‘Tis the season.
The one for peace on earth and glad tidings and reflections upon the birth of Christ. The one for good will toward men (we’ll count women in that, too) and, of course, for the contrived conflict known as The War on Christmas.
You’ve no doubt heard about this conflagration. You’ve heard about it because Bill O’Reilly has made a career out of fighting it. Because Sarah Palin last year wrote a book about it. Because Glenn Beck’s website, The Blaze, has a blog devoted to nothing but examples of how there is a War on Christmas.
You know, stories of national import such as “Say Merry Christmas and Mean It: the First Amendment and Christian Traditions.” Or “Atheists Demand End to Decades-Old Christmas Tradition — but Residents and Politicians Aren’t Backing Down.” Those are headlines from The Blaze about the nefarious forces that will stop at nothing to undermine Christmas in this country, and those forces are legion.
As Palin wrote in her book, “There are many people who haven’t merely lost, misplaced, or forgotten the true meaning of Christmas, they’re trying to actively target it to destroy it, and these true Scrooges have a frightening amount of power.” As I noted a year ago, “Maybe not as frightening as a metric ton worth of empty rhetoric, but frightening in its own way, I guess.”
Yes, I just plagiarized myself. Hey, I thought it was a good line.
Anyway, a year has passed since that insightful, witty, thoughtful column, so I decided to check in and see how The War on Christmas is going. Because, apparently, there is no end to the willingness of some people to stoke imaginary fears and profit off imaginary wars. There is no end to the profiteers’ ability to ignore the fact that Americans celebrate Christmas with alarming excess. There is no end to the cultural warriors’ desire to view every “Happy Holidays” greeting and every “Holiday Tree” as an example of how secularism is destroying the Christian foundation of this country.
Ah, but there was a beginning. According to RationalWiki.com, in 1959 the John Birch Society released a pamphlet called, “There Goes Christmas.” In it, the group — which politically stands somewhere to the right of Attila The Hun — purportedly described a Communist plot to “take the Christ out of Christmas” by replacing Christmas decorations with United Nations iconography.
Considering that O’Reilly is still living in the 1950s, this modern War on Christmas suddenly makes sense. And yet it is entirely nonsensical. As RationalWiki satirically noted, “There is actually a War on Christmas. But Christmas started it, with its unparalleled aggression against the Thanksgiving Holiday, and now Christmas has seized much Lebensraum in November, and are pushing into October.”
Recently, the Washington Post’s Wonkblog trumpeted in a headline: “The War on Christmas is over. Jesus won.” That story noted that a survey from the Pew Research Center found that 73 percent of Americans believe Jesus was literally born to a virgin. This despite the fact that only one-third of Americans believe the Bible is the word of God and should be understood literally — meaning that about 40 percent of the public does not believe the Bible should be taken literally but does believe in the virgin birth.
Seems incongruous to me, but who am I to judge? The point is that people are free to believe as they wish, and the strength of this country is that no attempt to replace a salutation of “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Holidays” is going to change that.
Not that any of this prevents the pundits from keeping score. As O’Reilly said recently, “I won the ‘War on Christmas.’ I’ve been doing this for about 10 years and this is the only year we have not had a store that commanded its employees not to say, ‘Merry Christmas.’ It’s over. We won.”
‘Tis the season, indeed. The season for declarations of victory in imaginary wars.