Monday, December 12, 2005

The secular war on Christmas, or so we are told.

On December 2, Bill O'Reilly (of Fox's The O'Reilly Factor) played a clip on his TV program of a Daily Show joke about Christmas. The joke was told by Samantha Bee (The Daily Show's resident Canadian). O'Reilly said this:

Predictably, the opponents of public displays of Christmas continue to put forth counter-arguments on 'Secular Central.' I — I mean, Comedy Central. They said this:


This was followed by Samantha Bee's joke, which went like this:

Christmas: It's the only religious holiday that's also a federal holiday. That way, Christians can go to their services and everyone else can stay home and reflect on the true meaning of separation of church and state.


O'Reilly finished with, "And a Merry Christmas to you, Jon Stewart."

Now, Jon Stewart's hilarious follow-up on December 7 is too long to put here. If you want to read it, you can find a transcript for it at the Media Matters web site: http://mediamatters.org/items/200512080005. The important point is this: the item was first broadcast last year, though O'Reilly implied that it was broadcast the night before. It's easy to prove that wasn't the case... in fact Stewart and Bee did just that. You see, Samantha Bee was wearing a tight pink blouse in the show. She wore the same blouse on The Daily Show's December 7 episode. It didn't quite fit, though, because she is now about 8 months pregnant. She was quite obviously not pregnant when the joke originally aired.

Secularists are out to kill Christmas. This is the latest neocon cry. It's part of their whole "persecution of Christians in the United States" battlecry. Or rather, it's their latest battlecry because it's the Christmas season. This isn't really new or anything, as they trotted out the same argument last year. Apparently secularists have banded together (no mention where they hold their meetings, as I'm guessing they won't be able to organize in Church basements; probably in a Starbucks in San Francisco) to do away with Christmas. This incredibly influential group has even coerced — again, according to neocons — stores like Wal-Mart to stop saying "Merry Christmas" and start saying, "Happy Holidays".

Secularists are stealing Christmas from Christians!

Funny enough, there seems to be a dearth of proof for this. Last year the same three stories were trotted out again and again as proof of this "war on Christmas" (as O'Reilly puts it). The Columbia Journalism Review piece from last year, found at http://www.cjrdaily.org/behind_the_news/
its_christmas_and_the_echo_cha.php
, said that there were three stories recycled again and again as proof of this "war", two of which were essentially false. This year the Washington Times went looking for "war on Christmas" battlefields within the federal government but, according to CJR at this link: http://www.cjrdaily.org/politics/
christmas_sends_washington_ti.php
, they came up a little short.

So, the Washington Times had a hard time finding any real evidence of this war (must be clandestine!), and O'Reilly resorted to displaying year-old jokes as current evidence. Why would they do this? Is it because controversy sells, and Fox's conservative (and largely Christian) base eats this stuff up? Could it be that they are counter-programming the recent bad press shovelled on the Bush administration? Or could it be that back in October Fox News host John Gibson released a book, The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought? Gosh, they wouldn't be making things up to push an agenda and sell books, would they?

(I haven't heard any secularists pounding the streets of Monroe calling for a ban against Christmas. I do know that the Puritans banned Christmas during the 1600s, though. Damn those liberal, secularist, Puritans!)

As a secular humanist (I guess I'm one, according to this definition anyway: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secular_humanism) I have to say that all of my secular friends call the holiday "Christmas". None of them seem to be offended in the least that it's a religous holiday. Some express concern at the erosion of the separation between church and state, but they are quite happy to get the day off work, give presents, and listen to Christmas music.

Christians have a right to be upset at the way Christmas has become commercialized, but that has little to do with liberals or secularists. It has to do with businesses co-opting every holiday they can find in order to make people buy more stuff. That should be good for the country, right? After all, the neocons are all about spurring the economy by helping business.

I bet you won't see Fox news doing a show on how businesses are stripping Christianity from Christmas. Nope, it's — once again — the fault of liberals. And their sneaky, hidden but well-organized cousins, the secularists.

5 comments:

Winter said...

Go to: http://www.democraticunderground.com/top10/05/225.html

This is a great site, along the same line as your story..

Allan Goodall said...

Thanks, Winter!

If you liked the "war on Christmas" post, you'll love this one.

thrakazog said...

at what point does pc go too far... well, right about here. If a muslim wished me a Riotous Ramadan, I would not think that he was shoving his religion down my throat. I would not have to weigh my response in relationship to the geopolitical situation, I would fall back on good old fashioned manners and say, "thank you." Let's make no mistake; the reason for the season was a religious event. It was veiwed as important enough to make it a federal holiday, because no one is going to work christmas, neither heathen nor jew. The world shuts down for a day or two, and you have a holiday...a holyday. (basic etomology) Okay, X-mas is a multi billion dollar industry. Santa is seen more than jesus. Doesn't matter. The root of the holiday is the birth of the christian god. And don't mantion Haunakah...it is a minor festival...Rosh hashanah is the jewish high holy. Any one who says what about kwanza can just go sit in the corner. If you are not a christian, and you want to sit in your drab undecorated apartment alone and watch football for the holiday, go ahead. But if soneone wishes you a merry christmas, just say thank you and go on. Plain old fashioned manners.

Allan Goodall said...

thrakazog said: But if soneone wishes you a merry christmas, just say thank you and go on. Plain old fashioned manners.

That's quite true. The point isn't whether or not someone should be offended by "Merry Christmas". The point is that there is no concerted effort on the part of secular humanists, athiests, agnostics, etc. to remove Christmas from the season.

The removal of Christmas comes from retail outlets. I remember getting "Seasons Greetings" in the 70s, well before the White House Christmas Tree was called a "Holiday Tree" in the 90s. It was an offshoot of the civil rights movement. In the late 60s/early 70s retail chains started to see blacks as real people and started marketing to them on television. They also started to see non-Christian groups, particularly in the urban centres, as a market that was mostly untapped during the winter. So, "Merry Christmas" became "Season Greetings" and "Happy Holidays".

The Santa Claus we all know and love (red suit, fat, jolly, as opposed to the more traditional "Father Christmas" images from Europe) was a product of the Coca Cola Company. Retailers made Christmas more secular because, to be honest, the birth of someone who preached moderation, piety, and giving to the poor just doesn't sell as well as a fat guy giving presents to kids.

There is no big, organized effort to take "Christmas" out of Christmas. It's driven by businesses. Neocons can't say that, however, as they are very much pro-business. So they make it a "vast secular conspiracy", a conspiracy that doesn't exist.

A couple of other points:
It was veiwed as important enough to make it a federal holiday, because no one is going to work christmas, neither heathen nor jew. The world shuts down for a day or two, and you have a holiday...a holyday.

Most of the "Western world" shuts down, but mainly because it's a federally mandated holiday. Sunday shopping was allowed in Ontario due in part to Jews complaining about being forced to close their stores on Sunday when their sabbath is Saturday. There are still stores open on Christmas (I had to work in a gas station on Christmas, and the guy at Blockbuster last night made a point of them being open). It's not a holiday in Japan, or Communist China. It's not a holiday for Muslims or Hindus. It's not a holiday for Christians in Eastern Europe, including Russia and places like Greece, who celebrate it in January. At a guess I'd say that half the world doesn't celebrate Christmas, at least not on December 25.

The reason for the holiday is Christ's birth. The reason it's in December is, of course, because it fell on the festivals of Mithras and Saturn in the Roman era. (Late Roman era, that is.)

If you are not a christian, and you want to sit in your drab undecorated apartment alone and watch football for the holiday, go ahead.

My wife and I were raised as Christians, but consider ourselves agnostic now. That doesn't stop her from decorating the house for the season. There isn't an angel or manger to be found, but we have a tree, while santas and snowmen cavort on every available horizontal space. It's not drab at all.

Alana said...

I *cannot* believe you haven't mentioned the "angels on a stick" yet....