I have been following this year’s edition of the so-called “war on Christmas” with a mix of amusement and incredulity. Apart from Fox news and a few conservative-fundamentalist TV stations, I’m not hearing too much about it, but what I do hear and see boggles the imagination. My favorite this year shows the depths of lying and deception one side will go to validate their claims. A few nights ago on a Chicago TV station, a news piece ran on a community attempting to get a church to take down its nativity. It seems that this church replaced all the religious figures with snowmen (and snowwomen and snowbaby Jesus…), and some in the neighborhoods — both religious and non-religious — found the display offensive and petitioned to have it removed. One man was quoted two times in this sequence — “we shouldn’t be forced to look at trash like this,” and “this isn’t a religious display, this is a travesty.” Flipping through some religious channels, I stopped to watch a very serious young man reporting on the latest “hate crime” against Christians — forcing a church to take down its Nativity. What followed was an edited version of the Chicago clip, where the anchorman set up the scene by saying “When asked about religious displays on church property, one local man in a contemptuous tone of voice said, “we shouldn’t be forced to look at trash like this, this is a travesty…'” No mention was made of the snowman motif, nor was the larger issue addressed. The story was simply presented as secular culture trying to destroy Christmas by taking a local church’s rights away.
It reminds me of a battle in Nashville a few year’s ago where some homeowners in a fairly nice neighborhood attempted to get one of the people on their street to take down a cheap, poorly painted, plastic, lighted Nativity set from their lawn. One of the homeowners made the comment, “This isn’t a religious thing. We’re not against religious images at Christmas. This is a matter of taste. What’s so inspirational about a tacky Mary with a lightbulb in her butt?” I cannot tell you how many times I heard the last part of that clip. It made national cable. The sound byte was taken out of context repeatedly to prove how angry and disrespectful all the atheists are. The irony is that the man who made the quote is a conservative evangelical pastor. That part never got mentioned.
I listened to an owlish woman complain that the bar adjacent to her church was refusing to allow church people to park in their lot on Christmas Eve. Proof of a war on Christmas.
Disrespectful use of religious imagery as marketing tools angers both sides. Proof of a war on Christmas.
Happy Winter used as an alternative decorative greeting in public schools. Proof of a war on Christmas.
High school choir sings eleven Christmas songs — eight secular and only three religious. Proof of a war on Christmas.
Public celebrations of “atheist Christmas” — those that focus on the fun rather than the fundamentalism — judged disrespectful. Religious leaders shouts, “let them find their own holidays!” Proof of the war on Christmas.
From the Memphis commercial Appeal:
In the opinion of Arlington [Tennessee] Mayor Russell Wiseman, President Barack Obama’s speech on Tuesday night on the war in Afghanistan was deliberately timed to block the Christian message of the “Peanuts” television Christmas special. Proof of the war on Christmas.
Does anybody care that almost all of this is a swamp of our own creation and design? Almost all Nativity Scenes are a gross misrepresentation of anything that likely happened. Just so you know, Palestinian stables don’t like our modern creches, and the wise men weren’t waiting on Christmas Eve night, and generally there wasn’t an angel hanging around over the roof… I’m just saying. And December 25? Oh, and the fact that we blend in candles and twinkly lights and trees and Chrismons and wreaths and on and on. None of these things should matter all that much. They are all trappings — sure, wonderful and joyful trappings for those who admire and are inspired by them — and none of them are essential for Christians to celebrate Christmas. And where they are necessary? In our homes and churches — no one is trying to take anything away from us. We still have the right to admire and find comfort in whatever art, symbols, rituals, and practices we enjoy. We’re just being asked not to make a public display of our personal preferences — like Veggie Tales nativity sets — where they might offend both believers and non-believers alike.
And shame on the media for fueling this fire. I have counted nine straight days where supposedly serious news channels have given air time to the “war on Christmas” with all the integrity of the first story above. I love Christmas. I love the lights, I love the trees, I love the snow, the cookies, the candies, the presents, the sappy old movies, the cards and the carols. But I love God more, and I look forward to the coming of the Christ child not as a media or cultural event. In fact, I don’t want secular culture mediating the experience for me. This season leading to Christmas is fun and joyous, and I don’t see anyone trying to take it away from much of anyone, but when the actual day of Christmas Eve comes? I will go to church, where I will gather with others who share at least a common belief and desire — to be part of the miracle once more. If there was a war on Christmas, it’s over and we won — because there is nothing stopping me from worshiping the Christ child and singing “Silent Night” and “Joy to the World,” with all my heart and soul.