OT: the obligatory War on Christmas post

Danny Jones wheels out the phony war-on-Christmas trap-set and gives it a few licks. Sigh. Obviously, I’m unmoved by this crusade, not least of all because it’s simply not true that Christmas has been suddenly secularized by newly aggressive anti-Christian forces. On this point, I recommend David Greenberg’s recent article in Slate. Money quote:

The Christmas Warriors would have you believe that in the age of George “Jesus Changed My Life” Bush, secularism is newly on the march. Godless liberals, they suggest, have introduced the exotic phrase happy holidays into the lexicon and, in their spare time, have crassly commercialized the sacred observance of Christ’s birth. Actually, it’s these extremists who have grown newly assertive. They object to widespread holiday practices that have been deeply embedded in American life for decades.

Greenberg also points out helpfully that it was a Republican president (Eisenhower) who first made “Happy Holidays” the offical presidential greeting during this season (and that many other presidents, including Ronald “Shining City on a Hill” Reagan, followed Eisenhower’s lead). But history aside, I just always get the feeling that fighting the Christmas War is a painless way for a lot of Christians to paper over (or atone for) their own complicity in the commercialization of the Christmas holidays.

Update: now here’s a front of the War on Christmas we can all get behind: Disney copyrighting Santa Claus.  Ho-ho-horrible.

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  1. Sheldon wrote:

    with apologies to a Minneapolis radio talk show host

    “Have a safe and healthy Hannaramakawanzamas”

    I think the whole debate is pretty funny from both sides.

  2. Bob wrote:

    I read Greenberg’s article when it was first posted, and thought it was pretty lame. He stated, with regard to the Sea-Tac airport’s decision to remove Christmas trees rather than put up a menorah as well, that “The Christmas extremists can claim a yarmulke for their wall. But let the record show that they, not the rabbi, were seeking to overturn the status quo.”

    This is completely incorrect, and his argument is flipped completely when you read the original news article at the Seattle Times - http://tinyurl.com/ucsl9

    The Christmas tree is not a religious symbol, and has been completely secularized. The display of a Christmas tree (or ‘Hannakuh bush’ or ‘Holiday Tree’) is completely legal. Adding a menorah WOULD be the addition of a religious symbol to a secular display.

    I object to Harvey Grad, the attorney to Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky, threatening a lawsuit to force the display of a religious symbol in a secular display.

    This whole issue reminds me of the current debate over affirmative action now at the Supreme Court. Students who are not considered ‘minority’ are prevented from transferring (i.e. discriminated against) in an effort to maintain diversity as defined by the school. Yes, you can treat people differently based on skin color just to make sure people are not treated differently based on skin color!

    As for me, I’ll continue to say “Merry Christmas”, send “Christmas Cards”, and celebrate my religion as the constitution permits.

  3. CVH wrote:

    I read an advertisement recently for a church event that was basically a rally to “put Christ back in Christmas”. My first reaction was, “Gosh, I wonder if He knows He’s no longer in it?”

    Commercialism knows no season or boundary of taste or propriety. As long as marketers can appeal emotionally to our misty-eyed sentimentalism there will be trinkets and baubles to buy. The baby Jesus next to the Abominable Snowman and Santa Claus? Why fight it? Just pick your man (or men) and be done with it.

    It’s always seemed to me that the people making the biggest deal about the “holidays” and the “Christmas culture wars” are right-wingers with books and DVDs to sell. I’m sure there are a few ideologues who are sincerely raging against the machine (whether they’re necessary or effective is another conversation), but I would guess most of the thumping is about selling books and other product.

    I’m not well enough versed in today’s SG Christmas music but I’d be surprised if some group hasn’t come out with a ‘take no prisoners’ anthem to beat the point home a la ‘We Want America Back’.

    Now that’s my Christmas wish…yeah.

  4. Bob wrote:

    While not Southern Gospel, the group “Go Fish” came out with a Christmas album this year that includes a song “Christmas with a Capital “C”. It features humorous riffs by comedian Brad Stine about the topic. Here is the chorus:

    It’s called Christmas - what more can I say?
    It’s about the birth of Christ and you can’t take that away -
    You can call it something else but that’s not what it will be -
    It’s called Christmas with a capital “C”.

  5. Trent wrote:

    Here we go again. Greenberg calls the folks who disagree with him “extremists”. Anyone who ever disagrees with a liberal on anything is an extremist. If the liberal really disagrees with someone, then he is a “fundamentalist extremist”.

  6. Judi wrote:

    This past week at an Advent service, my pastor read a story about a culture in which a huge winter festival was the economic engine of the society, and people celebrated with gifts and feasting. The festival wasn’t Christmas, it was the Roman Saturnalia, a winter solstice festival dedicated to persuading the sun to come back and the days to start growing longer again. It was popular at the time of the birth of Christ, and it was the festival that became a model for Christmas as pagan Europeans converted to Christianity and brought their rituals into the Christian year.

    Today we still celebrate this festival, in the name of Christ’s birth, but its roots are anything but Christian. It’s a nice festival, and it makes us all feel good; we get to give and receive gifts (just like the Romans) and look forward to a break in winter’s gloom. But the ‘real’ Christmas isn’t about displays on public or private property, or this year’s hot toy or electronic gift. The real Christmas is observed in the hearts and homes and churches of believers, and our Constitution guarantees them that freedom forever.

    That’s why I’m suspicious of the religious groups and movements that get huffy about whether a department store clerk wishes them Happy Holidays or whether a courthouse is called into question for displaying a manger scene. These are the same people who knock on my door or approach me on a street corner to ask me if I’m saved and then shake their heads when I tell them yes and the name of the church I belong to. It seems like the Persecuted Ones are longing for the days when they could be like the early Christians in Rome…in the dungeon, ready to be eaten by lions. After all, they might say, you aren’t really a Christian until you have suffered for your faith and have some scars. Well, some of us have scars, but they weren’t inflicted by pagans or the courts. They were inflicted by some of our friends in Christ who are convinced that they have the Only True Interpretation of The Faith. Heaven help us if One True Interpretation becomes the law of the land.

    I will wish my Jewish friend a Happy Hanukkah, my humanist neighbor a Happy New Year, those who practice no religion a Happy Holiday and to everyone of good will, I wish a Merry Christmas indeed!

  7. Jim E. Davis wrote:

    Instead of being suspicious of the religious groups who are “huffy” with the ever increasing removal of Christmas traditions, why not be suspicious of the intolerant self-righteous secularists who inflamed this whole controversy in the first place with their whining and frivolous law suits?

    It really doesn’t matter where the Holiday originated. That was a thousand years ago. This is America and this is how we have celebrated the 25th of December for over 200 years. That makes it our culture which should be respected as much if not more than those that have come from other countries.

    I will send Christmas cards and wish everyone a Merry Christmas and will not expect to offend anyone. If someone says Happy Hanukkah to me, I will return the greeting with a smile. That is the blessing of religious freedom that our founding fathers intended for us to enjoy.

    I do not long for the dungeons and lions but neither am I willing to silently stand by while a few “offended” people rain on my Christmas parade. Jesus got a little “huffy” with the moneychangers in the temple so I guess it’s acceptable to let my voice be heard.

  8. MM wrote:

    At what point do we stop straining at the gnat of Christmas becoming Secular and address the issue of the commercialization of Christianity as a whole. From WWJD bracelets (which thankfully are phased out) to tailor made services to fit each parishoner’s preferences, don’t you think we have commercialized church. The fact that Christmas has become more secular really isn’t that much of a surprise to me.

  9. RF wrote:

    Nor me, MM.

    This weekend, our church was entertained with a cantata called “One Quiet Night.” It’s a very musical set with nice songs and toe-tapping rhythms. It even has the Andy Williams favorite, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” as the opening song. Nowhere is Christ mentioned until the last two songs and then only vaguely. Purists would be appalled, I guess.

    But it had a nice message and everyone got it. And not once did anyone say “Merry Christmas” but the holidays were mentioned a lot. I was even a participant. Me, a Christian. Imagine.

    We took Christ out of Christmas a long time ago, if you want to buy that line. My opinion? It’s always been there and always will be. Is our faith so fragile that we need to beat people to death with it? That’s not a way to win people.

  10. Lacey wrote:

    Ok, Disney crossed the line of insanely retarded that time. I mean really! To run off a paying guest just cause he’s ho-ho-ho-ing and wearing a red shirt and red hat, that you can probably buy at any Walmart. It’s like saying you can’t go there with a tiara and pretty dress if you happen to look like Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty. Both characters were around long before Disney. Sheesh!
    Yes, I am just bored enough to actually comment on that story. :)

  11. THOM R. wrote:

    There was a great “letter from Jesus” going around on email about Christmas. Sorry I don’t have it here to post the entire thing. But among the points made in the “letter” where these: 1. Instead of fussing about people not saying “Merry Christmas” to you - just smile and say “Merry Christmas” to them anyway. 2. Instead of getting all up in arms over a city or municipality not putting up a Nativity Display, Just put one in your own front yard. If all the Christian people would put one in their own yard instead of the inflatable snow globe santas (yuck!) there would be no need for the City to have one. 3. Instead of protesting and boycotting stores that don’t use the words “Christmas” in their advertisements, just shop elsewhere or at least smile and be kind to the overworked cashiers and wish them “Merry Christmas”. 4. (THIS IS THE BEST ONE) - If all the “Christian” people would STOP shopping on Sunday the stores would have to close and give all their employees a DAY OFF.
    Good thoughts. TMR

  12. Bob wrote:

    Well, one man thought it was so dangerous to rename ‘Winter break’ to ‘Christmas break’ and ‘Spring break’ to ‘Easter break’ that he was willing to set himself on fire over it (h/t Rick Moore’s HolyCoast).


    If this isn’t extremism, I don’t know what is!

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