From religion to recession

FROM RELIGION TO RECESSION…. Two weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed castigating Americans for not supporting George W. Bush. The president’s low approval rating, the piece insisted, is a reflection of “our failure,” our “disloyal” tendencies, and our willingness to strengthen “our enemies.” It was, to my mind, one of the stupidest things ever published by a major American newspaper.

And yet, the editors at the WSJ continue to push the envelope in new and mind-numbing directions. The Journal published this piece from Daniel Henninger today, which aims to explain “how we went from Christmas to crisis.” I’ve read the whole piece a few times, trying to understand it. I’m at a loss.

Henninger begins by repeating nonsense about Americans, en masse, being afraid to wish others a “Merry Christmas.” This, on its face, is absurd. But he goes much further, connecting this non-existent trend in holiday-related rhetoric to the financial crisis, apparently blaming the prior for the latter: “A nation whose people can’t say ‘Merry Christmas’ is a nation capable of ruining its own economy.”

Responsibility and restraint are moral sentiments. Remorse is a product of conscience. None of these grow on trees. Each must be learned, taught, passed down. And so we come back to the disappearance of “Merry Christmas.”

It has been my view that the steady secularizing and insistent effort at dereligioning America has been dangerous. That danger flashed red in the fall into subprime personal behavior by borrowers and bankers, who after all are just people. Northerners and atheists who vilify Southern evangelicals are throwing out nurturers of useful virtue with the bathwater of obnoxious political opinions.

The point for a healthy society of commerce and politics is not that religion saves, but that it keeps most of the players inside the chalk lines. We are erasing the chalk lines.

Feel free: Banish Merry Christmas. Get ready for Mad Max.

So, let me get this straight. Some unnamed, nefarious forces are “dereligioning” America. This, in turn, has led to immorality. And this, in turn, has led to shady business practices. And this, in turn, led to the ongoing financial crisis.

If there’s a coherence to this, it’s hiding well. Indeed, each of Henninger’s points seems more ridiculous than the last. There is no “dereligioning” of America. “Dereligioning” isn’t even a word, but more importantly, the United States is the most religious of any industrialized democracy, and among the most religious countries on the planet. “Happy Christmas” has not been banned. The financial crisis is not the result of secular values. Morality is not being “erased.”

Why anyone would attach their name to such transparent foolishness is a mystery to me. Why anyone would publish such inanity is even harder to understand.