Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The War on Christmas

Now this is possibly the most ridiculous thing I've heard in a long time, anything having to do with the Bush administration excepted, of course. Various right-wingnuts, led by Fox news screamers Bill O'Reilly and John Gibson, are claiming that liberals are waging a so-called war on Christmas. Their primary evidence seems to be the fact that some retailers are wishing their customers "happy holidays" instead of "merry Christmas," and holding "holiday sales" instead of "Christmas sales." Disturbingly, many middle-class religious folks (like the elder members of my own family) are buying into this nonsense. And nonsense it is.

There is no "war" on Christmas. No organization or group that anyone knows of is openly or covertly trying to eliminate Christmas as a national holiday or cultural event. None. Not the accursed ACLU, nor the United Nations, nor the Pagan Organization of Witchcraft Worshippers (POWW). Nobody.

The fact that some retailers choose to have their employees say "happy holidays" instead of "merry Christmas" is simply a matter of inclusion. In case some Christians may have forgotten, there are several other major holidays that fall in the same time frame as Christmas -- Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and New Year's Day, chief among them. Saying "happy holidays" is not only shorter than naming each holiday individually, it also has the benefit of being inclusive rather than exclusive. Nobody's trying to make saying "merry Christmas" illegal; it's just simple politeness to acknowledge everyone's religion instead of singling out one for special treatment.

I've always sent out Christmas cards that don't say "merry Christmas." I have several Jewish friends (and probably a few agnostic ones, as well), so wishing my friends "happy holidays" or "peace on earth" or something similar is a more sensitive way to express holiday greetings. I'm sure my Jewish friends wouldn't object to being wished "merry Christmas," but why deliberately mix up the religious messages? By sending out "peace on earth" cards, I'm not fighting any battles against Christmas or Christians or Christianity; I'm simply trying to be sensitive to my friends' beliefs.

The so-called Christians who think that they're being warred against obviously feel no similar sensitivity. It's a Christian nation, say they, thus we should embrace Christianity at the expense of all those annoying minority religions. This ignores the fact that this country was founded on the concept of freedom from an intolerant religious majority; the irony is quite obviously lost on today's holier-than-thou religious majority.

And the fact that Christianity is the majority religion shouldn't be ignored. That's why Christmas is such a big thing, no matter how much these supposedly put upon Christians may protest. Whether retailers call their December sales events Christmas sales or holiday sales is irrelevant; there aren't a lot of Hanukkah or Kwanzaa gifts on display. The holiday sales are all about Christmas; you can't turn a page in the newspaper or go five minutes on radio or TV without being subjected to Christmas-this and Christmas-that. Just because a relative handful of retail employees are saying "happy holidays" doesn't negate the fact that the main holiday they're talking about is Christmas.

If these paranoid Christians think that they're somehow an oppressed minority, they need to take another look at things. Try observing the seasonal madness from the perspective of a Jew or a Muslim (or, God forbid, an atheist) and tell me again how society is ignoring Christmas. It's just not happening. December and November (and, increasingly, October and September) is the Christmas season; it's all-son-of-God, all-the-time, Christmas trees and carols and decorations 24/7 for almost a quarter of the year. Christmas is not in any danger of being eliminated. If there is a war going on, Christmas has the upper hand.

Now, if the disturbed Christians want a real fight, they should consider the war between the religious spirit of Christmas and its commercialism. That's a legitimate discussion to have -- and one war that the spirit of Christmas may be losing. Hell, if I were concerned about the real spirit of Christmas, I'd want fewer Christmas sales, all of which represent the hijacking of baby Jesus by commercial interests. If you want the purity of Christmas preserved, you should be arguing in favor of "happy holidays" so that "merry Christmas" doesn't get further corrupted.

But that's too nuanced an argument. It's much easier for the yellow journalists to cry that Christmas is endangered by the evil liberal agenda, whatever that is, and inflame their gullible followers to mindless action. Sure, they can pick out a few instances where political correctness has triumphed to an illogical extreme (and I'm no fan of political correctness), but random anecdotal evidence aside, the big picture tells us that Christmas is not under attack in any way, shape, or form. The Christian majority is in no danger of being subjected to the whims of the non-Christian minority. In this country, at this time, Jesus rules. And recognizing that other religions exist (and have their own important holidays) does not in any way diminish the importance of Christmas in our society.

But that's just my opinion; reasonable minds may disagree.

1 comment:

Derek said...

I believe what many Americans are holding onto is the fact that the USA was created by a bunch, read-not all, of Christians who setup our government with the 'Tolerence' of all other religions.

Many good hearted Americans and good hearted Christians are upset about the fact that Christianity is being pushed aside and actually down trodden in "today's" America.