The Christmas season is an annual reminder that American Jews are a small minority in a largely Christian country. It has also become occasion for Jewish church-and-state separationists to condemn public ceremonies as harmless as “a creche being erected outside a town hall, or students in public schools singing Christmas carols.” In “Christmas, Christians, and the Jews,” originally published in National Review, Irving Kristol disputed the wisdom of such strict secularism and urged “tact and prudence.”
Once upon a time, long before the idea or phrase “sensitivity training” was born, the various religious groups in our heterogeneous society had developed a strategy for getting along with one another. It was a strategy based on civility and prudence. Since American society was then more provincial, more narrow-minded, than it is today, civility and prudence only worked up to a point. But I would maintain that they worked better than the current strategy, which by encouraging all of us to be perpetually “sensitive” to others, and especially sensitive to “militant” others, actually invites self-styled spokesmen for minorities to be aggressive, uncivil, and imprudent. Though religious discrimination has, thank goodness, declined sharply in the last fifty years, this decline is mainly visible at the individual level-the most important level, it ought to go without saying. What our liberals call “intergroup relations,” however—i.e., relations at the public level—seem to be worsening, as the new version of “pluralism” feeds destructively upon itself. Eventually, one fears, there could be disagreeable repercussions on the individual level as well.