Thursday, November 29, 2018

Is There A War On Christmas?

Every December, liberals like me rankle under the accusation that we are waging a “War on Christmas.”  During his presidential campaign, for example, Donald Trump made it a major talking point, vowing to “make Christmas great again” and promising that "If I become president, we're going to be saying Merry Christmas at every store.”  He wasn’t the first.

Notorious anti-Semite Henry Ford raised the issue back in 1929 in a pamphlet he published titled The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem, complaining that “Last Christmas most people had a hard time finding Christmas cards that indicated in any way that Christmas commemorated Someone's Birth.”  Ford insinuated that Jews were secretly running the world, apparently oblivious to the fact that Jesus himself was of the very tribe he so despised.

Fast forward thirty years to 1959, when the ultra-right-wing John Birch Society warned of an “assault on Christmas” by United Nations fanatics who wanted department stores to replace baby Jesus with symbols of international cooperation and global peace.  (Heaven forbid!)

Now, in this digital age, the alleged “War on Christmas” is a predictable part of the blogosphere every holiday, as conservatives stir fears that sinister conspirators (Muslims, Democrats, secular humanists or the bogeyman de jour) want to rob Christians of their right to worship or express their beliefs in public.  When the clerk at Home Depot says “Happy Holidays” or your neighbor wishes you “Season’s Greetings” or the U.S. Postal Service releases a new December stamp featuring a glowing candle rather than a cross, commentators on Fox News automatically assume they are plotting to establish a secular republic that will stamp out God, ban the Bible and likely feed Sunday School teachers to the lions. What rubbish!

The truth is I love Christmas. In my experience, it was great long before the Donald came along.

I grew up singing “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and “Silent Night” in church on Christmas Eve, and in my opinion that is exactly where these songs and symbols belong: in church, not in a public school classroom and not in a creche erected on the town plaza.  Because much as I love Christmas, I also respect my neighbors who have other beliefs and other traditions than my own.  Whether Jewish or Muslim or non-religious, whether they celebrate Hanukkah, Yule, Kwanzaa or Bodhi Day, commemorating the Buddha’s enlightenment, they are all Americans and welcome in this spiritually diverse land where there is no official or established church, but where all are guaranteed the freedom to follow their own conscience in matters of faith.  

So instead of waging any kind of war or quarrelling over friendly salutations, how about toning down the rhetoric working together for a little more peace on earth this December, with good will for all?  Wish me Merry Christmas or Feliz Navidad or Joyeux Nöel if you like; I won’t take offense.  And on December 25th, attend the church or visit the Chinese restaurant of your choice.