Commentary

A war on two fronts

Three weeks into Advent, I have come to the sobering conclusion: It’s not easy being Christmas. There’s a war out there.

Some Christians (and their secular counterparts) have identified the source of this attack on Christmas, and it’s the words “Happy Holidays” — words, it seems, spoken only by those who are inherently anti-Christian, and whose true intention is to drown Christmas in the bathtub.

Bob Hulteen

Bob Hulteen

For some, humming “Joy to the World” before December 24 is a near-capital offense. 

For instance, according to the American Family Association (AFA), a major player in the neutering of the Noel is Radio Shack, which flaunts its utter disregard for baby Jesus by using the words “Happy Holidays” in its seasonal advertising.

Radio Shack’s decision makes the folks at AFA see red … and not in a jolly Rudolph’s red nose sort of way. So the group has called for a boycott of Radio Shack throughout the holiday season. (Interestingly, the AFA simultaneously argues that the minimum wage shouldn’t be raised because businesses should determine their own policies without any outside coercion.)

Fox News added its own firepower to the war when show host Megyn Kelly “courageously” confronted any notion that Santa Claus is not white. (And she ultimately tied Jesus into her argument.) Her sortie was in response to a piece written by Alisha Harris, an African-American culture blogger who dared to suggest that the shopping malls offer up Santas whose nationalities more closely mirrored the diversity of their shoppers. Kelly challenged Harris’ request to consider a broader vision of The Jolly One by debunking any notion that “just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change.”

Living in Washington, D.C., for the first four years of her life, our oldest daughter saw in person only African-American Santas. It wasn’t until we moved to Minnesota that she learned Santa could also be white. (She also found out that “The Wheels on the Bus Go Round And Round” is not a rap song, but that’s a different editorial.) And yet, she has survived (although she is willing to consider that Jesus might be more Middle Eastern than European).

Adventistas

But lest we think the War Against Christmas is the only holiday outrage happening this time of year, rest assured the Conspiracy Against Advent is alive and well, doing all it can to protect the sanctity of December. Its adherents feel the need to deride people who put up their Christmas trees before the Thanksgiving leftovers have been finished. For some, humming “Joy to the World” before December 24 is a near-capital offense.

Frustrated that commercialism and the birth of the world’s Savior are so intimately linked, the pro-Advent crowd have developed a fairly sophisticated hermeneutic of suspicion about the use of Jesus in selling stuff, often for the most banal of items. The joy of the Savior’s birth becomes background music to our country’s consumptive corporate appetite, they maintain.

Practitioners of this position (and I number myself among them, I guess) would prefer that Advent be a time of waiting and expectation, with the Twelve Days of Christmas as a time of celebration that culminates in Epiphany.

The many faces of Christmas

In my opinion, we as Christians lost the war with Christmas more than a generation ago — probably when Mongtomery Ward first came up with the idea of Rudolph as a marketing tool in 1939. (Nope, Rudolph is not mentioned in the Bible.)

Christmas is now at least two different holidays — one religious and one secular. I am actually not only consigned, but even satisfied, with this reality. I can enjoy both secular and sacred Christmas in the same way that I like both Mothers’ Day and Easter in the spring.

But when I start seeing red is when I experience the conflating of the two holidays. We start thinking that tinsel and lutefisk is somehow inherently Christian. My guess is that the Mekane Yesus Church in Ethiopia gets along without either of those cultural expressions and celebrates Christmas just fine.

So, while I would call for détente in the war on Christmas, I want terms — not of surrender but of agreement. Let’s remember our cultures, be grateful for them, be truly excited that other folks also have cultures they celebrate, and keep our recriminations to a minimum.

After all, it might make the baby Jesus happy, his being the Prince of Peace and all.

 

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