I’ve been thinking about this “war on Christmas” garbage today. I think there are a couple of things going on that are resulting in this stupidity and I’d like to throw these thoughts out there for you to consider this holiday season…
First, there is an actual fight that is being waged, though it’s not against Christmas, per se, but against attempts by certain religious folks in this country to blur the line that separates church and state. The establishment clause (not to be confused with the Santa Claus) in the US Constitution has traditionally been interpreted to mean that public institutions (like public schools, government offices, post offices, police stations, etc.) cannot favor one particular religion over others. Still, occasionally a local public school or fire house somewhere will put up a Christmas tree or a nativity scene, thereby celebrating a Christian holiday, and non-Christian members of that community will (rightly) point out that, legally, public institutions ought not show that sort of religious preference. So up goes a menorah or an atheist plaque and that gets some Christians bent out of shape. Never mind that they could put their tree or nativity scene two blocks down the road at the local church and avoid a Constitutional crisis, some Christians feel entitled to force their special day down everyone’s throats in spheres both private and public.
There’s a second, more subtle dynamic going on too, however, that adds to the war-on-Christmas meme. It’s the decision on the part of many people (and organizations) to opt for “happy holidays” when wishing good cheer to others in December, rather than choosing to reference a specific holiday (like “merry Christmas”), and thereby presuming the well-wishee’s religious affiliation. This has nothing at all to do with the separation of church and state or some edict from on high demoting the status of Christmas in America. Rather, it stems from people not being assholes, generally. I could, for instance, go around telling everyone I saw on the street or in the supermarket or at the bank “have a nice day off from work, even though we all know there is no God!” but that would be wildly presumptuous of me. If I knew it was a presumptuous thing to do and chose to do it anyway, I would be kind of an asshole. Most people aren’t assholes, hence, we hear a lot of “happy holidays” out there. Stores in particular like this phrase because they have no reason to offend their non-Christian customers.
For the record, I actually think this line of reasoning is flawed, however well-meaning it is. The United States has a secular government (despite what the fundies say) and it celebrates “Christmas” on December 25th as a national holiday. We all get it off from work, regardless of our religion. The banks and post offices are closed. In this respect, saying “merry Christmas” is no different from wishing someone a happy Thanksgiving. As an atheist, I am utterly unoffended when someone says “merry Christmas” to me, and I suspect the same is true for most non-Christians. I would likewise be unoffended if someone wished me a happy Hanukkah or Kwanza or Festivus (for the rest of us) or whatever. I just don’t think an actual problem exists of people getting offended by holiday cheer… except for those who are offended by the phrase “happy holidays,” and those people are just crazy and should be mocked.
So this “war on Christmas” that Bill O’Reilly and his cohorts rail against stems from an idiotic conflation of these two distinct phenomena — public buildings belonging to everyone, not just the Christians, and a majority of people and businesses not being assholes. The two things are separate and not part of some larger conspiracy to demote the value of “Christmas” in our culture. To think otherwise is to be a numb-skull.
It’s interesting that I have never actually met a person who thinks there is a concerted “war on Christmas.” I think those people are only on TV.
And with that, I leave you with this video collage that I put together a few years ago, featuring Charles Dead or Alive performing The Nutcracker Suite.