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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Merry Christmas. We got you something.

Dear Christians,

Merry Christmas. We got you something.

Who’s we? The rest of us. You know: Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists. Non-Christians. We got you something: the War on Christmas.

What’s that you say? “I thought you people deny there IS a War on Christmas?”

Well, yeah. Kinda. I mean, there is no War on Christmas in the sense that Fox News means it. There’s no national conspiracy to oppress Christians and deprive them of their freedom of religion. As Jon Stewart points out every year (and you can watch below), Christmas is everywhere and shows no sign of letting up.

But I’ll let you in on a little secret: There is a kind of a war on Christmas.

See, it’s not because you wished us “Merry Christmas” at work, or because we’re jealous of your pretty tree. (We are jealous of your pretty tree. A well-decorated tree is the prettiest damn thing we’ve ever seen.)

The rest of us go through the Christmas season grumbling under our breath, “I can’t wait for Christmas to be over.” We cringe at the Christmas music in the supermarket - “The Little Drummer Boy” as much as “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” We despise the mall at this time of year for its crowds, its feverish sales pitches, and the screaming children demanding face time with Santa. We sit tight-lipped and grim-faced through school concerts where the Christmas-to-Hanukkah-to-Kwanzaa ratio is 6:2:1. (Oh, and FYI, the reason Christmas music is better is not because Christians write better music, but because for 2000 years Hanukkah was a relative non-event, and Kwanzaa was invented a nanosecond ago on the scale of human history.) And not all of us, but some of us - maybe most of us - grind our teeth when we drive past that nativity scene on the green. So in a sense, yes. There is a War on Christmas.

It’s because we can see what you, perhaps, can’t, because you’re too close to it. Or maybe you can see it, but you’re just not in a position to say so.

Christmas as celebrated in our culture is HIDEOUS. Aesthetically and morally HIDEOUS. And let’s be honest - you know that, don’t you? It’s garish, loud, pushy, and irritatingly ubiquitous. Ninety-nine percent of the Christmassy stuff out there is inarguably unrelated to the religious meaning of the holiday, motivated instead by pure commercial interest. Do we need to say any more about the commercialization of Christmas? No. Because you know it’s true. Everyone knows it’s true. And everyone also knows that the transformation of Christmas into a marketing gimmick is antithetical to the meaning of the holiday. So let’s not even go there. Garishly decorated retail outlets; Black Friday Walmart stampedes; pet photos with Santa; Christmas specials featuring Barbie,  He-Man, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Bratz Babyz; and on and on and on. Yep. Each of us in our own minds is waging a war on the hideous, corrupt version of Christmas that assaults us everywhere we go.

And now to that other aspect of the War on Christmas - the one thing the War-on-Christmas paranoiacs get the most mileage out of - that nativity scene on the village green. The one they had to remove because of some lawsuit by ACLU atheists and Jews.

First of all, every town around me has one of those things, and the ACLU doesn’t seem to have sued them yet, because the citizens of these towns don’t have the bandwidth in their busy lives to make a fuss about them. (I’ve been sorely tempted, but even I have better things to do, and that’s not saying much.) But when some guy in some American town somewhere decides that he just can’t stand looking at a creche any more and demands that it be removed, rest assured: You’ll hear about it on Fox News. Over and over and over again. But do you think for one moment that Fox is doing it for Jesus? A nechtiger tog! They’re doing it because they have a political axe to grind - because painting atheists and Jews (aka liberals) as oppressors of Christians serves their right wing agenda. Jesus really doesn’t enter into it.

Second of all, there’s the whole separation of church and state thing. You may not like it. You may think that placing a menorah on the village green alongside the nativity scene satisfies some neutrality requirement. (It doesn’t. Separation of church and state doesn’t mean equal time. It means - well, separation of church and state. It’s self-explanatory.) You may think that we’re misinterpreting the Constitution. But one thing is for sure: It’s not a war on CHRISTMAS. It’s an objection to religious symbolism in government-supported public places. It’s not restricted to Christmas (remember the Ten Commandments-in-the-courthouse thing?). The only reason Christians and Christmas get targeted a lot is that Christians are the ones who keep putting religious symbols on the village green, and Christmas is when they do it. If you choose to believe that means we hate you and your holiday, probably nothing I say will make much of a difference. But for what it’s worth, we don’t. We’re all for your religious freedom on private property.

So exactly how is the War on Christmas our gift to you? The simple fact is that when you splash religious symbolism on every available surface of a non-Christian nation - and like it or not, America is not a Christian nation - it loses its meaning. It becomes diluted. It becomes the property of everyone, and therefore the purview of no one. When you use that symbolism as a marketing tool to sell merchandise, it does worse than lose its meaning. Its meaning changes to something much uglier and more hypocritical - something about profit, self-interest and greed. It’s not just my Jewish kids who will come to see Christmas as a cultural juggernaut that has become an excuse for putting up decorations, selling merchandise, and replacing their favorite TV shows with awful holiday specials. It’s your kids who will come to see it that way, too. Is that the Christmas you want them to have? Or would you rather they think about the fact that God loved them so much that he sent the world his only son, who taught them how to live a good life and then died for their sins?

So Merry Christmas, Christians. We non-Christians pitched in and got you something: Christmas.

You’re welcome.

The Rest of Us

The Daily Show with Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The War on Christmas: Friendly Fire Edition
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

The Daily Show with Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The War on Christmas: Friendly Fire Edition - Bill O'Reilly's Philosophy
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook