So, what is the greater problem: the “war on Christmas” or the war on the Christmas spirit?
It’s the time of the year when Fox News’ war on Christmas coverage is as evergreen as Christmas trees themselves. It’s so extreme that Fox News now treats “holiday” best wishes from a corporation as tantamount to an attack on Christianity rather than smart advertising policy for a pluralistic society.
Fox’s screeds would almost be comical (if it wasn’t the source of such venom in this holiday season) in suggesting that there’s any substantive basis for such an outcry in a country dominated by the Christian religion.
Of course, Fox News reliably plugs it into its “Obama is anti-Christian” seasonal attack. No matter what the season, it can always find an imagined slight in its campaign to portray the president an alien force in American politics. Although the obsession on a Christmas war isn’t shared by a majority of Americans, it nevertheless injects an ugliness and hatefulness that is essentially a repudiation of the true Christmas spirit, as we understand it.
It’s another example of Fox’s reinforcing loop. It conjures up a controversy that’s unsupported by the facts but it’s enough to get some people riled up (think “holiday” tree in Rhode Island that got three days of Fox coverage) and then Fox treats the complaining few as if it’s a spontaneous news event, which allows the network’s commentators to use the event it precipitated as the basis for more “war on Christmas” coverage.
It’s all a dog whistle for the far Religious Right, despite the fact that about 80% of Americans identify themselves as Christians and only 13% say they have no religion. That leaves a few percentage of Americans who are Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and other non-Christian religions.
And yet, somehow, we’re supposed to think that the tail is wagging the dog in the U.S., and that Christians are being put upon by the small minority of non-Christians (although some people erroneously refer to non-Christians as non-believers). It’s akin to the “gay agenda” that Fox News commentators think is being perpetrated on the heterosexual majority although UCLA says only 4% of Americans are gay, lesbian, or transgendered.
In a few weeks, the same protectors of Christianity will be attacking Kwanzaa as a result of their lack of interest in learning what the festival is really about.
It’s all what we find baleful about Christmas – all this unseasonable rhetoric. It’s not the war on Christmas that is a threat to America. It’s the war on the Christmas spirit.
No Room in the Inn
It’s a peculiar contradiction that the people most worried about the war on Christmas are the ones who are the quickest to cast off its spirit. Almost simultaneously with the retelling of the “no room in the inn” story, the same people are quick to tell those who are different from them that there is no room in the U.S. for them.
While screaming for understanding for their beliefs, they – this time through the evangelical Florida Family Association – are outraged that TLC’s “All-America Muslim” portrays the lives of Muslim-Americans fairly and honestly and forced Lowe’s to cut its ads on the program because the program had the gall not to paint all Muslims as jihadists.
So much for Christian understanding.
According to one New Testament version of the birth of Jesus, the angel told Mary that “nothing is impossible with God.” Apparently, there is, because it appears completely impossible for some to move beyond the combustible mix of religious zealotry and xenophobia that too often defines a narrow band of Christianity, a brand especially strong in our part of the U.S.
Rejecting the Other
Despite public humiliation and in the face of Jewish law that would have allowed him to stone his wife-to-be, Joseph refused to give in to the crowd mentality and instead embraced his pregnant fiancé. These days, it is the followers who engender the crowd mentality.
We all know the story: the Messiah was born in a stable rather than to riches and power. When the war on Christmas folks are attacking anyone who has different beliefs or other Christians with greater sensitivity about religious differences, it often appears that they overlook the core values of Christianity — love, compassion, empathy, and the refusal to engage in judgmental behaviors.
If we are accustomed to anything in the U.S. today, it is the selective reading of Christianity’s sacred texts. As a result, it is possible for these warriors for Christmas to attack others while ignoring the Biblical admonition to help the poor, the stranger, the outcast, and the prisoner.
Rather, they worship a distinctly Darwinian view of Christianity, discarding Judeo-Christian concerns about millions of people without health insurance; 45 million Americans living in poverty including an increasing number of children; cuts in funding for safety net services that are the threads binding together the fabric of millions of American’s lives; and concern for the communal good rather than blind allegiance to a brand of unequal capitalism.
Here’s the real problem with Fox News’ reports about the war on Christmas. It is based on the views of an evangelical segment of Christians, and in doing so, it manages to stereotype Christianity just as easily as it does Islam.
Christianity has dozens and dozens of variants and the mainstream version of the faith bears about as much resemblance to the evangelical brand as Islam although it’s always the reactionary religiosity that gets the headlines.
It seems to us that if these Christians fighting for Christmas really want to show their commitment to the holy season, they would more than anything insist on responding to the angelic words: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
These days, it’s hard to find any good will in the rants by Fox News or in the manufactured war on Christmas that does nothing so much as to attack the authentic spirit of the season.