For years, we’ve had a sort of vague feeling that Christmas was being sanitized of its religious significance. In church, we often lamented that Christmas was becoming too commercial, that it was more about Santa and the gifts than about the original gift, the infant Jesus. I discovered not too long ago that the trend was actually started by the songwriter Irving Berlin, when he penned his classic “White Christmas”. He admitted that he was looking for a song that allowed non-Christians to share in the Christmas spirit without singing the traditional Christmas hymns. But it never seemed too serious, because there was never a real conflict between secular Christmas symbols and Christian symbols…we just enjoyed the one set, and honored the other.
In just the last few years, though, there has been an escalating Christmas controversy in the American media. It all started when certain individuals began suing, with the help of the ACLU, for the removal of all Christian symbolism from public buildings. The more notable examples were the struggles to remove plaques and monuments of the Ten Commandments from courthouses around the country. (Why this wasn’t a Jewish controversy, I’m not exactly sure.) As the lawsuits began targeting crosses on public statuary, the trend in the courts became to outlaw any exhibits (or public teaching) of symbols or religious tradition that were deemed exclusionary of other religions. We then had public schools, for instance, minimizing or eliminating all Christian references in their annual Christmas plays, which have become Holiday plays (gotta love the “holy-day irony), or Winter Plays (ah, nothing like a good Pagan celebration). And of course, the Christmas crèches were outlawed from county courthouse lawns all over the country.
Well, the latest twist is that, driven by a sense of “political correctness”, many modern retail chains joined the trend to eliminate religious symbolism from their Christmas advertising and in-store displays, and some have even gone further by eliminating the word “Christmas” entirely. The current nationwide controversy, which is being brought to the forefront by the radio and TV personality Bill O’Reilly, is that certain chains are even instructing their employees not to say “Merry Christmas” to the customers. Mr. O’Reilly blames a minority he calls “Social Progressives” for attempting to ultimately eliminate Christmas as a national holiday because it is the last great bastion of public Christianity left in our society.
The revealing thing is how this battle is being played out. In his radio show today, Mr. O’Reilly took the interesting position that Christian displays such as crèches have as much secular meaning as menorahs, which have been OK’d for public display by the courts precisely because they are not overtly religious. (I know this is hard to follow, but stay with me.) Therefore, Christmas crèches and similar displays should not be outlawed, because Christmas displays are not religious in nature. In fact, Christmas is not, according to Mr. O’Reilly, a religious holiday; it is a US Federal holiday, and US citizens have a right to enjoy their Christmas traditions, whatever they are.
Now I know the irony is not lost on you. Bill O’Reilly, the self-proclaimed Culture Warrior who is fighting to save the traditional way of life against the demands of non-religiosity from the Secular Progressives, is fighting to save Christmas on the grounds that it is not a religious holiday.
Give up the fight, Mr. O’Reilly. The SP’s have won. There is no vestige of Christianity left to adequately define the American way of life. Irving Berlin started the trend, and you’ve neatly tied the bow.
As for we true believers in Jesus Christ, we should celebrate in prayer. Once all Christian symbolism is removed from public venues and commercial enterprises, we will not have to fret about the commercialization of our most sacred holiday. Christmas symbols, hymns, and greetings will be shared in the privacy of our homes, churches, and neighborhoods, and not exploited for the promotion of toys, Budweiser or electric toothbrushes. And nominal Christians, who miss the Christmas spirit once offered by Macy’s, may decide to return to church to find it. What better gift could the secular society give us, this fine Winter Season?
Sir Chuck, the Christian Warrior