Monday, December 18, 2006

The War on Christmas Revisited

Last year, there was a big uproar over the idea that "Christmas" was under attack. The idea is not that we're seeing too much of Santa Claus, and not enough of Jesus Christ, but that, when you see "Happy Holidays" on television, or at your local store, the name "Christmas" is being removed by godless heathen in the name of political correctness, and that Christians are increasingly told that they cannot have Christmas-specific displays in public places.

The "War on Christmas" is still around. There was a fuss a couple of weeks ago when Christmas trees were taken down at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (and eventually put back up) when a Jewish Rabbi requested that a menorah be added to the holiday displays, apparently threatening legal action if such attention to non-Christian holidays was not paid. But that situation has died down now, and it must be noted that there doesn't seem to be anything like as much uproar about the supposed "war on Christmas" this year as there was a year ago.

This lull in hostilities may be illustrated by the opening line in a Christmas letter I recently received: "A year ago, people were saying 'Happy Holidays' to each other, but it's nice to see that once again people are putting the 'Christ' back in 'Christmas.'" (paraphrased) Of course, the infuriating thing about this kind of a statement, is that it implies not only that "Happy Holidays" is some kind of anti-Christian attack, but that it's something new. People have been using the phrase "Happy Holidays" for many, many years now! There were no more people using the phrase last year than there had been for years previously, and I doubt that many fewer people are using the phrase this year. The only thing that's changed is that the likes of Falwell aren't quite as vocal (or, at least, as loud) this year as they were last year. (His Liberty Counsel's "Friend or Foe" site is still up, though).

The people who sent me that Christmas letter are not stupid people. But it's frustrating to see that they, like so many well-meaning Christians, have bought into the lies spread by those who've declared that this "War on Christmas" exists. (By the way, how does one declare a war, yet maintain that the war is against them? Aren't they declaring war against the secular forces in society? Shouldn't it be called the "War against the Anti-Christmas Forces" or some such? Yeah, yeah.... It doesn't roll off the tongue as easily, does it?)

The fact is, we live in a culture (not to mention a world) in which people of many different faiths must co-exist. And many of those different faiths have holidays that are celebrated at the same time as Christmas, and people would like to see their own beliefs given air-time. If the television stations and the shopping centers, which tend just as likely as not to be led by people who hold no strong Christian connection themselves, want to give equal time to other religions, why not let them? If they want to save time by using some "catch-all" greeting such as "Happy Holidays," who's being hurt? Christians have just as much freedom to celebrate Christmas in the privacy of their own homes as they've always had. If Christians are concerned that the public sphere isn't as open to them as it once was... well, that may be true. But we're not helping our witness with those who do not yet know Christ by aggressively fighting to maintain the nominal mention of the name of "Christ" within "Christmas" (almost universally without the actual substance thereof). We need to show believers of other faiths respect. If the good news of Christmas is really true, then people will change as they see how Christians behave when we're at our best, not when we're at our worst.

2 comments:

  1. Sort of unrelated, but Bill was particularly amused by how little the Japanese seem to really understand what "Christmas" is all about... they seem to think it's just another excuse to get dressed up and promote cartoons and comics. He sent a picture he had taken with the Christmas Pikachu (a person dressed up as said character) and noted that the "Christmas lights" were of animals like parrots & moose & such... :)

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  2. I'm reminded of a Japanese friend of ours when I was in college (you may or may not remember Akiko. She was involved in drama, but not onstage.). She commented at one point that Japan is almost entirely Buddhist, to the near exclusion of Christianity. If that's true (And I suspect that it is, although the fact that none of the Japanese Christians who predominate the church I go to have made a major issue of this "fact" would admittedly argue against it), it would explain Bill's observations.

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