War on Christmas

It seems that over the course of the last few years, members of the Right have become agitated over some sinister Left-wing “War on Christmas.” Ron Paul laments the decline of Christmas at the hands of the the supposed “anti-religious elites” among the liberals (Paul’s notion that “a rigid separation between church and state has no basis in either the text of the Constitution or the writings of our Founding Fathers” shows an astonishing lack of understanding about the writings of the Founders, but I’ll address the Right-wing church-and-state foolishness another time). Dr. Dobson implores his legions to avoid patronizing businesses which market the “holidays” instead of Christmas. Bill O’Reilly insists to a scornful David Letterman that “you can’t say ‘Christmas’ ” because “politically correct people” are trying to “erode our traditions.” The American Family Association mounts a consumer campaign against the Gap because—you guessed it—it lacks the proper number of references to Christmas.

How silly.

I would agree that there are problems with the modern celebration of Christmas. And, as usual, the Right is barking up the wrong tree.

Why in the world do these people think that the Savior cares whether he is referred to in a marketing slogan? Merry Christmas—and don’t forget to check out our specials on aisle seven! Merry Christmas, brought to you by Target! This makes the season more meaningful? You think you’re gonna find Jesus in Wal-Mart?

Somehow, I don’t think so.

Christmas hasn’t been secularized by Jesus-hating Liberals. Christmas has been secularized by commercialism and by a society which has given into the orgy of consumerism. Oh sure, we give gifts in remembrance of the gift of the Savior. Somehow I don’t think that the gift exchanges and gift rotations so common in Christmas today capture the spirit of the Lord’s unselfish gift of His son.

Several decades ago, C.S. Lewis , brilliant wit that he was, penned “Xmas and Christmas: A Lost Chapter from Herodotus,” a wonderful satire about a fantastical land in which two celebrations “Crissmas” and “Exmas” (marked by a tradition Lewis refers to as “The Rush”) were celebrated on the same day.

But I myself conversed with a priest in one of these temples and asked him why they kept Crissmas on the same day as Exmas; for it appeared to me inconvenient. But the priest replied, “It is not lawful, O stranger, for us to change the date of Chrissmas, but would that Zeus would put it into the minds of the Niatirbians to keep Exmas at some other time or not to keep it at all. For Exmas and the Rush distract the minds even of the few from sacred things. And we indeed are glad that men should make merry at Crissmas; but in Exmas there is no merriment left.” And when I asked him why they endured the Rush, he replied, “It is, O Stranger, a racket”; using (as I suppose) the words of some oracle and speaking unintelligibly to me (for a racket is an instrument which the barbarians use in a game called tennis).

My wife and I have decided to try to avoid the retailers and their holiday Rush altogether. We have noticed, like Lewis, that the atmosphere of commercialism detracts from the beauty of Christmas. There is nothing innately wrong with getting a gift for those you love. I’ve had fun during past Christmases in which I’ve really done some searching to try to find gifts which will wow my wife (and often gone well over budget in the process…). But ultimately, we’ve come to realize that the more involved we are in looking for gifts and spending money, the less we are focused on the meaning of the Savior’s birth. The less focused we are on the Savior at Christmas, the more superficial it ultimately feels. While we are really excited to open our presents, the afterglow rapidly vanishes. And the harried “Rush” of shopping often overwhelmed the joy of the season. So we minimize the gift exchanges we participate in, try to make as many gifts we give as possible, and try to spend our holiday season giving to those in need and spending quality time with friends and family. Nothing could be more pleasant—and the cheer lasts much longer!

I suspect that if the Right-Wing Christmas alarmists worried more about selfless service in the manner of Him for whom the holiday is named, and fretted less about the marketing verbiage of Wal-Mart, Sears, and the Gap, they might have the kind of merry and sacred Christmas they so desire.

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10 Responses to “War on Christmas”

  1. kerrin Says:

    You make great points about the comericalization of Christmas. What is ironic is that the same “Right-Wing Christmas alarmists” that boycoted Wal-Mart last year for using “holiday” instead of “Christmas” in their commericals further making the holiday about making/spending money. I, in a humorous way, have proposed taking over the war on Christmas myself.

  2. WP Says:

    Right wing and left wing, women, minorities, everyone should boycott Wal Mart. it is a bigger issue than just the shopping rush this time of year or the de-Christianizing of the season. That corporation represents the worst in human exploitation for profit, all for the sake of a ‘good deal’. The compassionate and the caring would not shop at those large and spacious buildings regardless if they gave out free Bibles.

    Instead of buying so much stuff this year, dial up the Carter Center and make a donation to buy some simple paper filters for West Africans that could help eliminate guinea worm disease in this generation. Just do a Google search for Guinea worm disease. Warning — Don’t watch the videos about the worms or see them on YouTube near dinner time.

    “Whosoever would do this unto the least of these my brethren, (the West Africans and so many others) hath done it unto me.”

  3. Allie Says:

    I haven’t been very successful at cutting back (more than normal anyway) my shopping. And yes, sadly I’ll admit to going shopping the day after thanksgiving (with my sisters-in-law, yes it was fun, no we didn’t go at 5am). I am making some gifts too.

    That said, I love the spirit of giving at christmas. Giving something to a friend or family member, donating food to the food pantry, sub for santa. Something about christmas time makes people friendlier and homes homier.

    I’m really looking for something I can do with my kids to benefit homeless people. Where much is given, much is required.

  4. Aaron Orgill Says:

    I really liked your commentary on this. I enjoy the abundance of the season, but more so for the abundance of food, warmth, and family than anything I actually receive or give. For several years I’ve been hearing about the war on Christmas, and it just doesn’t seem like a reality to me. I guess part of this could be from living in such a religious state, but I don’t know of a time when I have been chewed out for saying Merry Christmas. It does seem that much of the religious right is looking for Christ in all the wrong places. One of my most enjoyable Christmases ever was in 2004, when I had lost my job and we were staying with my in-laws for a few months. My wife and I decided not to even shop for each other, and it really wasn’t missed. And this year, as I build up my new business and we go through another lean time in our lives, we may do the same thing. I love that more people participate in holiday drives and charities in December, but wish that was the actual emphasis rather than the mad rush to buy frivolities, and that we could make a little more of an effort to carry that on into January (or even December 26, for goodness’ sake). I believe that the post-holiday blues could largely be lightened by serving others.

  5. Nikki Says:

    Great blog. I’ve always thought this debate was ridiculous but now I have a new perspective that I can agree with! The points you make will come in handy for me this season.

  6. mfranti Says:

    I suspect that if the Right-Wing Christmas alarmists worried more about selfless service in the manner of Him for whom the holiday is named, and fretted less about the marketing verbiage of Wal-Mart, Sears, and the Gap, they might have the kind of merry and sacred Christmas they so desire.

    ahhh…but that would be “bad for business” and we can’t stop shopping because that helps those god hating terrorists win

    derek, you should email me.

  7. mfranti Says:

    allrighty then… feel free to delete my comments. apparently I don’t know how to link on your blog.

    thanks again.

  8. chandelle Says:

    wonderful blog! i’m not in the church anymore but i, too, was a liberal mormon in a sea of conservatism once upon a time. you have a wonderful point of view that i certainly shared as a member and continue to support today. thanks for stopping by my food blog and feel free to wander over to MY “real blog” as well. 🙂

  9. mfranti Says:

    yay!!! chandelle found her way over here.

  10. Outside the Perimeter: War On Christmas « kavips Says:

    […] of unseen beings…..Those beings go by many names….liberal, conservative, Jews, atheist, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witnesses, […]

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