Because people love parades and the holiday season is full of lights, a Holiday Parade of Lights is scheduled Saturday in Tulsa, Okla. Logical? Yes, but Jim Inhofe is furious: “Until the parade is again named the Christmas Parade of Lights, I will not participate,” said the U.S. senator who usually rides a horse in the parade.
Oh, brother; here we go again. The supposed “War on Christmas” — which only the defenders seem to fight — is resumed. Just as predictable as Santa’s flight and Bill O’Reilly’s defense of Christmas, this is the season when Inhofe and other xenophobes shudder at the thought of Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews and atheists feeling welcome at a parade. This is worse, to them, than mere political correctness or the creeping incursion of diversity. This is their winter Crusade, not to be confused with the jihads by other fundamentalists that O’Reilly, Inhofe and others warn against.
These self-appointed guardians of modern Christianity certainly have the right to protest holiday parades and holiday trees and other holiday events. But they conveniently forget the right of organizers and store merchants to call an event or a sales campaign by any name they choose, trying to maximize participation and sales revenue.
Just guessing here, but I suspect Tulsa parade officials figured they’d lose a little attendance as some angry Christians choose to avoid the parade, but that loss could be offset by non-Christians who would feel more inclined to attend a more welcoming parade. And if attendance increases, where’s the down side for parade organizers … or store owners?
In recent years, Sears, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Home Depot and other stores have been assailed by some critics for allegedly taking Christ out of Christmas. Others of us believe Christ can never be taken out of anything, and the last time I checked, those companies were still in business.
To each, his own holiday
At the individual and family levels, this artificial “War on Christmas” has little to no application. How — or even if — you and your family choose to celebrate Christmas is really none of my business, is it? Presumably, you’re willing to cut me the same slack.
So, even without your permission, this Sunday morning I plan to attend a “Night of the Father’s Love” service at a friendly church in beautiful downtown Hazel Dell But The Good Part. We’ll exchange Christmas cheer, hear fabulous Christmas music, pray, listen to the retelling of the Christmas story and sing Christmas hymns. If I’m really careful and don’t get too excited, this might be the year when no one asks me to sing a bit softer and try to tune it up a little.
Many of you have similar plans for today and the next three weeks. I hope you enjoy it all, and from the bottom of my heart: Merry Christmas!
However, above the individual and family levels, and after the modern vanguards of Christmas get the public all ginned up, many people seem to lose the Christmas spirit. As this anger builds, some people come to believe that the parades or the trees in the public plaza or the sales at the big-box store belong only to Christians.
These are the same people who complain about prayer being taken out of school, when this truth remains: As long as you don’t disrupt classes or proselytize, anyone can pray any prayer they choose at any time in any school in America. I don’t know how the students and teachers can have any more religious freedom than that.
Back to the tussle in Tulsa: City councilors are considering denying a permit for the parade unless Christmas is restored to the name. They seem to forget the name actually was changed two years ago. Inhofe says he didn’t protest last year because he was too involved in the debate surrounding the health care law. Now, though, it’s time to put on the full armor of prejudice and go to war. If the righteous, good senator and his followers get their way, they might as well call it the Holiday Parade of Self-Absorption. But if the more learned followers of Christ get their way, all people will be invited to share the love of the holidays, whether in the streets, at the hearth, around the dinner table or in our hearts.
John Laird is The Columbian’s editorial page editor. His column of personal opinion appears each Sunday. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.