Saturday, December 16, 2006

Christians Winning the War on Christmas?

A recent article in Christianity Today suggests that Christians (and tolerant people generally) are winning the War on Christmas.
Glad tidings: Christmas is saved. Sure, this season has seen its grinches. But after last year’s “holiday” attack, we’ve mostly run them back to Mt. Crumpit. Wal-Mart has prominently replaced last year’s “Happy Holidays” greetings with “Merry Christmas,” and promises 60 percent more Christmas-labeled merchandise.

“We, quite frankly, have learned a lesson from last year,” a spokeswoman told USA Today. Target, Macy’s, Carson Pirie Scott, and other stories are also getting out of the holiday spirit in favor of Christmas.

One of this year’s early battles was short-lived. The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation initially rejected a gift of 4,000 biblically themed dolls, then changed its mind after a brief uproar. “We realized it’s a lot less time-consuming to find homes for the dolls than it is to answer media and complaints,” foundation veep Bill Grein told The Washington Post.

Meanwhile, last year’s “holiday tree” at the Michigan Capitol is once again a “Christmas tree,” a once-banned nativity float has returned to Denver’s Parade of Lights, and a momentary manger omission in St. Albans, West Virginia, has been rescinded.

Even the U.K. is seeing a backlash against a generic holiday. The Royal Mail’s seasonal stamps may omit religious imagery, and some town councils may have renamed their celebrations “Winterval,” but now even Muslims are calling for more Christ in Christmas. The Christian Muslim Forum, headed by leading clerics from both religions, argued: “Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus, and we wish this significant part of the Christian heritage of this country to remain an acknowledged part of national life. The desire to secularize religious festivals is offensive to both of our communities.”

Here’s more from that Christian Muslim Forum statement: “Those who use the fact of religious pluralism as an excuse to de-Christianize British society unthinkingly become recruiting agents for the extreme Right. They provoke antagonism towards Muslims and others by foisting on them an anti-Christian agenda they do not hold.”
One has to be careful about generalizing from what one sees in the media, of course.

All that media reports show is that those tolerant of religion, when the choose to make a fuss, quite frequently win.

The times they didn’t bother to make a fuss, or complained quietly and didn’t go public, aren’t reported.

But so far, this would seem like good news.

But the author of the article, one Ted Olsen, won’t enjoy the good news, and turns moralistic.
Meanwhile, we hear very little of the old complaints about the “commercialization of Christmas.” In polls, it’s still more of a concern than “opposition to religious symbols in public places” (64 percent vs. 46 percent among evangelicals). But one wonders if all the shows of economic force, through boycotts and such, has dulled the moral force of that critique.

Those who engage in combat to remind others of “the reason for the season” would do well to remember that the Christmas season as such has only existed for about a century and a half. The 1,500-year-old Christian season that precedes December 25 is Advent, a time of fasting, penitence, and somber waiting.
The problem with this quite moralistic argument is that, if we take Christ out of Christmas, just what standard can we use to oppose the season being an orgy of commercialism? We can attack commercialism as not being consistent with the celebration of Christ’s birth, but once we forget Christ’s birth, what’s the problem?

In fact, we think that all the huffing and puffing about “commercialism” is misplaced. Christmas is the time when we all buy presents for each other. We sometimes buy presents for people we almost never see, and sometimes for people we don’t even much like.

It is, in other words, a season when we are all reminded that we are enmeshed in a web of social ties, and that those ties involve obligations we have, and obligations others owe us.

What could be more Christian than doing something nice for other people? Indeed, wouldn’t Jesus have wanted us to do nice things for people we don’t even like much?

If Christmas were the season in which we all engaged in an orgy of buying things for ourselves, that would be grounds for condemnation.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The War on Christmas is very real. I have been to a half-dozen stores in the last month trying to find a banner of any type that could be put in a window that says "Merry Christmas." There are none to be found, despite there being "Happy Holidays" banners in all but one of the stores. Look for yourself.

11:51 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home