A Philosopher's Blog

A War on Christmas?

Posted in Philosophy by Michael LaBossiere on December 20, 2010
Christmas in the post-War United States
Image via Wikipedia

Listening to certain pundits, one would think that Christmas was a besieged holiday and that its practitioners were forced to hide in caverns under the shopping malls lest they be cast into the arena to be devoured by liberal, ambiguously gendered lions.

Fox, as always, seems to be making a case for there being such a war. They rush to present evidence of this war and do not even let facts get in the way of their spirited defense. If evidence happens to be wanting, they seem to be willing to accept almost anyone’s word that, for example, a school has banned the use of green and red as part of an assault on Christmas. As I have argued before, professional journalists have an obligation to use at least some minimal effort to verify key facts in a story-even when the story nicely matches a specific ideological narrative.

Naturally, I do understand that journalists are busy folks and that mistakes are always possible. Heck, people point out my mistakes each time I make one (and even when I don’t). I also get that when someone feels really strongly about a matter, they tend to accept claims that fit their feelings even when the claims are not properly supported. I fall into this myself from time to time, even though I know better. However, none of this changes the fact that a professional journalist should always exert at least a minimal amount of effort to at least attempt to verify key facts. Especially when doing so is as easy as making a quick phone call.

But, some might say, while Fox does something overdo things in is zealous defense of all that is holy, there is a clear war on Christmas. After all, there is the push for people to say “happy holidays”, manger scenes are often banned from government buildings, and students get winter breaks now rather than Christmas breaks.

It is true that people say such things. It is true that manger scenes are generally not allowed in government buildings. It is also true that I am now on winter break rather than Christmas break. However, it is not clear that these things are assaults in part of a war on Christmas.

In regards to “happy holidays”, this is actually a holiday season. My Jewish friends do not cry that there is a war on Hanukkah when people say “happy holidays” or “merry Christmas.” And, of course, there is also Three King’s Day and New Year’s Day in this season of holidays. As such, the use of “holidays” does not seem to be anti-Christmas but rather an inclusive term that encompasses the various holidays. This seems consistent with the Christmas ideal of peace on earth and goodwill towards all. Using this term hardly seems to be a war like act.

As far as the manger ban goes, this does bother me. When I was a kid, we had a manger scene as part of our Christmas decorations. To this day, manger scenes bring back warm feelings of childhood Christmases. When I see one, however tacky it might be (one had flamingos) I will pause and look at it, remembering days gone by.  So, it should be obvious that I have nothing against them. That said, I do agree that government buildings should not have such scenes-or any religious displays at all. This is because doing so would seem to be state support of a specific religion.

But is this not a war on Christmas? Well, no. Not having the state actively endorse a specific faith is not an attack on that faith. If the state burned manger scenes as part of a public display, then that would be rather war like. Having a general ban on religious displays is not a war on religion but rather a refusal to exalt one faith above any others. That is an important part of allowing freedom of (and from) religion.

It is also important to note that manger scenes are not banned from anywhere else. If you want to turn your entire lawn into a scene, then you are free to do so. If your church wants to put up a massive manger extravaganza, they are free to do just that.

I do admit that it still sounds odd to be on winter break. I still use the term Christmas break because old habits die hard and, for me, I am on Christmas break. However, not everyone who attends state universities is a Christian and state universities are not supposed to endorse any specific faith (private religious schools are another matter). This is, however, not an attack on Christmas anymore than not calling it Kwanzaa break is an assault on Kwanzaa.

As another point when people bemoan that the Christ has been taken out of Christmas because of this war on Christmas, there is the obvious question of just how much Christ has been a part of Christmas. After all, much of the Christmas mythology and trappings are pagan in origin. Also, when you throw in the gross commercialization of the holiday, that would seem to have done a great deal to take the Christ out of Christmas.

As a final point, if there is a war on Christmas, Christmas seems to be winning handily. Christmas trees are displayed openly. People boldly wish others a merry Christmas and are not arrested. Christmas stockings are still hung from the chimney with care, rather than being hidden away in some secret corner. You can test this yourself-boldly go to a store that sells cards and ask for Christmas cards. Approach a police officer and ask her if you can report people for celebrating Christmas. And so on. I suspect you will find no evidence of any war on Christmas.

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24 Responses

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  1. T. J. Babson said, on December 20, 2010 at 9:50 am

    Here’s an example. Seems pretty well sourced.

    http://www.minnpost.com/politicalagenda/2010/12/16/24296/one_fewer_stop_for_santa_this_year_hes_banned_from_head_start_classes_in_st_peter

    One fewer stop for Santa this year: He’s banned from Head Start classes in St. Peter

    By Joe Kimball | Published Thu, Dec 16 2010 1:46 pm

    Santa Claus, as portrayed by Dennis Jackson, won’t be visiting students at the Head Start classes in St. Peter this year.

    Jackson has made appearances the past four years at the classes for students who need help preparing for school, but this year officials said, “No, no, no.”

    The reason: The classes have many immigrant children who don’t celebrate Christmas, says the Mankato Free Press.

    Santa’s a little frosted, the paper says.

    It kind of burnt me up,” he said.

    The official explanation from Chris Marben, who coordinates regional Head Start programs through Mankato-based Minnesota Valley Action Council: “We have Somali families in the program. We’re respecting the wishes of families in the program.”

    She didn’t say how many objections were made, but said more than one would be enough to cancel Santa.

    “The simple truth is that southern Minnesota has become a much more culturally diverse society than it was a few decades ago,” she told the paper. “Part of our challenge in Head Start is providing an environment where young children from many different cultures can all feel comfortable.”

    Jackson said rather than depriving the rest of the group of the Santa experience, parents who object should take their kids out of the class during the half hour he spends talking to the kids and giving them candy.

  2. magus71 said, on December 20, 2010 at 11:29 pm

    I wouldn’t expect you to come to any other conclusion Mike.

  3. magus71 said, on December 20, 2010 at 11:42 pm

    By Rev. Jerry Falwell
    © 2010

    http://www.wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=53396

    Liberals continue to proclaim that there is “no war on Christmas” in our nation.

    This week, Alan Colmes, co-host of the Fox News Channel’s “Hannity and Colmes,” attempted to convince my buddy Franklin Graham that this war did not exist. Thankfully, Franklin shrewdly countered this notion by noting that there is indeed an accelerating effort by secularists in America to annihilate expressions of Christmas and Christianity.

    The effort is so obvious one would think that even the liberals could see it.

    But apparently not.

    Earlier this week, a broadcast on CBS proved to be the perfect reminder of how the so-called mainstream media have determined that it is perfectly appropriate to offend millions of Christians during this holy season.

    (Column continues below)

    On the series “Two and a Half Men,” actor Charlie Sheen (who portrays the self-indulgent Charlie Harper) is seen singing his own rendition of the Christmas carol “Joy to the World,” which heralds the miraculous coming to earth of Jesus Christ.

    In his depraved version of the song, Charlie sings about planning to have sexual relations with a woman because it’s their “second date.”

    Readers may view the “Two and a Half Men” clip on YouTube.com. Be warned: It is overtly sexual and offensive.

    It’s really disappointing that CBS, which has a long history of excellent dramas and comedies, would stoop this low. Network President Les Moonves ought to be ashamed.

    Ironically, the CBS website carries this statement: “As broadcasters, we aim to ensure that our national viewing audience is reflected in our programming and our people.”

    Oh really? Show us one evangelical Christian on the network, Mr. Moonves. Millions of Christians certainly watch the network, so shouldn’t there be at least one representation, according to CBS’ own statement?

    Apparently not.

    Further, imagine CBS reworking the inspiring words of Dr. Martin Luther King or a portion of the Quran with a character proclaiming he will soon be having a sexual romp.

    It simply would not happen. But Jesus is another story.

    Comedy Central proved earlier this year the hypocrisy of the networks when it allowed its “South Park” series to show Jesus defecating on President Bush, but refused to show a representation of Muhammad. The network replaced the image with a black screen carrying this statement: “Comedy Central has refused to broadcast an image of Muhammad on their network.”

    Conversely, Christianity and Jesus Christ are habitually objects of scorn and/or mockery on the broadcast and cable networks, even during this most sacred of seasons.

    Meanwhile, people across America continue to be harassed because of their faith.

    Liberty Counsel reports that it is being “inundated with calls from all across the nation” from folks who have experienced bullying relating to their expressions of Christmas.

    Here are just a few examples:

    In Fayetteville, Ark., McNair Middle School removed a teacher’s Nativity scene and Star of David from a larger display that also included secular holiday decorations. After Liberty Counsel sent a legal memorandum showing that the display was constitutional, school officials reversed the ban.

    In Ohio, a public school teacher was told not to say “Merry Christmas” in class. Again, Liberty Counsel sent a legal memo to the district superintendent and an administrator has now advised teachers that they may say “Merry Christmas.”

    In Wisconsin, a public school employee was told by the principal that a musical program scheduled to take place in a church was going to be moved to a different location. Liberty Counsel sent a legal memo about Christmas to the school. After receiving the memo, the principal decided to keep the event at the church.

    In Orlando, Fla., seniors in a retirement home received a directive to strip the common areas of any religious symbols or words in Christmas displays. At the management’s direction, an employee actually cut the wings off the angel on the Christmas tree. Liberty Counsel is at work in this case.

    Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel and dean of the Liberty University School of Law, said, “There is a war on Christmas in this country. Every victory goes a long way toward winning the battle, but we must not take Christmas or our religious freedom for granted. Celebrating Christmas is the classic example of religious accommodation mandated by the First Amendment. If Christmas is silenced or censored, we all lose a piece of our religious freedom.”

    No War on Christmas? You’d have to be “the Grinch” himself not to see it. There is indeed such a war, and Christians are in the crosshairs. We must continue to stand up for our rights, my friends. If we don’t, it is readily apparent that they will be quickly eradicated.

    Note: Below is contact information to CBS for readers wishing to complain about the “Two and a Half Men” episode:

    CBS Television Network
    51 West 52nd Street
    New York, NY 10019

    • erik said, on December 21, 2010 at 8:52 am

      And 2 1/2 Men continues to be among the top 10 or 15 shows in weekly nationnal ratings, bunched in there among the various games of the week and reality dreck, despite its weekly attack on national morality.

  4. magus71 said, on December 20, 2010 at 11:45 pm

    “I still use the term Christmas break because old habits die hard”

    Is this a habit that you’re trying to break?

  5. magus71 said, on December 21, 2010 at 12:45 am

    There’s clearly a shift in cultural attitude toward Christams. But it shouldn’t surpise us that Mike can’t see it since he’s one of the cultural elite that implemented the shift. Afterall Mike, you’ve never been all that shy about making fun of Jesus or Christians, but I’ve never heard the same sarcasticc vitriol from you towards Muslims. Care to explain?

    • WTP said, on December 21, 2010 at 10:09 am

      You can’t make fun of Muslims. You’ll get rage and even violent reactions from some quarters of the “Religion of Peace”. The rest will either say nothing in the face of the threats while others protest your insensitivity and blame you for the violence.

      Mock the Christians, they’ll turn the other cheek. And if they don’t, you can mock them for the hypocracy of not turning the other cheek. As a bonus, the more liberal elements will chime in protesting that such people are not real Christians. All the while you can beat your chest as an “intellectual” who bravely stares down the forces of oppression. Kind of a false bravado. Hmm, where have I seen that phrase used recently?

      Such is why I don’t care much for Christianity any more, but as relgions go I care more for it than most others. In fact, the more I’ve studied other religions, Christianity’s flaws seem to diminish in comparison.

  6. erik said, on December 21, 2010 at 10:58 am

    We Christians don’t turn the other cheek. We cry “victimization”. Just like everyone else who rightly or wrongly shouts “victim”(and gets criticized for doing so). Then we criticize others for crying “victimization”. Almost makes me hesitate to call myself Christian.

    If Christianity’s flaws “diminish in comparison” with other religions and other religions are unacceptable to you , does that make it the lesser of the evils or the greater of the goods?

    • T. J. Babson said, on December 21, 2010 at 12:04 pm

      Christianity has flaws…Islam has greater flaws..

      One needs to think in terms of shades of gray instead of black and white. Remember the “wrong vs. greater wrong” discussion of war? Even in a morally justified war, the moral side will invariably commit some wrongs…

      • erik said, on December 21, 2010 at 1:00 pm

        As a Muslim, I “believe” with a “faith” as strong as any Christian’s faith, that Christianity has greater flaws than Islam. . .that I’m on the moral side and whatever I do is less immoral than what Christians do.

        And, where does the inevitable commission of wrong acts stop if one can justify with one’s belief/faith that he can never commit more wrongs than the other?

      • WTP said, on December 21, 2010 at 1:11 pm

        Like trees falling in a forest when no one is around, in an environment of rather selective discretion for when and how to raise issues of morality, does wrong vs. greater wrong matter? I give you this story:

        http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20101221/wl_nm/us_afghanistan_un_civilians

        Note the headline “Afghan civilian casualties up 20 percent: U.N. report”. As if they’re just casualties of unknown origin. But if you read the text, you find that our side “accounted for 12 percent of all civilian casualties, an 18 percent drop on the same period last year”. Note the drop. Of course there is no way you can attribute the way this story is presented as being biased. I mean that sincerely. If you read the story without the headline (which itself, can’t be called biased), you can’t even fault the story, well until you get near the end part where they had to point out the October increase. But of course, given that we all “know” that the war is completely the “option” of the US, therefore an increase in civilian casualties…well, it’s just Reuters’ version of “We report, you decide”.

        It would definitely be wrong, however, to headline the story as “Taliban Civillian Casualties Up 25%”. Do you suppose if you asked the average citizen what percent of civilian casualties NATO/US/pro-Afghan-Govt forces are responsible for you would get answers anywhere near 12%?

        • erik said, on December 21, 2010 at 2:02 pm

          They must have changed the article since you wrote. The headline is different(” NATO opens probe into deaths of 5 Afghan civilians”), and the third paragraph contains this:
          “The United Nations said more than three-quarters of the civilian casualties up to October 2010 had been killed or wounded as a result of attacks by insurgents.” More than 3/4 could be 75.2% or 98%. Chalk this up to the fog of war?
          You’ll have to keep updating your piece as they update the article. :)

        • WTP said, on December 21, 2010 at 9:11 pm

          So the story changes under the same link. Headline now emphasizes NATO civilian casualties. Now with extra slant. The comments there prove my point.

          • erik said, on December 21, 2010 at 9:29 pm

            And if they hadn’t? If the updated version had taken a different direction—under the same link? We’re at a point, with internet news, that we can’t safely link to an item and assume that that will be the item our reader will link to. . . even if it’s the same link.

    • magus71 said, on December 21, 2010 at 11:56 pm

      “Almost makes me hesitate to call myself Christian.”

      Yeah, I’m sure it does. So you’re saying believe what the New Testament says?

      • erik said, on December 22, 2010 at 8:59 am

        So you think that’s what I’m writing?
        Do you believe in what’s written in the Old and New Testaments? Have you never hesitated one iota in the breadth or depth of your beliefs?
        Read what I wrote, not what you wish I’d have said.

        The first paragraph of my entry describes the way I see the “victimization” cycle, basically as it operates in politics, religion, race, etc. If you see it differently, by all means describe your “vision” here.

  7. magus71 said, on December 21, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    Not surprisingly, our school systems are at the frontline in the war on Christmas. And guess which side they’re on?

    http://www.wusa9.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=126671&catid=188

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 22, 2010 at 1:09 pm

      Has Christmas been defeated?

      • magus71 said, on December 23, 2010 at 12:35 am

        Really? that’s your point? Have Muslims or gays been defeated in America? Than maybe they should just shut up and take it like those who celebrate Chruistmas should, right?

        I remember in one of your posts last year, you said: “Happy Holidays”. Kernunos called you on it. So apparently in some quarters Christams has been defeated because you feel ashamed to say with any regularity: “Merry Christmas”.

  8. Happy Pagan Holiday | 538 Refugees said, on December 24, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    [...] A War on Christmas? (aphilosopher.wordpress.com) [...]


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