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No war on Christmas

November 21, 2005 Leave a comment Go to comments

There’s an excellent article in Salon today about the so-called “war on Christmas.” A couple of choice excerpts:

In fact, there is no war on Christmas. What there is, rather, is a burgeoning myth of a war on Christmas, assembled out of old reactionary tropes, urban legends, exaggerated anecdotes and increasingly organized hostility to the American Civil Liberties Union. It’s a myth that can be self-fulfilling, as school board members and local politicians believe the false conservative claim that they can’t celebrate Christmas without getting sued by the ACLU and thus jettison beloved traditions, enraging citizens and perpetuating a potent culture-war meme. This in turn furthers the myth of an anti-Christmas conspiracy.

“You have a dynamic here, where you have the Christian right hysterically overrepresenting the problem, and then anecdotally you have some towns where lawyers restrict any kind of display or representation of religion, which is equally absurd,” says Chip Berlet, a senior analyst at Political Research Associates and one of the foremost experts on the religious right. “It’s a closed loop. In that dynamic, neither the secular humanists or the ACLU are playing a role.”

Got that? It’s your own damn fault. So calm down, lose the persecution complex, and start talking about what you can actually do in public schools with regard to Christmas.

This, in fact, might be true — having heard that the bland phrase “Happy Holidays” is part of a war against Christmas, some shoppers may be especially attuned for signs of subtle seasonal disrespect. On Nov. 11, a woman sent an e-mail complaining about the use of the phrase “Happy Holidays” at Wal-Mart and received a reply from a cheekily impertinent customer service employee that seemed to confirm the right’s worst fears. “Santa is also borrowed from the Caucuses (sic), mistletoe from the Celts, yule log from the Goths, the time from the Visigoth and the tree from the worship of Baal. It is a wide wide world,” the Wal-Mart worker wrote. In response, the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights launched its boycott, claiming Wal-Mart had “banned” Christmas. Wal-Mart quickly fired the offending employee and apologized. The boycott was called off, but the right remains unhappy about the store’s continuing use of “Happy Holidays,” leaving open the possibility of more teapot tempests as the Christmas season progresses.

This just goes to show that semi-intelligent people are not allowed to be Wal-Mart employees.

Charles Haynes, a senior scholar at the First Amendment Center and the author of “Finding Common Ground: A Guide to Religious Liberty in the Public Schools,” is one of the heroes of Gibson’s book. Gibson writes about how he resolved a crisis that arose in Mustang, Okla., when, fearing a lawsuit, the superintendent of schools ordered a nativity scene cut from an elementary school Christmas pageant, infuriating many in the town. Haynes was eventually flown out to mediate. He had, writes Gibson, “made something of a career out of rushing in as if he were driving an ambulance, lights flashing and sirens blaring, after schools had made disastrous policy decisions on restricting religious liberty in schools.”

According to Haynes, though, there is no war on Christmas. “I certainly wouldn’t put it that way,” he says. “The big picture is that there’s more religion now in public schools than ever in modern history. There’s no question about that. But it’s not there in terms of the government imposing religion or sponsoring it, and that bothers some people on the right. They miss the good old days when public schools were semi-established Protestant schools.”

That’s exactly it. This isn’t about freedom of speech, this is about moving toward quasi-religious rule (that’s my attempt to avoid “theocracy,” which is a bit harsh).

There are quite a bit of information in the article, such as the war’s roots in JBS and anti-semitic paranoia. Go read it.

Categories: Religion
  1. November 22, 2005 at 3:28 pm

    No wonder the holidays make me edgy.

  1. November 22, 2005 at 1:46 pm

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