Despite decades of conditioning to the contrary, Americans know very well that the reason we celebrate Christmas is primarily not about a red-nosed reindeer or a jolly guy with a suit to match.

We celebrate and commemorate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth who many, including this writer, consider to be the Son of the Living God.

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But the faith that holds that to be true is also tied up into the larger context of the history of Christianity in the Western world.

Without that Judeo-Christian faith, and the changes it wrought, we would be living far differently than we do today.

The faith started, at least as a major force in the world in the sense of far-reaching geopolitical and also everyday influence, with Rome and Roman Catholicism.

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Sometimes we forget that the Catholics, not counting the Jewish faith of Jesus himself, started the big ball rolling when the Roman Emperor Constantine embraced Christianity as the state religion of Rome in the early 4th century.

Before that, the Christian faith had been covertly gaining adherents but was always under the threat of state-sponsored oppression.

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That remains the case in many nations today.

In our own country, the oppression takes on a more legalistic and political nature, but it sadly still exists here as well.

After Constantine, bar none, the Christian faith as expressed by the universal Western Church — until the church split between East and West in 1054 — was the main driver of Western civilization until a relatively short time ago.

Though not alone of the major faiths, for at least up until the Protestant Reformation of the early 16th century the West and Roman Catholicism were primarily one and the same.

The faith crowned kings and set them aside.

It controlled the daily lives of the common man down to the time he awoke and went to bed. It was the main patron for the greatest works of art the world has ever known.

It, along with the Roman Empire, set the standard for the laws we still follow to this day.

The modern era has seen a lessening of that power, both in the religious and secular senses, and a vigorous debate continues on whether that is a good or bad thing.

However, there is one thing we should remember, as Christians or as members of the Western world.

In this season and on Christmas Day, many of us not only honor and celebrate the birth of the Son of God, we also honor and celebrate the birth of our own world — a world that has been shaped in major part by the influence and institution of Christianity.

Regardless of debate, its place as the fulcrum of our Western world is a historical fact.

And this writer and so many others believe there are good reasons, in again both the religious and secular senses, to be proud of it.

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