By Tim Von Dohlen

Time for a Closer Look

December 20, 2013

My wife Pat and I so enjoy the Christmas season.  Most of all we enjoy that from Thanksgiving to year end we can become more reflective.  Sure there is the hustle and bustle to get everything done before Christmas, but at the same time we are thinking of family, friends, and what we can do to help someone in need.  It is our time to thank God for all our blessings.  It is the time of Advent.

Advent is a time of preparation, expectation and hope.  It is preparation of the advent or coming of Jesus Christ in three different ways – Jesus first birth, the second coming of Christ and Christ’s presence through the Holy Spirit.  It is the time that allows us to maintain our faith and trust in God and love for one another.  St. Bernard said, “I believe though I cannot comprehend, and I hold by faith what I cannot grasp with the mind”.  With all the current problems in America and within families it can be easy to get discouraged and depressed.  That is where we Christians must help our fellow man and become beacons of hope for our neighbors.  We should use this season as a time to be reflective.  This reflection should move us to be active and be ready to speak out for what is right and true.  This often takes courage.  Rev. Billy Graham said, “Courage is contagious.  When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.”  May God give us each the courage to be a leader for truth and the right things for our family, community and business.

We can get a chance to speak up in a kind yet firm way when it comes to the greeting we use at this time of year.  So say “Merry Christmas” because Jesus Christ is the reason for the season.  This is the Christmas season and as a Christian you have just as much right to express your belief as other religions do on their days of celebration.   If someone objects just tell them nicely this is my belief, and if it is not yours, you are entitled to your opinion.

Let me share with you what has happened in Texas.  Recently, I attended an event in the auditorium at the State Capitol in Austin put on by Jonathan Saenz of Texas Values celebrating the Christmas Tree Law which became effective in late May 2013.

This new law allows (1) public schools and staff to educate students on Christmas and other holidays including Hanukkah; (2) school displays to include a Nativity Scene, Christmas Tree, a Menorah, Santa Claus, Reindeer and more; and (3) public schools, staff and students can use greetings such as “Merry Christmas” etc.  Are you surprised to learn that there have been various attacks on Christmas in Texas public schools – students banned from passing out candy cane pens with a Christmas message, students not allowed to use “Merry Christmas” in letters to our troops, renaming the Christmas Tree to “Holiday Tree” and Christmas Party to “Winter Party”, hostility and overreaction to Santa Claus in school. Thanks to the courageous parents who challenged school board and administration.  Thanks to the courts which have upheld American tradition.  Thanks to Texas Values and the Texas Legislature for acting to protect our Constitutional rights of freedom of expression.  I believe this is a glaring example of a more fundamental and systemic problem facing Americans today – don’t speak up, don’t offend.

This past summer Pat and I were driving back to Austin from Crested Butte, Colorado, with two of our grandsons and Max our wonderful 90+ pound black Lab.  We decided to stop in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  After a late lunch and some shopping, we wanted to attend Mass at the Cathedral.  I told Pat and the boys to go on to church and I would take Max back to the car.  When I got to the car there was no shade and the temperature in the car would have killed Max.  So I decided Max could just go with me to Mass.  When we got to the church Pat and the boys were in the front pew.  The priest saw Max and me and motioned for us to come in.  Max was very good except one shake and jingle of his tags.  Pat heard that and knew we were in the back of the church.  When communion came and I walked up the aisle, Max walked with me.  The priest gave me communion and gave Max a blessing.  As we left the church, the priest said “I just love your dog”.  Good going Max.

Now the easy thing to have done would have been to tell Pat and the boys it’s too hot we will make Mass another day.  Had I done that we would have missed this special occurrence.

For Catholics and other Christians this is really the challenge in America today – to not take the easy way.  Many, if not most, of us with a job and children are caught up in day to day activities, going with head down, getting done what needs to be done each day.  At the same time there is a well-funded cultural transformation and philosophical and public policy upheaval going on that is reverberating across America.  Too many very good people are oblivious or believe they don’t feel the need to get involved or will let someone else take the risk or can just take the easy way and not say anything about these changes in America.

There is much talk today about “transforming America” and about achieving the “American dream”.  America is the greatest nation in the world because of our Constitution. So we should ask – Is the American dream the one envisioned by our Founding Fathers?  Self-reliance, self-help, and independence!  Or is it one built on a culture of dependency?  Clearly, it was not a dream of dependence on government.  Clearly, we are at a critical crossroad in the history of America.  We pray that peoples’ eyes will be opened to the changes taking place in America that are destroying our basic freedoms.  Take the time to use the internet to become informed especially about the war on religion and Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals.

Interestingly one of the Saul Alinsky Rules for Radicals is “If you state a negative often enough it will become a positive” or stated another way, If you tell a lie often enough people will begin to believe it is the truth.  Anything come to mind?

So let’s take a closer look and consider some questions while you are alone or get your family and friends to discuss them with you over the Christmas and New Year holidays.

  1. Do you believe, as the Bible states, that we are made in the image and likeness of God?
  2. Do you believe that man and woman are part of the animal family and as such are no different from the other animals?   Or is there a difference and what is it?
  3. What does it mean to say the American way of life needs to be transformed?
  4. Is more government involvement the solution to the problems America is experiencing?
  5. Do you believe able-bodied workers should be given a certain amount of subsidy by the government without responsibility on the workers part?

Please give me your feedback.

I wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  Remember, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord.” (Jeremiah 17:7)


Tim Von Dohlen is president of the John Paul II Life Center and writes from Austin, Texas.

View Articles If you’ve met Tim, you know that his life was shaped by good values that were imparted to him by his parents and he... MORE »