Tahlequah Daily Press

December 16, 2013

Tone it down on the ‘War on Christmas’


TAHLEQUAH — When people feel their core values are threatened, they’re likely to get their backs up and take a defensive posture. That’s what has happened with the so-called “War on Christmas,” which has been raging on for a few decades now.

What many people don’t realize is that the most recent incarnation of the “war” is largely a construct of media pundits, borne not so much out of their own personal fears, but out of a desire to sell books and air time.

There is no widespread conspiracy to do away with “Christmas” as the celebrated time of the Advent of Jesus Christ into the world, although there is a tendency on the part of certain well-meaning folks to adhere too staunchly to the dogma of “political correctness.” That extreme sensitivity to how people of other faiths may or may not respond to the phrase “Merry Christmas” has played right into the hands of the head crusaders in the war they, themselves, have exacerbated.

Whether Dec. 25 is the actual or symbolic time of Christ’s birth makes no fundamental difference. What’s important is the message, and by taking up arms against perceived enemies of the faith, people are making a mockery of the “true meaning” of Christmas, just as surely as those who are purportedly offended by its mention.

Though the “War on Christmas” isn’t a new notion, today’s battles are nastier than earlier skirmishes. There was a time when devout Christians of some denominations eschewed the more secular elements of the holiday, such as yule logs and modern images of Santa Claus – as opposed to the more traditional and long-standing person of St. Nicholas. Indeed, many modern-day Christians, in keeping with the humble origins of the Christ child, avoid as many commercial trappings as they can.

But inciting wrath – and especially passing legislation – against those who prefer to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” during this time of year is petulant and counterproductive. It’s also an exercise in hypocrisy if those making the most noise spend outrageous sums of money and even going into debt to seek their own holiday gratification, rather than using a portion to help the less fortunate.

When put to the point, most folks have to admit they’ve never been attacked for saying “Merry Christmas,” although those who talk about the “war” may insist they “know someone” who was cursed for speaking the words. And even if someone is offended, so what? Americans are so politically polarized now that even mentioning one’s beliefs about governance in public can almost guarantee an argument. Comparatively speaking, an utterance of “Merry Christmas” seems completely innocuous.

Here’s an idea. Those of us who choose to say “Happy Holidays” (which for many people covers Thanksgiving through New Year’s) should have carte blanche to do so. Those who say “Merry Christmas” should feel free to speak without rebuff. And those who celebrate Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or anything else this time of year should also be able to acknowledge it. All greetings from every quarter should be issued without defiance, or a tone that dares anyone within earshot to knock that chip off the shoulder – and they should be received in similar fashion.

And politicians need to quit wasting their time and money – which, in fact, is the taxpayers’ time and money – passing useless bills that send exactly the opposite message from the one they’re trying to convey.

For most people in this part of the world, even non-Christians, this is the season of “Christmas.” But Jesus Christ was not about personal indulgence; he was about caring for and nurturing others. Before casting stones, some of those outraged by the “War on Christmas” should take a look and the mirror, and ask themselves if they see someone girded in armor, bearing sword and spear, staring back at them.