‘The War on Christmas’ whine

This so–called War on Christmas reminds me that in fact, there used to be a real War against Christmas

Yme Woensdregt

Have you heard them whining about the so called “War on Christmas”? It comes across my radar mostly through chain emails or the commentators (mostly on Fox News) who complain that Christians are being persecuted because other people are wishing them “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” These conservative political and religious commentators complain that this is harassment and persecution.

Persecution? Really? Do they even know what that word means? I doubt it. If they did, they wouldn’t throw it around so loosely. If you want to learn about what it feels like to be persecuted, talk to Malala, or to Christians in Muslim countries, or to women in those lands. They can tell you something about what it feels like to be persecuted.

For rich white men (and they are mostly men) to complain that they are being persecuted is Orwellian doublespeak of the worst kind. Wikipedia defines doublespeak as “language that deliberately disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words.” Like calling torture “enhanced interrogation.” Or layoffs “downsizing.” Or the killing of civilians by bombs “collateral damage.” That’s doublespeak. These commentators are consciously misusing language in an attempt to impose their beliefs on others with the intention of going back to a pure, white past.

These are also the ones who complain ad nauseam about placing nativity scenes in public places. If anyone should dare to disagree with this tedious whine, they are immediately labelled a ‘godless atheist’. After all, they say, America and Canada are ‘Christian countries’, and we should be proud to display our Christian heritage publicly.

The trouble with this is that it’s a lie. Neither Canada not the USA were founded on Christian principles. Furthermore, we now live in a multi–cultural and multi–faith era, and we must find ways of living together peacefully with people of other cultures, other faiths and those of no faith at all. By no stretch of the imagination are we a Christian nation.

As far as I’m concerned, these tedious complaints are nothing more than the whining of a group of misogynists and xenophobes who long for “the good old days when we were in charge.”

Persecution? It just ain’t so!

It’s time for Christians to reclaim Christmas by declaring war on the whole “War on Christmas” whine. I obviously don’t endorse any official ban on Christmas. But I get tired of the shrillness of some of these people. They claim to speak the truth. In reality, they simply exhibit signs of a false sense of being victimized.

So let me ask: Why does Jesus Christ need to be proclaimed on department store facades and in other public places? Do we really need to depend on commercial and government enterprises to do our work of proclaiming the faith we hold? Is it really up to Target and Walmart to proclaim the holiness of Christmas? Is it really the government’s role to protect a particular religion?

In fact, as a Christian, I’m offended by the notion that stores and greeting card companies and government agencies should be charged with this responsibility. Truthfully, it’s not up to them. It’s up to us. And not just at Christmas time. It’s up to us, throughout the year, to make sure our lives proclaim what we hold to be true.

I’m not offended if someone wishes me happy holidays. They could do worse. And I, in turn, will wish them a Merry Christmas … or Happy Hanukkah … or Happy Kwanzaa … or even (gasp) Happy Holidays.

This so–called War on Christmas (a convenient, if untruthful, slogan for these poor victims) reminds me that in fact, there used to be a War against Christmas — it was waged by Calvinists and Puritans — who are the spiritual forebears of today’s Christian Right. They thought that Christians had the right and the duty to legislate public life.

In Geneva, Calvinists banned Christmas in the early 16th century. When Calvinism spread to Scotland in the mid 16th century, Amy McNeese reminds us in an article in the Church of Scotland magazine, Life & Work, the result was that Christmas was banned in 1583. “There was nothing half–hearted about this gesture. Reinforced by the hard arm of the law, this was a ban that had bite. Over the centuries that followed, many a casual offender was called to account for Christmas transgressions, and no seasonal leniency was shown.” The ban remained in force for almost 400 years, and was only officially lifted in the 1950s.

God save us from such self–righteous people. Those who claim to speak for God often have done more damage when they assume public power, and especially again those who disagree with them.

So I say to you all Merry Christmas … or Happy Holidays … or Happy Kwanzaa … or Happy Hanukkah … and a peaceful, yes truly peaceful, New Year.

Yme Woensdregt is Pastor at Christ Church Anglican in Cranbrook

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