Monday, December 22, 2008

War on Christmas Rant

I am sick to death of the so-called War on Christmas.

Today, I saw a garish bumper sticker that said, "Merry Christmas - and it is Christmas." Uh, yeah, right. I couldn't help catching the spirit of love, peace and goodwill that went along with that sincere greeting.

Then there's the bumper sticker that self-righteously declared, "I Saved Christmas." Really? Had it been kidnapped? Was it Missing in Action? Does anyone honestly believe that Christmas is in danger of disappearing from the American landscape? If it were, does anyone seriously think that displaying a bumper sticker and shoving one's holiday down other people's throats would be all that would be required to save the faith and make one a hero (or, perhaps better yet, a martyr)?

To top it all off, a few days ago at work, a donor wished me a blessed holiday. When I responded, "Happy Holidays to you, too" he sternly admonished that I was supposed to say, "Merry Christmas," because The Salvation Army is a Christian organization. Well, gee whiz. Next time, just give me a script and I'll make sure I parrot my lines just right.

My message to all the morons who believe there is a War on Christmas is this:

Chill Out!

No one is attacking Christmas. No one wants to remove it from the calendar or prevent anyone from celebrating it. People of all faiths (and even no faith) love this time of year. It's a time when people enjoy friends, family, feasts, candles, church services, carols.... What's so bad about all that? Nothing that I can see. When I was growing up in eastern PA, I was taught that it was simply good manners to wish people I didn't know Happy Holidays or Season's Greetings, rather than just assuming that everyone celebrated the same way I did. Is it really so difficult for Christians to show a little bit of courtesy and respect to people who don't share their culture and traditions? Most people don't really care how they're greeted and they generally respond in kind to whatever greeting is extended, in a spirit of goodwill and cheer.

Except for Christians.

Oh, no! Every year, it seems that more and more Christians are insisting that everybody must celebrate this season exactly as they do, regardless of whether such practices are culturally or spiritually relevant to the people being hounded and reprimanded. Christians who behave this way fail to realize that their attitudes and behaviors cheapen the holiday and deprive it of the meaning it's supposed to hold. Do Christians really want people to go through the motions and say the mantras of celebrating Christmas without holding the beliefs that go along with the holiday? Probably not, but it's hard to tell by the way some militant morons are acting about stupid, superficial stuff like greetings. I've gotten to the point where I just say, "Have a nice day." I can't really go wrong with that one. Yep. I've given up. I don't know what to say to whom anymore, so I've just dispensed with the holiday cheer altogether and I'm sticking with my routine courtesies. In a way, that's really truer to the spirit of the season anyway, as I should be polite all the time, not just for a few special days in December. I'm one Christmas Warrior who's lost the will to fight a trivial war. One thing I regret is this: if there is a War on Christmas, it's being waged by misguided Christians who are destroying, rather than honoring, the holiday. That's something that all Christians should think about before engaging in any more Christmas battles.


Jenn said...

i just personally have a problem when people try to take away the real reason for christmas in fear of offending others. note to those people: this country was founded on christian values and one of our most important holidays actually involves Jesus. take it or leave it.

Joanne said...

I would agree that we should not think we need to be "at war" about Christmas, however I also do not think I should have to be forced to let go of saying "Merry Christmas" because I might offend someone. Just as I respect the celebrations and greetings of other cultures and religions, I should not be made to feel that I need to change my salutations at Christmas just to be politically correct and not affend anyone. I have been told this year that I should not say "Merry Christmas" in case I accidentally offend someone. I have stood my ground on it, however I have ensured I have not pushed it and been offense (at least I have been aware of not being so). I do agree with you as well Evie that it does go both ways. As Christians, we should not be made to feel that we are lesser Christians if we say something like "Happy Holidays". Is North American society not founded on free speech?

Barbara said...

I don't think we see that extreme attitude up here as much ... we still hear it once in a while, but I think that in this area it is just so multicultural that maybe people just take it more in stride. I've only seen one sign this year that says "Remember the reason for the season."

Dave said...

I think we need some honestly about Christmas, that for the most part Christmas as we know it is a cultural and for the most part a holiday. It is a time for family gatherings, giving of gifts and feasting....none of which are bad. Few people who attend the church will give significant attention to the religious element.

Battling over "Merry Christmas" is much like the Israelites treating the Ark of the Covenant like a lucky rabbit's foot. They thought by having the Ark in their camp they would win the battle the next day and that they were protecting their faith. They forgot that faith is about a humble and broken heart rather than about symbols and magic phrases. The next day they lost the battle and the Ark.

Evie said...

Jenn - following up on what Dave noted, Christmas has become very commercialized and secularized in both the USA and Canada over the past century. Songs like Sleigh Ride, Winter Wonderland, White Christmas (all of which I love) and many others contributed to this process. Legends like Santa Claus and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer contributed to this process. Focus on the Family, ironically and unintentionally, contributes to this process by publishing annual lists of Christmas-friendly merchants and advising members to shop at those businesses rather than others. They should be telling Christians to shop less rather than advising them on where to shop best.

The fact is that Jesus has been a marginal feature of the cultural celebration of Christmas for decades. You have every right to keep Jesus as the central focus of your celebration. But it's unrealistic and arrogant to expect nominal (or cultural) Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, adherents of other faiths and nonbelievers to focus on Jesus as a key part of their celebrations. Many non-Christians ignore Christmas altogether, and many others enjoy it as a cultural event having only an historic connection to Christianity. That became inevitable the moment governments in the USA and Canada secularized the holiday by legislating it as a federal holiday. Those legislative acts opened up Christmas to all Americans and Canadians, not just Christians. The irony is that government and cultural recognition of this significant Christian holiday is a large part of why it has become more cultural and less spiritual over time.

Joanne - You and I have both experienced similar pressures from opposite ends. You were told that you shouldn't say "Merry Christmas," and I was told that I must say it. Both admonitions were stupid and missed the entire point of the holiday, which should be about extending greetings of peace and goodwill to all people (isn't Jesus supposed to be the Prince of Peace?), not about getting the mantras just right, or offense avoidance or religious posturing.

Barbara - the whole War on Christmas thing may not be quite as blatant in Canada as it is in the USA, but it looks like some Canadians are starting to buy into it. That's one American import you really don't need.

Everyone - We all need to recognize that people celebrate a wide range of holidays at this time of year. There's nothing at all wrong with that; that's part of what it means to live in multicultural societies that guarantee religious freedoms to all within their borders. We also need to accept that most people who celebrate Christmas don't celebrate it as an explicitly Christian festival. Christmas (in its secularized, commercialized forms) is the dominant holiday of the season and will remain so for the foreseeable future. For one thing, Christian cultural norms and their derivatives still dominate the social landscapes of the two countries. For another thing, too many people make too much money off Christmas to let it go gently into the night.

No one is saying that Christians can't keep Christ in Christmas. Nor is there anything wrong with Christian pastors reminding their congregations to do the same, since that is what the holiday should be about, primarily, for adherents of the faith. What bothers non-Christians is the Christian insistence - which may be more prevalent in the USA than in Canada - that everyone else must add him to their celebrations. That is the bottom line of what the fake War on Christmas is about. It's a stupid war that stirs up dissension for no good reason, and it's a war in which I refuse to enlist.