Holiday bells don’t jingle for everyone

The War on Christmas is worse than you thought. If you don’t believe me, ask Fox News Channel personality John Gibson. How proficient at sniffing out liberal conspiracies is Gibson? In a March editorial urging Jeb Bush to mount a putsch against the Florida judiciary by kidnapping the corpse of Terri Schiavo from the hospice in which she was finally allowed to expire physically as well as mentally, Gibson identified Terri’s oppressors as some vaguely Jewish-sounding entity called “the temple of the law.”

In time for the holiday season, FNC’s resident witch-smeller has gulled a formerly respectable publishing house, the Penguin Group, into releasing “The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought.” I confess that I have not read Mr. Gibson’s foray into investigative reporting, except that I have read it, and continue to read it annually, as an unwilling member of the audience to the nation’s loudest wintertime celebration, the Festival of Christian Paranoia and Self-Pity.

According to the tenets of faith underlying the observance of this ritual, a cabal recognizable under such guises as liberals, progressives, pluralists, leftists, the ACLU, Democrats, secularists, etc. (the Freemasons and Illuminati tend not to make the list, though one assumes they are ultimately pulling the strings) is waging a campaign as furious as it is secretive to undermine the Christian foundation of American society.

Because the secularists (let’s call them that for now) are a tiny minority of the electorate, their only means of effecting a radical cultural transformation is to do so by fiat, through the coercive powers of government, which they perpetually control, no matter how many of its branches are in the hands of Republicans. Their first objective is to annihilate any public recognition of Christian belief, and for reasons known only to the secularists, the best way to achieve that goal is to pressure department store clerks to refrain from using the phrase “Merry Christmas.”

Make no mistake: If the minimum wage-earning cashier ringing up little Billy’s Xbox 360 is not required, as a matter of store policy and of retaining his or her lousy job, to wish little Billy a Merry Christmas(!), it is only a matter of time, as Billy O’Reilly, tribune of “the folks” by acclamation, forensically put it, before “programs like legalization of narcotics, euthanasia, abortion at will, gay marriage” are the law of the land. For the sake of thoroughness, John Gibson, invited onto “The Factor” to plug his execrable book, added a warning about “legalized prostitution.”

Perhaps spurred on by the oratorical virtuosity of right-wing radio and television, the grassroots forces of social conservatism are mobilized on all fronts (including the Internet; those interested can consult www.savemerrychristmas.org) to battle the shadowy forces of secularism. Their weapon of choice, the boycott — by no coincidence, a preferred instrument of all civil rights movements — is primed and ready to be unleashed whenever and wherever the halls are insufficiently decked and gay apparel improperly donned.

Completing the troika of Christmas’ brave defenders are the conservative intellectuals who should and probably do know better, but for whatever reason make the restoration of terrible Christmas songs in public schools a seasonal raison d’etre. Affecting a personal slight at the insufficient acknowledgment of a holiday he doesn’t believe in, Charles Krauthammer wasted several inches of column space in the Washington Post last December decrying the twin “sins” of “profound ungenerosity toward a majority of fellow citizens who have shown such generosity of spirit toward minority religions” — the majority’s generosity evinced, apparently, by demands for public celebration of Christmas — and “a failure to appreciate the uniqueness of the communal American religious experience.”

Inadvertently, however, knights of communal faith like Krauthammer and O’Reilly manage to identify a repugnant, but nevertheless essential characteristic of the Christmas holiday. In this land of the free, no one can quietly assert a right to be left alone and simply abstain from the Christmas festivities; one must either join in the celebration, or else “stifle” the religious freedom of “the overwhelming majority” (Krauthammer’s terms), “denigrate” its “cherished” beliefs and thereby “engender” its undoubtedly righteous “anger” (O’Reilly’s).

Christmas, in other words, demands both state sanction and compulsory popular participation in it. Not only must public institutions act as ersatz mangers for recreations of the nativity — the well-known Christmas exception to the Establishment Clause — but private companies, from executives down to the lowliest employees, must join in the cheerful wassailing, or else. What we have is a festival that resembles nothing in American life so closely as it does, let us say, May Day in Bucharest circa 1975. There is no escaping the music, the cuisine, the clothing or the ornamentation, let alone the exhortations to join in the fun. Just try convincing your neighbors to take down their Christmas lights before April.

Christmas is going nowhere, and would go nowhere even if there were a coordinated conspiracy to destroy it. For months at a time, it metastasizes into every aspect of social and economic life, and rather like a tumorous growth, devours a bigger portion of the calendar every year. Since they do, after all, place a premium on the traditions of the season, Christians might want to make the following resolution for the coming year: to quit their persecution complex without delay, and grow enough backbone to realize that they don’t require the active collaboration of non-believers to imbue their rituals with meaning. Perhaps, eventually, they’ll realize that the civic thing to do is to keep their holiday to themselves.



Daniel Koffler is a senior in Calhoun College. His column appears on alternate Wednesdays.

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