Issues

Why We Hate Plastic Baby Jesuses on our Courthouse Steps


I get a kick out of Religious Right reactions to objections to nativity scenes. Obviously, the objection is not that you put nativity scenes on your front lawn. Those, while tacky, are just fine. It’s your yard, after all, and if you think plastic baby Jesuses best reflect your beliefs, then okay.

The problem comes in when you start finding baby Jesus at city hall, and in the public library, or on the courthouse steps. And even then, all communities have to do to make most of these objections go away is to include displays given to other religions and maybe the odd Festivus pole (you know, for the rest of us).

But conservative activist Jerry Newcombe thinks there is something else going on and he’s written an op-ed for World Net Daily just to prove it. But before he will tell us what it is, he feels compelled to embark on a completely nonsensical and unnecessary attack on the historicity’s of Dan Brown’s novel…yes, NOVEL…The DaVinci Code.

First of all, it is incredible that Newcombe should feel the need to refute a novel. I mean, hello? Novel? Fiction?

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Look, better novels than The DaVinci Code have been guilty of making a mess of history. That’s why the category of nonfiction exists. Even historical novels, which one might reasonably expect to do a little better, regularly make a mess of history, because history is always secondary to the story.

But here, apparently, because Dan Brown got some facts wrong, everything The Religious Right tells you must be true.

Oh dear. Newcombe has already stepped off the deep end and he’s barely gotten started.

Why do we hate plastic baby Jesuses? Newcombe doesn’t know. He’s jumping from one absurdity to another, all without telling us, as he puts it, why people are “ready to throw the baby-in-the-manger out with the bathwater.”

And having already related how Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America (she’s the one who said Obama got elected twice because young people are stupid, which firmly establishes her Religious Right bona fides) once told him in an interview,

When you see the atheist attack manger scenes, you might think, ‘This is an innocuous kind of thing. What do they have against a manger scene for crying out loud?’ It gives you some idea of how powerful Jesus Christ is. If He were not powerful, what would they care?

You have to ask yourself, when did Dan Brown become so powerful that Newcombe felt the need to attack him? After all, in Crouse’s own words, “It gives you some idea of how powerful Dan Brown is. If he were not powerful, what would Jerry Newcombe care?”

Okay, let’s add another absurdity to the list. And we still don’t know what I have against little plastic baby Jesuses on government property. I mean, other than the fact that they don’t belong on government property without an accompanying Festivus pole and the odd baby Beelzebub (hopefully not also plastic).

But having attacked the historical accuracy of Dan Brown’s novel, Newcombe begins to feed us a bunch of historical inaccuracies of his own, of the type one might expect from somebody who doesn’t think “big government” freed the slaves. These include saying that,

  • Jesus was worshipped as God immediately (there were plenty of Christians groups who believed a great many different things about Jesus);
  • That because John says Jesus was “co-creator” (with himself, apparently) of the universe, that all other earlier beliefs about Jesus are superseded (because Matthew, Mark, and Luke do not see Jesus like John did);
  • That since Jesus was divine (not proven yet) why would anyone think it odd he could turn water into wine or walk on water, or rise from the dead? (Other events also not proven).

Let’s face it, one thing you cannot prove does not prove another thing you cannot prove. One thing being untrue does not mean something else is true. We’re getting into Pythonesque territory here and we are still no closer to knowing what I really have against plastic baby Jesuses at city hall.

Don’t make me stamp my feet, Jerry. Tell me!

And then it occurs to me. Does Newcombe not know himself? I’m beginning to wonder. After all, as I pointed out above, Newcombe is the guy who rushed to Jim DeMint’s defense in claiming that “big government” did not free the slaves. Yeah, it wasn’t like the president signed an executive order or anything emancipating the slaves.

Obviously, he is not the best guy to go to for historical facts.

Generally, one might expect an argument for or against something to lead from one point in a logical progression to another, but that is not the case here. There is nary an “if A then B” to be found. A bunch of wild objections against a historical novel followed by a bunch of easily disproved claims about early Christianity do not a cogent argument make.

I’m aging here, and this is time I cannot get back.

No part of this diatribe has so far led us to an answer. But then, in the very last sentence, Newcombe tells us, as though everything he has said has led up to this:

So why the opposition to Jesus, at Christmastime or otherwise? Jesus summed it up in one sentence: “Light has come into the world, but men prefer darkness because their deeds are evil.”

Wait! What?

Are you kidding me?

This is like the time I read N.T. Wright’s 700-page scholarly treatment of Jesus’ resurrection only to be told at the very end that Jesus must have been resurrected because he had to have been resurrected, that nothing else is possible.

Are you kidding me? That book should have been one page long, and Newcombe’s op-ed could have been wrapped up in a single paragraph!

This a line from the Gospel of John, by the way, John 3:19 to be precise. Another line – like the co-creator thing – from the last gospel to be written. John differs from the so-called Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) in a number of ways. Which is not surprising as it reflects a more “evolved” view of Jesus than the earliest gospel, Mark, or the other two, which use a lot of material from Mark. Not that Matthew and Luke are identical to Mark. They are not. They also differ in a surprising number of ways.

Quite obviously, however you feel about plastic baby Jesuses, not everything even those three gospels say about Jesus can all be true, let alone everything John says about Jesus. Where material in one contradicts material in another, aren’t you sort of obligated to pick one over the other?

Personally, I think it’s amusing that Newcombe thinks the most significant thing about Jesus is that he was born. Really, it’s not a big deal. Everyone gets born. The big deal, even according to Christianity (after all, Paul doesn’t care about his birth, only his death), is that Jesus died.

If Jesus had lived to be an old man, and withered to old age like the rest of us, we wouldn’t be talking about little plastic baby Jesuses right now. We’d still be celebrating the Saturnalia or the Birthday of the Invincible Sun or my own Heathen Yule, waiting for Odin’s Wild Hunt to cross the sky in place of a fat guy in a red coat.

Look, it’s obvious why we object to those baby Jesuses and I said it at the outset. It’s because they are an embrace of a particular religion by our governments. As such, they exclude the rest of us who don’t follow that religion. It’s really very simple. It has nothing to do with wanting to walk in the darkness, unless those plastic baby Jesuses also light up.

I mean, yeah, the plastic baby Jesuses’ are gauche and I’d hate to see my tax dollars go down that particular drain, but it’s not the plastic baby Jesuses’ themselves but what they represent: state-sponsored religion. Something the First Amendment frowns upon. Government should represent all of us, not just one particular religion. And that’s what the Religious Right – and Jerry Newcombe – doesn’t get.

Hello? There are a lot of us out here, various other religions different from your own. Why should get baby Jesus but all our other beliefs get ignored? Or our lack of beliefs? Government of the People, by the People, for the People, Jerry.

In the end, it’s not this that drives us:

But this:

It’s not a war on Christmas buddy. It’s a war for religious freedom for ALL those people, not just for a few.

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