The war on Christmas hits a little close to home
December 23, 2003
It seems like every year at around this time we start hearing stories of this or that Christmas symbol being banned from public display. In New York this year, it's nativity scenes, even while Jewish and Muslim holidays are enjoyed in full view. Meanwhile, Disney's got a box office smash called Bad Santa, which portrays the jolly fat man as a booze-swilling, babe-swooning fool.
Incidents like these have prompted many a sensationalist to ask, "Is anything sacred anymore?" And we buy into it, too. "Christmas is under attack," we say. Indeed, we say it so often it's only a matter of time before it replaces "Season's Greetings" as the slogan of choice on Hallmark cards.
Is Christmas really under attack, though? And, if so, by whom? Could it be the culprits are the very folks who come to its defense?
To me, the "Christmas is under attack" routine is something of a metaphor for our country. We talk a lot about freedom in America. We're the land of the free, even. The home of the brave! We also confiscate guns, not to mention kids, drugs, and income at gunpoint. So when we talk about freedom being under attack — as we did after 9/11 — we really mean that thing that's more like freedom than what our enemies have, but less like freedom than what our Founders had. It's "sort of freedom" that's under attack, and you're either sort of with us or sort of against us.
The gimmick, in other words, is to position ourselves on liberty's side, so as to define the concept by our actions instead of the other way around.
Now, I don't want to come off like the Grinch here, but it seems to me like we do the same thing with Christmas. By saying it's under attack every year, we position ourselves as its pious, righteous defenders, as if the blinking lights, plastic statues, and pagan tree rituals that the ACLU is hell-bent on banning bear any relation to the birth of Jesus Christ.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not against these things. I'm a man of tradition, personally, and consider the all-American Christmas a beautiful thing. For what it's worth, I could easily watch all 24 hours of TNT's A Christmas Story marathon each year. In fact, from where I stand, it's one of the top two or three movies ever made — and I'll stand by that assertion till kingdom come.
I also rather enjoy all the blinking lights, plastic statues, and pagan tree rituals I disparaged a moment ago (in digestible doses, anyway), but let's be honest here: If Disney's Bad Santa warrants asking if anything's sacred anymore, then Yuletide Coke commercials condemned us all to Hell years ago. That's right: Remember those cute and cuddly digital polar bears? Keep them in mind while you're dangling by the ankles over a lake of fire — thirsting, no doubt, for some soda pop.
There's nothing wrong with Christmas kitsch, and nothing wrong with wanting to defend it from its censors. Trees are just trees, after all, and censoring them is pretty darn stupid. But we ought to be careful not to confuse the "true meaning of Christmas" we hear about on sitcoms with the true "true meaning."
The sitcoms aren't concerned with God, His Son, or His Holy Spirit. What they want is for the spirit to move you out of your chair just long enough to buy whatever it is their sponsors are selling. Profits transcend religious boundaries. They don't care if you're Jewish, Christian, atheist, or stupid, as long as you're willing to open your wallet for [insert hot new product here].
The only legitimate connection between Christ and Christmas trees may be the fact that God woke up on the third day and created plant life, but there's no denying they have their place amongst claymation Santas and "holiday"-colored M&M;'s as symbols of the modern Christmas — and that's okay. As symbols of religious freedom, however, they're superficial things. Getting up in arms about them only obscures the true attacks on religious liberty.
If you listen to Bill O'Reilly, he'll tell you all about the "anti-Christian" conspiracy, and how the removal of nativity scenes fits into the grand scheme of a secularist vs. traditionalist "civil war". Though I believe his scope is somewhat limited, he's not wrong to call it a civil war. In fact, what's going on in our courts and legislatures right now is more a civil war than the Civil War itself. The factions vying for Washington today lobby a federal government unchecked in power since Robert E. Lee shook hands with Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox.
It was Grant, after all, who made Christmas a federal holiday a few short years thereafter.
In an ideal — i.e., decentralized — America, a largely Christian community could have its Christmas trees, and a largely gay community could have its gay marriages, and neither would fall pawn to the special interests wishing to micromanage town hall meetings from sea to shining sea. Everyone's got an agenda. Every politician's got a price. Nobody's perfect, but the imposition of one person's views on another's is a non-issue in a world where people leave each other alone.
That's not the world we live in, unfortunately. In our world, people not only force their views upon others, but they appeal to the highest of all authorities — the God-State — in so doing. The political spectrum's peppered with all sorts of social engineers, and the God-State happily plays them against each other, leading them along with the golden calf that is our glorious pork barrel. You and I are forced to fund this vicious cycle by tithing large chunks of our paychecks twice monthly. We go along with it, too, swayed by the broad, impossible promises of our all-knowing, ever-growing, and often-incompetent God-State.
The result? Wide-open borders. Welfare. All-gay high schools. Congested roads perpetually under construction.
Yet government waste goes on and on. It's a lot like receiving coal in your Christmas stocking — except, unlike the government, you can find a use for coal.
So think about this while they're ringing up the sales tax on your last minute Christmas gifts this year. Think about it the next time someone tells you the banning of a few plastic statues means religious liberty's under attack. After all, the only reason Jesus was born out on the road was because Joseph and Mary had to go pay taxes — and if that doesn't irk you, nothing will.
But hey, a merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, jovial Kwanzaa, and slaphappy Solstice to you.
Jonathan David Morris is a political satirist based in New Jersey. A strong believer in small government, JDM often takes aim at oppressive taxes, entitlements, and laws, writing about incompetence at the highest levels of culture and government. You can catch more of JDM's ramblings at readjdm.com.
© Copyright 2003 by Jonathan David Morris
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