Saturday, December 03, 2005

Xmas and X-Boxes: The “War” on Christmas

My grandmother first told me about the war on Christmas. She explained that “to take Christ out of Christmas,” Christmas-haters were using “Xmas” instead of the word itself. At age 10 that ticked me off. It was a relief when I discovered the X in Xmas is not X, but Chi—the Greek letter used by early Christians as a symbol of Jesus.

Now John Gibson’s book, The War on Christmas, describes the “liberal plot to ban the sacred Christian holiday.” Bill O'Reilly goes further; calling the war part of a "secular progressive agenda" including "legalization of narcotics, euthanasia, abortion at will, [and] gay marriage." This "liberal plot" is just like the “Christmas-haters” my Grandmother warned me about—in the sense that the “liberal plot” doesn’t exist any more than the “Christmas-haters” did.

The “War on Christmas” makes a nice catch phrase to motivate the Fox Channel faithful. By declaring there is a war on Christmas, Gibson, O’Reilly, and others call on Christians to prepare for and fight a war. Gibson and O’Reilly would happily employ the traditional tools of war that include: dehumanizing the enemy, suspending inconvenient civil rights (especially for suspicious minority groups), and bringing all resources to bear on the enemy.

Gibson claims 84% of Americans are Christians and implies all Christians are offended by hearing “Happy Holidays” at the local Wal-Mart. All Christians want to see crèches in every classroom and on the City Hall lawn. The 84% all want to hear “Merry Christmas” all the time. But he never makes the case that all Christians think alike any more than he makes a case that all liberals attack Christmas. What about liberal Christians, John?

With 84% of homes and 100% of churches free to put up Christmas scenes and sing Christmas hymns, the problem can’t be a lack of Christmas displays. The reasoning seems to be that if Wal-Mart cashiers say “Merry Christmas” Christians will start following the teachings of Christ. Perhaps if we had more Nativities on the lawns of schools and city halls, God would bless America again.

The problem is not the local school calling it a “Holiday Tree,” but the priority put on the pile of “stuff” that goes under the “Christmas” tree in most Christian homes. The problem for Christmas is that the “X” in Xmas is no longer “Chi” for Christ, but “X” for X-Box. The problem is seeking the message of God’s gift through iPods, Dancing Elmos, and Hallmark Singing Snowmen.

The Catholic League and others call for a boycott of Wal-Mart. They insist on hearing an insincere “Merry Christmas” rather than an insincere “Happy Holidays.” In reality, Wal-Mart would have its cashiers say “Free Saddam Hussein” if it would sell more crap. In the meantime, the Nativity scenes on Christian lawns have been crowded out by inflatable snowmen and Santas. It is not a liberal plot that did that.

The commercialization of Christmas isn’t even the real problem. Until recently, Christmas wasn’t the most important event on the Christian calendar. That was Easter, representing the sacrifice of Christ for the salvation of others. But that’s not as much fun as a theology based on three Wise Men bringing gifts. Together, the two holidays reveal the true problem—Christians who only come to church at Christmas and Easter. Symbolically honor Christ’s birth and his death and ignore what happened in between (those aforementioned teachings of Christ).

The problem with Christmas is not what is in the hearts of anti-Christian liberals, but what is in (or not in) the hearts of Christians. But let John Gibson try to sell a book on that.

Post Script: As I prepared to post this, Bill O’Reilly’s December 1 column appeared in today’s local paper (12/03/2005). It goes through the same reasoning. “Corporate America should … thank God that the baby Jesus was born…” “Christmas… is under siege… by secular forces that want to wipe out…Christmas traditions.” (Christians are up to 85% of America.) Sears, K-Mart and Wal-Mart are “insane” for “offending millions of traditional Americans…who want it called exactly what it is—Christmas.” “If corporate chieftains are not wise enough to honor that message as well, they don’t deserve any Christmas cheer.” "That message," according to Bill is, “Three wise men once came bearing gifts…”

O’Reilly’s messages of the season? 1) Corporate America should be thankful for Christmas. 2) There is a war on Christmas. 3) “American” is a synonym for “Christian.” 4) All Christians are offended by “Happy Holidays.” and 5) It’s about the gifts.

Bill—Sears, K-Mart and Wal-Mart did the math. They see more profit in “Happy Holidays.” Forgive them for they know not what they do.

Merry X-Boxmas to all and to all a good night.

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