or not -- don't care a whit. Nativity scenes, carols with religious themes? In God we trust and in the pledge of allegiance? Yawn.

But here's what does register: God "back" in our schools, government, our speech and our future -- advocated by a guy who gets courted by politicians come election time. God "back?" More than now? Just how? Here's a possible middle ground: How about we just add an "o" in there -- let's put goodness back in government. It's a quality possible in everyone. Even heathens.

O. Ricardo Pimentel, San Antonio Express-News; o.ricardo.pimentel@express-news.net

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