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The Good Fight

When I first heard that Fox News anchor/Rottweiler Bill O'Reilly and others were up in arms about the "war on Christmas," I was ready to pen an angry, hate-filled screed about separation of church and state, multiculturalism, and American culture. Oh, it would have been fantastic -- a rhetorical thunderbolt delivered from the heights of Mount Blog. But answering charges of a war on Christmas by ... um ... going to war on Christmas isn't productive, is it?

So let's stay positive and productive. First, I'm glad that certain people are observing the traditional Airing of Grievances. But holiday traditions aside, I'd rather not see Bill O'Reilly wrestle anybody. I want to keep my holiday eggnog down.

And that's the nub, apparently. The evangelicals are upset because people say "holiday" instead of "Christmas," unfairly traipsing on the tender sensibilities of those who are quietly celebrating the birth of Christ while American parents try to find creepy simulacra at bargain-basement prices.

But since these the faithfuls' feelings are so deeply hurt, I'm not going to worry them further with rhetorical slings and arrows. I'll just ask a few questions.

First, there's the White House holiday card. According to the Washington Post, people are upset because the card talks about a "holiday season" rather than Christmas. According to the article, WorldnetDaily.com editor Joseph Farah is particularly upset because the Bushes are born-again Christians, but don't acknowledge Christ in the card. Thus, my first question: If Joementum makes propels Sen. Lieberman into the presidency, then should the card addressed to Joseph Farah wish him a Happy Hanukkah?

Then, at the American Family Association's Web site, I find that certain scurrilous retailers don't mention Christmas very often in their displays, even going so far as to instruct employees to eschew "Merry Christmas" in favor of "Happy Holidays." Call me an antifaith lout, if you will, but I can't help noticing that a lot of people -- Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, and others -- peruse the holiday Christmas bargains, some for a holiday, some not. Which makes me wonder: Should a business instruct its employees to guess the specific holiday, if any, that a person is celebrating, and greet that person appropriately?

According to the same piece, the vigilant AFA also pressured Macy's and other retailers to hold "Christmas" sales, rather than "holiday" sales. We've seen the usual reports of sale-related tramplings. As you can guess, another question: Is it better to be trampled during a "holiday" sale or a "Christmas" sale?

And the megachurches offer something new ... no Christmas services? I'll let that one stand without further question, as I have plenty more questions for those fighting the war for Christmas.

Another thought occurs. The AFA et. al. seem overly concerned with making sure Christmas is mentioned in commerce, in government, and elsewhere. In my own experience, the most enjoyable Christmas celebrations revolve around gathering the family, exchanging gifts, perhaps attending church ... but generally with family. Which makes me wonder what the Christmas priority is Bill O'Reilly and his fellow partisans. You guessed it. Another question: Is public acknowledgment of Christmas essential to the personal celebration of the holiday?

Then there's the spirit behind this strident defense of a holiday that involves a manger, a tree, and a fat man in a red suit. After years of this society's trying to accommodate citizens who were inconsiderate enough to put their holidays (Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice) at the end of the year, the Christmasers now tell us that we're not supposed to offend them. Could somebody please tell me: Which groups is it permissible to exclude, and why?

On further reflection, the battle to save Christmas strongly resembles the older fights (think 1980s, 1990s) to preserve the tender sensibilities of minority groups with gender-neutral or otherwise inclusive terms. The conservative wing certainly hurled invective and ridicule in the direction of the forces of political correctness. So ... um ... How does this effort to prevent offense differ from the political correctness causes of the late twentieth century?

I'm a devout secularist, so I'm not really qualified to answer any of these questions. In fact, I'd be interested in getting some answers to them. Or maybe I'm just want a traditional holiday, too.

Cross-Posted to Multifaria.com

Despite what his girlfriend says, Pennywit maintains that he's NOT a holiday Grinch.


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Comments (66)

Hey Pennywit! Been meaning ... (Below threshold)
Mary Katharine Ham:

Hey Pennywit! Been meaning to catch up with you. How convenient that you're here. I'm headed to bed right now, so no time to respond in detail except to say that that whole thing about the Bush Christmas card is silliness.

I got one and the thing has a big, fat Bible verse as the first thing on the card. I thought it was actually a very polite way to send a card to everyone on the President's list, keeping in mind that not everyone celebrates Christmas, but still expressing the President's personal faith.

Oh, and it is far better to be trampled at a Christmas sale than a holiday sale. Silly secularist!

MK -- Great to see you, and... (Below threshold)
pennywit:

MK -- Great to see you, and congrats on the new job. Hope you're having a happy ... holiday ... season.

--|PW|--

What annoys me about O'Reil... (Below threshold)

What annoys me about O'Reilly the Pompass and the increasingly shrill WND is the fact that hyperbole on their part makes exposing the real efforts of Bowdlerizing the American public square of Judeo-Christian tradition easy to dismiss.

I'm reminded of the scene in Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind, where Richard Dryefus' character is trying to calmly and seriously tell the reporters about his experience and is suddenly upstaged by the crazy loon at the table.

Businesses have every right to craft their marketing plans as they see fit. Free enterprise and all, and others can point and laugh at their hypocrisy of asking people to buy but too tortured to name the reason why (wink wink y'all, it has something to do with that "C" word)..and in the case of Target, they ban the Salvation Army from their premises. Nice holiday spirit, dontcha know?

I'm certainly not offended if someone offers me a 'Happy Holiday' in a sincere gesture of warmth. I would just be annoyed if someone were instructed to say that in LIEU of "Merry Christmas"...as if the word "Christmas" was radioactive.

When overzealous principals, school boards, city managers, etc go out of their way to censor Christmas music, Christmas card exchanges, Christmas trees in firehouses, etc., then sooner or later there will be a push back.

Not that O'Reilly, ad nauseum, are at the forefront of "pushback"...naw, they are the opportunists to the footwork done by the rest of us. IMHO Farah is being a media whore in this regard and certainly the WaPo is eagerly drooling over to help out because it allows them to denigrate any legitimate questioning of efforts to de-Christianize the public square.

On pox on them all.

It's all getting very silly... (Below threshold)
Synova:

It's all getting very silly, it's true.

I think that holiday greetings should be determined by the greet-er rather than the greet-ee. For example... If I am celebrating Christmas I should be free to render a cheery "Merry Christmas!" without fear of inadvertant social error. If I receive a cheery holiday greeting from someone celebrating a holiday that I don't celebrate I should accept their good wishes and wish them the same.

Appreciating diversity ought to mean that we can express that diversity rather than make everything into a bland sameness.

Hey...Merry Christmas every... (Below threshold)
Clay Jarr:

Hey...Merry Christmas everyone!

(you got a problem with that, bub?)

Clay -- X-Men 3 doesn't com... (Below threshold)
pennywit:

Clay -- X-Men 3 doesn't come out until next year.

--|PW|--

It's Christmas, not generic... (Below threshold)

It's Christmas, not generic "holiday". I can see the point about separation of Church and state. What I can't see is a school taking down a giving tree or abolishing the colors green and red from November to January first.

There are legitimate issues, but a lot of bonehead administrators and teachers take it way further than it needs.

Merry Christmas,

VW

JESUS CHRIST HAS REMOVED HI... (Below threshold)
DEAN BERRY -- REAL AMERICAN:

JESUS CHRIST HAS REMOVED HIS BLESSING FROM AMERICA BECAUSE OF THE AMERINAZIS. THIS HAPPENS WHEN A COUNTRY BECOMES SO THOROUGHLY CORRUPT THAT IT BEGINS VIOLATING THE LORD'S LAWS FLAGRANTLY. AMERICA'S LAST HALF DOZEN WARS HAVE BEEN WAGED PRIMARILY TO BOOST A PRESIDENT'S APPROVAL RATINGS. THOSE ARE UNJUST WARS, AND EVERYBODY KILLED IN THEM IS A MURDER VICTIM. PLUS, LOOK AT WHAT A DEN OF THIEVES THE AMERICAN MARKETPLACE HAS BECOME. AMERICA IS SOON TO BE TOPPLED, MUCH THE SAME AS THE FIRST NAZI NATION, GERMANY, WAS WHEN THEY WENT TOO FAR. MARK MY WORDS. http://www.mixposure.com/song.php?songid=14027.

AND BE A MAN. POST THIS COMMENT.

I guess REAL MEN USE ALL CA... (Below threshold)

I guess REAL MEN USE ALL CAPS!!!!

Words marked.

;-)

Dean, does that mean that N... (Below threshold)
mantis:

Dean, does that mean that Nazi Germany had Jesus' blessing for a while, but then they went too far?

Yeah, I really dug the Nazis until they jumped the shark and Jesus brought the smackdown (in Indiana Jones anyway).

Hey Pennywit, I know you le... (Below threshold)

Hey Pennywit, I know you lefties don't understand this because it's one of those pesky things that don't enter into your thought processes, called a FACT, but Bill O'Reilly's show isn't news and he's not an anchor. It's not even called a news show. It's an opinion show, much like the rest of those of shows that claim to be news, but at least he doesn't call it news. He's the HOST of the O'Reilly Factor. You really need to rethink that price, a penny is still far too much for what little wit comes out when you type.

Hmmm.There is a co... (Below threshold)
ed:

Hmmm.

There is a concerted effort at removing Christmas, and every other Christian holiday, from the public awareness. Consider Easter. Once it involved Jesus. Now it's all about a rabbit.

And I'll point out that the holiday is in fact Christmas. It's timed for Christmas. It was named Christmas for many years, evidently being in existence for years is good for Roe but not for Christmas.

Frankly I'm not a Christian but I can definitely see the effort going on to stamp out every last trace of Christianity from America.

There is a concerted eff... (Below threshold)
mantis:

There is a concerted effort at removing Christmas, and every other Christian holiday, from the public awareness. Consider Easter. Once it involved Jesus. Now it's all about a rabbit.

It's always been about the rabbit, man. The rabbit and the eggs. Fertility and birth were and are major themes in the springtime in many many cultures. They adopted the pagan spring festival, called it the birth of Jesus, kept many of the pagan symbols, and whammo, Easter.

And I'll point out that the holiday is in fact Christmas. It's timed for Christmas. It was named Christmas for many years, evidently being in existence for years is good for Roe but not for Christmas.

What about New Years? It's a federal holiday only a week after Christmas. Plus this year Hannukah starts on Christmas night. Sounds to me like Happy Holidays makes a lot of sense, or should store clerks all say Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Hannukah, and/or Happy Kwanzaa to you sir, would you like that wrapped?

Frankly I'm not a Christian but I can definitely see the effort going on to stamp out every last trace of Christianity from America.

Frankly I used to be a Christian and I can see no effort to stamp out christianity from America, just deluded paranoiacs. Please, show me which church has been closed or which Christian group has been oppressed in this effort to stamp out christianity?

Yeah. Put the christ back i... (Below threshold)
iamsoclever:

Yeah. Put the christ back in trampling. err, christampling.

I think Jesus actually said not to give a crap about anything in this world, only the next. So, instead of giving your children the toy they wanted, tell them to worry about what's going to happen when they die. Give the gift of Jesus. Merry Christmas!

I'm sorry, but the 'Holiday... (Below threshold)
jpm100:

I'm sorry, but the 'Holidays' exists because of Christmas. Channukah never had the emphasis it does now until recent times. Kwanza was flat out invented.

Christmas for a long time had a purely secularized side which was religious safe. 'Santa' & 'good will towards men' are elements of this secular side. However they have their roots in Christianity. (You'll notice Santa is almost as rare as the word Christmas now). So they can't be tolerated anylonger.

The convention was to wish people 'Merry Christmas' for the longest time. Switching to 'Happy Holidays' is just an part of the attempt to erase Christianity from America. Essentially the ongoing war on Christianity.

If you don't think there is one, tell me what would happen if I had an art exhibit with the picture of a Kuran in a pale of urine. Meanwhile, a crucifix in a jar of urine is art and is allowed enough 'controversy' to give an otherwise unimaginative piece of art unwarranted free press.

But the 'War on Christianity' is actually a disguise for a different war. Its the war on American culture & values. From about 500 AD to 1950, Western Culture was tied to Christianity. But the reverse is also true.

The American legal system is part of that legacy. Our system of government is also tied to that legacy. Even our sense of 'tolerance' was eventually instilled in our culture, albeit later, because of Christianity (turn the other cheek, Good Samaritan, Gentile inclusion into what was originally cast as a Jewish sect, etc...). Our government is quite similar to the Roman Republic in the ideal of division of powers as well has having an exective branch. Why do we have such a link to the Roman Empire? Because of Christianity. Where America stands now (or maybe where it stood) with its Traditional American Values now called Conservative Values are tied to this legacy.

Because people have been so programmed to resent or reject religion including those who still hold Traditional Western/American Values, a War on those values is given cover by alluding to be just a 'War on Christianity'. But the 'War on Christianity' is only part of the War on Western/American Values and Culture. The same culture that couldn't co-exist with Communism (trust me, there are people who still have heartburn over what happened to their Great Red Hope).

Quite clever actually. Christmas is attacked in the name of the misuse of the cliche of 'seperation of church & state' and inclusiveness. But really its an attack on Christianity. But the attack on Christianity is really an attack on Traditional Western/American Values which is a stubbling block to everything the Left holds dear.

Bullwinkle:Two sho... (Below threshold)

Bullwinkle:

Two short notes about O'Reilly:

1) Even if he isn't a "news" reporter per se, he nevertheless works for "Fox News" (note the capitalization) and is therefore part of the news business.

2) An "anchor" can be any person who sits in the studio during a news show (incl. commentary) and is the Main Man during broadcast. Jon Stewart? Anchor. Bill O'Reilly? Anchor. Me? Weighs as much as an anchor.

--|PW|--

A plethora of responses. <... (Below threshold)
pennywit:

A plethora of responses.

First, to those who posted "Merry Christmas," directed ostensibly at me, knowing that I am a secularist. Did you do so because of actual good wishes or in order to antagonize me? And if you did so in order to antagonize me, is that in keeping with the Christmas spirit?

Dean Berry: A serious case of CAPSLOCK disease. I'd go see a doctor if I were you.

Darleen: I don't know if I'd accuse the Post of being part of a war on Christmas. More like some humbugs trying to get a little facetime, and reporters looking for a juicy conflict story willing to give it to them.

VW: I'll certainly go along with you as far as the "taking down decorations" and whatnot at schools, but I'm not sure public schools should have sanctioned, explicit Christmas celebrations, particularly considering the religious makeup of a number of school districts. Interestingly, there's one district in my area where Muslim families are pushing for the schools to adopt a couple Muslim holidays as days off from school. Methinks they have a good case -- but probably best decided at the school board meeting, not the courtroom.

Ed: I don't know if there's a war on Christmas so much as a more generalized effort to be inclusive in a rapidly diversifying American culture.

JPM: Hanukkah, methinks, gained the emphasis it has not because of Christmas, per se, but rather the commercialism around Christmas and the desire to sell to yet another group.

I want to inject one final thing: this piece, about interfaith families, written by an op-edder in yesterday's USA Today. Enjoy.

Finally, I'd like to reiterate one of my earlier questions. From what I understand of Christianity, the most important element of the evangelical strain is accepting Christ into your heart and maintaining a personal relationship with God. So, how does public ratification of the holiday affect one's personal worship and celebration?

--|PW|--

I find it curious that it's... (Below threshold)

I find it curious that it's all right wing supporters that are actually going for "happy holidays", and announcing it, practically screaming from the rooftops, "I'm not celebrating CHRISTmas, because liberals won't let me!". I wonder why they would do something seemingly counterintuitive, become their own enemy, in a way. And make such a big deal about it. orielly definitely got the memo. This is a hot story! what do you think, wolf blitzer? Is the evangelical group ready with their outrage over this atrocity? Aren't liberals horrible? they hold nothing sacred!

Yeah, the democrats are making Wal-mart change their greeting. And they even picked out the card that Bush would be sending out. Give me a break.


Whatever gets your poll numbers up, I guess. But please direct your disgust where it belongs. To whatver evil bastard would unleash a plot like this during christmas.

To everyone but Pennywit, M... (Below threshold)

To everyone but Pennywit, Merry Christmas!

If that offends you, then lighten up and take it in the spirit it was intended.

And if that statement offends you, please stop breathing.

From about 500 AD to 195... (Below threshold)

From about 500 AD to 1950, Western Culture was tied to Christianity.

With the oh so minor exception of The Enlightenment.

The same culture that co... (Below threshold)

The same culture that couldn't co-exist with Communism

Uh huh,

ACTS 4: 32 Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.

ACTS 4:34-35 For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles' feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.

WEll my liberal, secularist... (Below threshold)
seamus:

WEll my liberal, secularist friends, it appears they're on to our plot to do away with christians. So I say, let's drop the charade, round them up, and send them to prisons in Iowa!

mantis writes: ... (Below threshold)

mantis writes:

I can see no effort to stamp out christianity from America,

The ACLU has a strikeforce that runs around the country examining city and county seals for the dreaded instrument of torture (aka the Cross) and in SLAPP style tactics threatens said municipalities to removed the IoT or face lawsuits (ie LA County, city of Redlands). The AUSCS threatens Gov. Jeb Bush with a lawsuit because he had the gall to get school kids interested in reading by tieing a reading contest in with the release of the movie Chronicles of Narnia by that fascist Christian CS Lewis.

Need some more?

Steve Jre: Acts4 3... (Below threshold)

Steve J

re: Acts4 34-35

You do know the difference between people with the freedom of conscience to do with their own property what they wish...

and people in a totalitarian system that tells them they HAVE NO right to property AND they exist only at the pleasure of the "proletariat" (or Allah only as interpreted by mullahs)?

Personally, I'm tired of th... (Below threshold)
bob jones:

Personally, I'm tired of the PC bullshit. It's Christmas fer Christ's sake. My company used to have Christmas Parties (since Christmas IS a corporate holiday).

All it took was one non-Christian asshole to whine about the "Christmas Party" and it turned into a "Winter Celebration".

Who the hell celebrates Winter? It makes me sick, all the hoops companies go through to NOT offend such a small minority, but in doing so make a large portion of the majority pissed off.

My company used to have ... (Below threshold)

My company used to have Christmas Parties (since Christmas IS a corporate holiday).

All it took was one non-Christian asshole to whine about the "Christmas Party" and it turned into a "Winter Celebration".

Yup, same thing happened at my company a few years back. It was one Michael Newdow-type guy who hated Christianity as his own personal crusade and he pitched a hissy fit to HR and bango, they changed it.

Playing the grievance card. It's just not for minorities any more.

In my area (D.C.), a pure C... (Below threshold)
pennywit:

In my area (D.C.), a pure Christmas party is probably not a good thing at the office, as any given workplace is likely to have at least a significant minority (10 percent or more) of Muslims or others who don't celebrate Christmas.

--|PW|--

Christmas has been big busi... (Below threshold)
moseby:

Christmas has been big business for years--ever since Coca Cola invented the jolly old, red-suited, fat guy. In the "True Spirit of Capitalism" what they really should be saying at WalMart and every other store this time of year is "Happy Spending".

Playing the grievance card.... (Below threshold)
seamus:

Playing the grievance card. It's just not for minorities any more.

True that! Now it's for whiny christians too!

They adopted the pagan s... (Below threshold)

They adopted the pagan spring festival, called it the birth of Jesus, kept many of the pagan symbols, and whammo, Easter.

Y'wanna revisit that, by chance? "Birth of Jesus" ... "whammo, Easter"?

Everybody knows Easter celebrates the birth of Moses. Jeez!

A question for Pennywitless... (Below threshold)
jhow66:

A question for Pennywitless: what the *&(^ is a "devout secularist"? I will give you my take on what one is after "it's".

Darleen,Well, I wa... (Below threshold)
mantis:

Darleen,

Well, I was referring to the whole "War on Christmas" business when I wrote that, but I'll bite. The groups you refer to there are, as I see it, trying to keep religion out of government, and they have very good cause to do so. I will admit that they take it too far sometimes, fighting to remove what are traditional and harmless symbols (such as crosses on county seals).

What I won't admit, however, is that this is an effort to "stamp out Christianity in America". First of all, the only institutions these groups go after for promoting religion are government institutions, which last I checked shouldn't really be in the business of promoting any religion. Second, how do the cross on the L.A. County seal or "In God We Trust" on currency really affect Christianity in this country, whether they're there or not? Will Christians stop going to church if the cross isn't on their county's seal? Will they all become heathens and devil worshippers?

It's clear you like to play around with words like "strikeforce" as if these people were kicking down doors and taking people's bibles away for a bonfire instead of what they really are, a small group of lawyers who work within the boundaries of our legal system (horrors!).

Even if people did want to rid this country of Christianity (and there may be some, who knows), it would be such a ridiculously futile endeavor it is laughable to even consider. Consider all the lions and crucifixes they would have to go through in dispatching 85% of the population!

Where I live (in the heart of liberal Chicago), I am within walking distance of about a dozen Christian churches, two Christian bookstores, I can listen to a number of Christian oriented radio stations, and I have to flip past several Christian TV stations on my way my customary evil secularist fare. I hear about Jesus daily from a couple of evangelicals at work (not to mention the bible thumpers walking around campus), and there's a big ass Jesus Saves sign visible from my apartment. Nobody is trying to remove any of this Christianity from my neighborhood.

We do not, however, have the ten commandments posted in our courthouses or a cross on our county seal. Yet there are still Christians all over the place! Call the strikeforce!

Y'wanna revisit that, by... (Below threshold)
mantis:

Y'wanna revisit that, by chance? "Birth of Jesus" ... "whammo, Easter"?

Oops, I meant death and resurrection of our Lord Christ, salvation of all mankind. Sorry. It's been a while since I cared about these holidays.

humanity has had celebratio... (Below threshold)
ryan:

humanity has had celebrations at certain times of the year, for specific reasons, for thousands of years.

spring celebrations are generally celebrations of rebirth...due to the fact that the long winter has ended. Easter is a conglomeration of christian and pagan practices...the rebirth of christ intermixed with other symbols of rebirth and fertility.

thanksgiving is the christian version of a harvest celebration, something that has been celebrated by agricultural peoples for quite some time. christians didnt make this holiday up.

christmas occurs at the same time of year as the winter solstice, and is another mixture of christian and pagan practices. its cool how it all has been formed over time. such celebrations go way back, since humans were pretty sharp thousands of years ago and were able to determine celestial changes like the solstice. often, they interpreted them in cosmological, i.e. religious terms.

I understand Christians' concerns, especially with overzealous types who do seem to want to ban Christian symbolism form the public sphere.

But, Christians also have to realize that they didnt invent all these holidays, and in fact they borrowed many ideas from other cultures over time. They certainly did not invent spring, fall, or winter celebrations...they did however come up with their own unique versions, which is cool.

Ultimately I agree with PW. Why does the commercial sector need to mirror Christian beliefs? Whats the problem with using the word "holiday" or whatever? Why does Target's word choice present such a challenge for Christian faith? Do Christians really think that God or Jesus cares what Lowe's, Walmart, Fox, or Target uses to commercialize the holiday? Isnt that way outside of the point of your celebration? I mean, you guys are getting worked up about the WAY in which people are trying to making money off of the holiday.

Who gives a damn what they do. Celebrate your faith, don't forget the point of your Holy Days.

I think Linus Van Pelt put ... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

I think Linus Van Pelt put it best:

"Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you the meaning of Christmas. Lights, please.

“And there were in the same country shepherds
abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not, for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you this day is born in the City of Bethlehem, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel, a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men’”.

That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

And if you don't hear Linus' voice saying that and you don't get just a little choked up, well, that's really kind of sad and disheartening.

Well put, ryan. I particula... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

Well put, ryan. I particularly agree with your last sentence.

mantis: there's no such thi... (Below threshold)

mantis: there's no such thing as a "former Christian."

PW (re: your comment directed towards VW): What you suggest (to allow the local school board to make such a decision) is the perfect solution--they're in tune with their community makeup. The Federal government, however, has repeatedly denied such powers to any lesser governmental body, to the point that a Christian prayer over a "public-owned" PA system has been ruled a violation of the establishment clause.

I'm more outraged at the number of "Churches" who have cancelled Christmas day services than I am at Wal-Mart and other stores choosing the "Happy Holidays" theme. There's been a long, tedious effort at the redefinition of Christmas for quite some time now, so much so that many "mainstream Churches" (read: theologically liberal) have bought into the idea that the "spirit of Christmas" is no deeper than generic definitions of "giving," "family," "peace," "love," and the like. The "dark side" of Christmas (the myrrh, if you will) has been discarded. I've been composing my "Christmas piece" to go on my own blog, and I'll get more into the "theology of Christmas" there, but a slightly poetic summary would be that the lights of Christmas only glow when in the shadow of the Cross.

The challenge to Christian sensibilities is the root of the backlash, not that Christians are somehow prevented from free exercise in some way. Christmas is a Christian holiday, and to try to reinterpret it to be some brand of all-inclusive festival is an insult to the holiday's history. Link here to a site that gives the history of the holiday, from the Catholic Church, including addressing certain claims of pagan origins. What is obvious reading the history of Christmas (even from the Church's own account) is that secular traditions have a long history of creeping into religious celebratory seasons, the Church conforming and conceding to society. While it's commendable that certain Christians are standing up in protest, it's also tragic that they themselves have such shaky theological footing upon which to stand.

That said, take an honest look at the "competitors" for Christmas. Hannukah predates Christmas, and isn't really a challenge, as the two celebrations have coexisted for a very long time (albeit not always peacefully). Kwanzaa is a modern construction of a black separatist designed to specifically antagonize Christianity. Those are really the only other "holidays" that have a stake here. So the admonishment towards an "inclusive" moniker is directed primarily to appease those who do not ascribe to Christianity, but still wish to "enjoy the season." Problem is, they wish to deny the historically unmistakable origin of the holiday. It's not really a fight between competing religions, as much as a fight to not be religious, but still celebrate a religious holiday (yet not to be reminded that it's a religious holiday in the process). The people who are arguing to make Christmas more "inclusive" can thus be determined to have no problem with "Christmas" per se, but rather a problem with Christ and His followers, so it's not particularly hard to see why Christians interpret their efforts to change the holiday as a personal attack.

Things Bush and Jesus disag... (Below threshold)
sean nyc:

Things Bush and Jesus disagree on:
war, occupation, service to his fellow man, helping those in poverty, tolerance of all people, sacrifice, torture, etc.

This is the real "War on Christmas", the actual lessons Jesus was trying to get across to humanity.

The so-called war is just removing a word to be more inclusive of all people. Something Jesus would probably be in favor of.

And Jesus was Jewish and celebrated Passover which is a holiday commerating freedom from slavery. Why isn't this holiday more prominent in America? You don't see Jews demanding that everyone acknowledge this holiday which is something people of all faiths can agree on (while the birth of Jesus as the son of God is a very debatable issue).

This War on Christmas is just a campaign to distract the average joes of this country from the real problems the Bush Administration are not confronting.

This War on Christmas is... (Below threshold)

This War on Christmas is just a campaign to distract the average joes of this country from the real problems the Bush Administration are not confronting.

Sean, honestly bud, you need to get out of that city once in a while. Really.

mantis: there's no such ... (Below threshold)
mantis:

mantis: there's no such thing as a "former Christian."

Care to elaborate on that?

A few points: First, and mo... (Below threshold)
Chris:

A few points: First, and most importantly, there is no attempt to abolish Christianity from American life. What a joke. Certain Christians (certainly not all) feel that the fact that the majority of this country is Christian gives them the right to make Christianity a government-approved religion. People who are trying to enforce the separation of church and state are not trying to kill Christianity, they're trying to maintain their own rights. And yes, I do recognize that there's a legitimate debate about the interpretation of "separation of church and state" but that doesn't change the motives of the people trying to enforce that separation. And yes, I'm sure you can find and quote some people who want to abolish Christiantiy, but they're hardly the prime movers in this argument.

And for everyone who so daringly says "Merry Christmas, and screw you if it offends you" I don't think the issue is that people are offended by random individuals wishing them a Merry Christmas. It's the establishment of Christmas as the only sanctioned holiday that people are fighting against.

You can cry all you want about people pushing alternatives to Christmas, but the fact is that without those kind of people, we'd still have the Jewish kids being sent to stand in the hall while the class says the Lord's Prayer. Those kinds of things weren't done out of hate (for the most part) they were done out of an ignorance of the fact that others might not share your beliefs.

This all goes back to what I keep saying. Conservatives ridicule the victim menatlity, while continuing to play the victim card at every turn. As Jon Stewart put it (paraphrasing) "if they stop the war against Christians, just think. Some day we might even have a Christian President."

And as for O'Reilly, don't let him off the hook by claiming he's just offering opinions. It's "The No Spin Zone," remember? He's offering us the truth, unvarnished by opinions or spin. He can't have it both ways.

And finally, BoDiddly said "Kwanzaa is a modern construction of a black separatist designed to specifically antagonize Christianity." Now, I'm not an expert on Kwanzaa, and I can certainly agree that one can argue it's a made-up holiday, but I checked out a few Kwanzaa websites and didn't find anything about separatism or anatagonizing whites. Is it possible you're projecting based on the fact that it antagonizes you?

On the White House card: Pe... (Below threshold)
Rance:

On the White House card: People should recognize it for what it is -- a political fund raising mailer sponsored by whichever party holds the White House. Do you think you get one if you didn't contribute to a presidential campaign?

On "The War Against Christmas": It is very strange that a lot of the same people who, in the past, were screaming "Put Christ back in Christmas", are demanding a greater degree of commercial exploitation of Christmas by the retail sector. Does anyone really think that the drone at Wal-Mart really cares if you have a Merry Christmas? Are peoples' Christmases so bleak that not being wished "Merry Christmas" at the checkout line is going to ruin their holiday? My opinion of "The War on Christmas" is that it's a fund raiser for televangelists.

Since when has an office "C... (Below threshold)
Synova:

Since when has an office "Christmas Party" ever been anything other than 100% secular? I believe that the Puritans refused to celebrate Christmas at all because it was nothing but an excuse for drunkedness. And that was way back then.

Christmas as a national holiday served and serves the same purpose as the pagan winter holidays that the Romans converted to "Christian" so that the newly conquered people could still have their party.

So what's my beef with a rabid insistance on removing the religious references from what is mostly a secular party anyhow? It's the percieved need to remove "Christian" because the word itself (and not the holiday or the way it is celebrated) offends people.

Look. I know that Christians have a majority and that other religions are outnumbered, but if we actually want to talk about a spirit of tolerance and diversity then we have to promote *tolerance* instead of intolerance. Yeah, Christians are a majority and quite frankly, they aren't hurt by this. Annoyed, yes. Hurt, no.

So who is harmed? Let's take the instance of my local community center with the "no religious activity allowed in this building" sign posted right between the no smoking notice and the no alcohol notice... Are Christians hurt? Heck, no. Most Christian churches have much nicer facilities to use than the facilities mean for the "community." The people who would best benefit from using the community facilities are minority religious groups who might want to hold a meeting that won't fit in a house or have a party or event and want to rent the community facilities.

The intolerance toward Christian expression in the public square requires intolerance toward every other religious group as well because the rules, the laws if laws are past, the court precidents, have to be applied *equally*. This isn't going to promote tolerance toward various beliefs because there is nothing tolerant being practiced. We've replaced tolerance with intolerance and claimed that the only way to be tolerant is to remove everything that may possibly offend people.

People *rush* to be offended. Being offended is to have power. I mean, look at O'Reilly? Where is live and let live when we can claim to be offended? If "tolerance" is the right not to be offended by others, is it any wonder at all that Christians leap up to claim offense? It's goose and gander... what is good for one is good for the other. If it's wrong to offend people should I calmly accept being offended?

It requires *tolerance* to smile when someone wishes you a Merry Christmas when you're Jewish, or Winter Solstice when you're not pagan. It requires no tolerance at all if you're never faced with another persons differences. People have this all completely backward. We should encourage people to be "out" with their religious beliefs rather than insist that we'd all get along so much better if everyone just shoved their religon deep into that closet and kept it there.

Passed, not past. Ugh. ... (Below threshold)
Synova:

Passed, not past. Ugh. Stupid homonymns. Stupid automatic fingers.

I think it's very funny tha... (Below threshold)
frankR:

I think it's very funny that people argue about days of rememberance when we don't know for sure the exact day we should be remembering. A majority of the holidays (short for holy days) were pagan festivals that correspond to the longest / shortest days of the year. Since the Catholic church couldn't get the pagans to stop celebrating these festivals, they moved their holy days over, to correspond to the pagan ones. Heck, even the Calendar was tweaked by Pope Gregory (sp?). The important thing to remember is good will towards men and
HAPPY CHRISMAHAUNAKAQUANZAKAH + what ever the muslim holiday is this time of year!!!!!

My company used to have ... (Below threshold)
AndrewSpencer:

My company used to have Christmas Parties (since Christmas IS a corporate holiday).

All it took was one non-Christian asshole to whine about the "Christmas Party" and it turned into a "Winter Celebration".

One question for Mr. Jones: Did the change in the name of the celebration (1) inhibit your ability to enjoy yourself at the event (2) inhibit your ability to enjoy Christmas or (3) inhibit your ability to worship the Lord?

I don't have a problem with Christmas or any other religious holiday in the public square. If someone wants to tell someone else "Merry Christmas," what's the big deal? Although, I must admit, I've never actually heard someone be told "Merry Christmas" only to reply, "That offends me." If a business wants to use "holiday" rather than "Christmas" then they should be able to do what they think makes business sense. If the business determines that it is more sensible to use "Christmas" rather than "holiday", so be it.

Are people really saying that they can't celebrate the day dedicated to the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ unless the department stores have "Christmas sales", the President sends out a "Christmas card" and their office hosts a "Christmas party?" I'm sure Jesus would be pleased at such resilience.

A plea for Conservative uni... (Below threshold)
Dave:

A plea for Conservative unity: www.HillaryPrevention.com

Are people really saying... (Below threshold)
ryan:

Are people really saying that they can't celebrate the day dedicated to the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ unless the department stores have "Christmas sales", the President sends out a "Christmas card" and their office hosts a "Christmas party?" I'm sure Jesus would be pleased at such resilience.

Exactly Andrew.

dave:A plea for... (Below threshold)
ryan:

dave:

A plea for Conservative unity: www.HillaryPrevention.com

what a racket...talk about commercialization! i guess people could pay 5 bucks to have some "personalized" card sent...or they could pay about 37 cents and put a letter into an envelope. to each his own, i guess.

Actually, I think Jesus wou... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

Actually, I think Jesus would be a triffle miffed that so much money was being wasted on company parties, shopping sprees and so on—all of which I fully admit of partaking in—and not giving to the poor, the sick and the needy—of which my wife and I contribute as much as we can while maintaining happy (and sometimes greedy) nieces and nephews

I think what really tires on me the most is all the talk of where this tradtion came from and whether Christmas trees were lifted from this pagan tradition or whether the Pope moved the calendar or whether Jesus was really born on Dec. 25 or Jan 12 or Feb 4 or glossing over/covering up pagan rituals, pretty much misses the point of why Christians—not Jews, not Muslims, not Buddhists, not Kwanzians (?)—celebrate Christmas and the Advent Season. It is to celebrate the Light of Christ coming into the World.

The reason that Christmas is celebrated near (just after, actually) the Winter Solstice is symbolic of the Light of Christ coming into in the world—a very dark world at that. You think things are bad now? They aren't squat compared to the state of the loveless and extremely violent world back in Jesus' time. So the symbolism of 'light in the darkness' is quite plain to see; whether it occured on some pagan holiday (they had a ton of 'em, by the way, so it was bound to happen) is so much scholarly and argumentative nuance.

But many of the symbols, like lights, have a lot to do with our faith as Christians. So, if Nordstrom's has a bunch of lights and gifts (frankensense, myrrh and gold sound familiar?) in their windows, then are they not acknowledging (either consciously or unconsciously) the celebration of Christ's birth? Yes, they are. But, if they want to say "Happy Holidays" versus "Merry Christmas" to their customers then the only logical conclusion ( at least in my book) is that they are denying their own faith in Christ and are afraid to profess it to the world. And that's pretty sad when you get right down to it.

Oh, and by the way, today we celebrate the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.

Merry Christmas, even to liberals!

But, if they want to say... (Below threshold)
mantis:

But, if they want to say "Happy Holidays" versus "Merry Christmas" to their customers then the only logical conclusion ( at least in my book) is that they are denying their own faith in Christ and are afraid to profess it to the world. And that's pretty sad when you get right down to it.

There is another logical conclusion. They mean Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. It's easier to say happy holidays. Or does brevity deny Christ too?

But, if they want to say... (Below threshold)
ryan:

But, if they want to say "Happy Holidays" versus "Merry Christmas" to their customers then the only logical conclusion ( at least in my book) is that they are denying their own faith in Christ and are afraid to profess it to the world. And that's pretty sad when you get right down to it.

You're talking about Nordstrom's right? How does a corporation, comprised of thousands of people, have a "faith"?

Merry Christmas, even to liberals!

Thanks, Peter, you too.

Oh, and by the way, toda... (Below threshold)
ryan:

Oh, and by the way, today we celebrate the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.

Such a strange idea...the whole sexless conception of Jesus thing. Interesting how the biological role of sex was removed from the whole ordeal, eh?

I'm just sayin...

Ryan the immaculate concept... (Below threshold)
mantis:

Ryan the immaculate conception is the birth of Mary, mother of Jesus, without the stain of original sin. It is very commonly thought to be the birth of Jesus, but no.

I've always wondered if, since Mary was as pure as the pre-fall Adam and Eve, does that mean she had no shame in her nakedness? Was Mary a nudist?

Since the subject came up though, do you know who else believes in the virgin birth of Jesus? Muslims.

Er, sorry, not birth of Mar... (Below threshold)
mantis:

Er, sorry, not birth of Mary, her conception, which was the product of good old fashioned dirty human sex, but apparently God purified the sperm just at the moment it burrowed into the egg. Tricky fella he is.

And finally, BoDid... (Below threshold)
And finally, BoDiddly said "Kwanzaa is a modern construction of a black separatist designed to specifically antagonize Christianity." Now, I'm not an expert on Kwanzaa, and I can certainly agree that one can argue it's a made-up holiday, but I checked out a few Kwanzaa websites and didn't find anything about separatism or anatagonizing whites. Is it possible you're projecting based on the fact that it antagonizes you?

Chris, I'll consider that you may not know me well enough to know that I wouldn't say that without some basis. "Kwanzaa" is actually a word derived from Swahili, but the word itself is even a "made-up" term. Here are some quotes from the man himself, Ron Karenga:

...Kwanzaa is not an imitation, but an alternative, in fact, and oppositional alternative to the spookism, mysticism and non-earth based practices which plague us as a people...
Belief in spooks who threaten us if we don't worship them and demand we turn over our destiny and daily lives must be categorized as spookism and condemned.

On "Ujamaa" (one of the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa)

To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.
All education and creation is invalid unless it can benefit the maximum amount of Blacks

And Frank J. has a pretty humorous look at the "holiday" here, if you're interested.

Kwanzaa was nothing more than the creation of a militant black separatist who wished to change the fact that so many of "his people" were involved in "spookism" (Christianity).

mantis, I didn't miss your ... (Below threshold)

mantis, I didn't miss your question:

A Christian is a believer, a regenerate being, not simply someone who practices Christian rituals.

I may offend some here by saying such, but the regenerate believer will not (neither has the desire nor the ability to) leave the faith. It's a concept called the "perseverence of the saints," not to be confused with its twisted cousin, the "eternal security of the believer." A denial of the Christian faith indicates the lack of previous regeneration.

In short, I don't have any way of knowing if you are or if you're not, but I'm certain that if you ever really were, you still would be.

And I apologize for delving so deep into theology here...

Since the subject came u... (Below threshold)
ryan:

Since the subject came up though, do you know who else believes in the virgin birth of Jesus? Muslims.

Didnt know that. I just see a connection between that idea and some of the ideas about sexuality and the role of women.

Er, sorry, not birth of Mary, her conception, which was the product of good old fashioned dirty human sex, but apparently God purified the sperm just at the moment it burrowed into the egg.

Wait, are you saying that it's about the conception of Mary herself, or when Mary conceived Jesus?

And I always understood the whole virgin birth thing as just that...birth from a virgin, hence, the elimination of sex. Is there some sexual reference in the Bible that I havent heard of?

I always interpreted the whole virgin birth as a projection of restrictive ideals upon the creation story...it kinda diminishes the female sexual role, if you know what i mean.

tangental, i know...

And I apologize for delv... (Below threshold)
mantis:

And I apologize for delving so deep into theology here...

No need, that's what I was hoping for. I guess, in that case, that either I never was a true Christian through my upbringing, or I am still a Christian and just confused. Or something.

I dig Jesus (the man) and all, I'm just not keen on the whole God bit.

Anyway, I think I recognize that regeneration bit from reading Jonathan Edwards in my undergrad days. I was raised Catholic, though, so I don't always pick up on the Calvinist stuff.

Thanks for clearing up my status though! ;)

Ryan,The virgin bi... (Below threshold)
mantis:

Ryan,

The virgin birth is the birth of Jesus to Mary. No sex, you got that bit.

Immaculate conception is when God removed original sin from Mary at the moment of her conception, but with regular sex with some Canaanite (Joachim? -Apocrypha) or something. It is widely misunderstood.

Told you I was a Catholic.

Is there some sexual reference in the Bible that I havent heard of?

Oh there's some sex, but not with Mary (except maybe after Jesus, but that's apocrypha).

I always interpreted the whole virgin birth as a projection of restrictive ideals upon the creation story...it kinda diminishes the female sexual role, if you know what i mean.

I don't know about that. I think the virgin birth is just about the "mother of God" not being tainted by dirty evil sex. The immaculate conception is just Catholic silliness because they insist on believing in original sin and feeling guilty from birth for some idiot eating a piece of fruit a few thousand years ago (When dinosaurs ruled the earth!).

n/p, mantisNo, Cal... (Below threshold)

n/p, mantis

No, Calvin isn't typically very well-respected in Catholic circles--usually right up there with Luther (I've heard that the Catholic Church detailed how demons were seen fleeing Luther's body upon his death).

I personally think the lack of teaching about the true character of God is the weak point in modern Christianity. Without the foundational knowledge of the Old Testament, the New Testament is fairly weak. It also makes the Revelation essentially impossible to understand.

Something I've always wanted to ask someone who was raised Catholic and didn't continue: Assuming you were catechised pretty thoroughly, do you think it added to your understanding of the theological principles of the Church, or was it just so much memorization? I catechise my kids to some degree, but it consists of a very simplified version of Westminister, with a lot of explanatory scripture. Amongst those who either have always been Catholic, or converted later in life, there's usually a moment where they essentially say, "now that makes sense." Frequently, they are much older, though. I suppose I wonder whether the catechisms to young children are more of an obstacle than an aid.

I will say in addition, that I haven't been a regular and active church member for some time now. Where I live, the choices are pretty clear-cut: rampant legalism or rampant "feelgoodism." As a Calvinistic Semi-Charismatic Postmillenialist, I don't have a lot of options anyway.

Bit o' Mary Trivia:<p... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

Bit o' Mary Trivia:

The Immaculate Conception of Mary and the Assumption of Mary are the only two infalliable teachings in the Catholic Church.

Just thought I'd share that.

(I'm in the midst of reading and studying about the infalliable and falliable teachings in the Church (I'm a catechumen), and talk about a high concept, wow. I can't even get my brain wrapped around it yet to even comment on it.)

BoDiddly:Calvin... (Below threshold)
ryan:

BoDiddly:

Calvinistic Semi-Charismatic Postmillenialist

That sounds complex.

Assuming you were catech... (Below threshold)
mantis:

Assuming you were catechised pretty thoroughly, do you think it added to your understanding of the theological principles of the Church, or was it just so much memorization?

I was not catechised as thoroughly as some, especially older, Catholics, but for me it was more memorization. Ironically, I didn't become interested in learning the precise teachings of the church until well into apostasy. As a kid I just wasn't interested, until I became a skeptic in my teens and started exploring other religions.

I can understand the aversion to legalism, especially for a (semi-?)charismatic. I'm curious about which demoninations you consider "feelgoodism".

ryan, you don't know the ha... (Below threshold)

ryan, you don't know the half of it--I don't know of a single denomination that does any better than 2/3 of those.

Peter F., you've struck upon one of my only hangups with the Catholics--a greater focus upon Mary than upon Christ.

Bo:I wouldn't so m... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

Bo:

I wouldn't so much call it a "greater focus" as I would a pronounced and deliberate emphasis to honor her and her importance to Christ and her role in His life and the existence of the Church.

Personally, I've not experienced any teachings that emphasized Mary more than Christ.

That's gonna be a tough one: explaining Christ and God to kids. Most adults can barely fathom it themselves!




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