13 December 2005

The Holy War That Wasn't

If there really is a "war on Christmas," consider me a conscientious objector. My draft card from the ACLU/Secular Humanist Association/Pagans United Against Wal-Mart alliance went up in smoke this morning in our kitchen's wood stove.

The mainstream media is chock-a-block full of references to this nefarious campaign, which is supposedly being waged by liberals intent upon removing all references to Christianity from the public sphere. Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and John Gibson et al., are convinced there's a progressive conspiracy that's tied into efforts to legalize narcotics, "abortion at will" and gay marriage.

All of which is a good idea, I might add. But that's not the point. The point is there really isn't evidence to justify their fears. And considering the long list of liberal campaigns that the Foxsters do have good reason to worry about (abolishing the death penalty, getting us out of Iraq, evolution, restoring the right to check out books from the library without the FBI's oversight), you might think they'd have enough paranoia on their plates without inventing a whole 'nother front in the culture war.

The weakness of the evidence they purport supports their case is astounding. Yes, the Whitehouse's recent "Happy Holidays" card makes no specific reference to Christmas. But have the neo-cons forgotten that more than one holiday turns up at the tail end of the calendar? Doonesbury is running a particularly apt online poll on the subject.

I, for one, can't think of any members of the alleged anti-Christmas jihad among my friends and colleagues, and that's including a bunch of hard-core scientist-atheists. We all detest one or more aspects of the affair, but those aspects -- commercialization, for example -- tend to be the least spiritual in nature. We all also look forward to many other festive elements.

This past weekend, for example, our little town of Saluda, NC, held a one-evening community "Hometown Christmas" celebration on Main Street, in which every storefront kept its doors open late, served up free snacks and drinks and gave space to local musicians to do their thing. Even the police station got in on the act.

It was great. As a relatively recent addition to Saluda's population, I got a chance to meet a good portion of the community I hadn't already come across. Everyone was in a right neighborly mood, the food and music were good, and I can hardly wait until next year's edition.

I also enjoy the annual task of getting a tree. This year my wife and I, along with her cousin and cousin's fiancé, wandered our forested property for an hour or two on a beautful morning before concluding that the best candidates were all outclassed by Charlie Brown's. So we headed into town to buy a farmed product (which looks magnificent and is at least carbon-neutral). We got in some quality outdoor family togetherness and still ended up with a damn fine tree for the living room.

Now, I will concede that in a perfect world, we wouldn't have to wait for the annual commemoration of the unsubstantiated birth of one of a number of self-anointed Jewish messiahs running around Roman-occupied Palestine circa 4 B.C. in order to generate some decent community spirit. But rituals can be useful, if for no other reason than they help us get off our behinds and start mixing the eggnog.

There may indeed be a few secularists out there who are uncomfortable with the religious roots of the occasion. But to them I say, remember that the Christians borrowed most of the imagery and mythology of Christmas from well-worn pagan stories and celebrations that came long before Jesus-come-lately.

So bring it on. Serve it up. Just because Bill O'Reilly can't get in the Christmas spirit, there's no reason the rest of us can't stuff ourselves silly.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


6:51 AM  
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3:55 AM  

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