Dispatches from the Creation Wars

November’s Robert O’Brien Trophy (formerly known as the Idiot of the Month Award) will, for the first time, be awarded to a group of people rather than to a specific person. In fact, it will be awarded not to a specific organization or group, but to a rather amorphous and undefined group of people who seem to be everywhere these days. I’ll call them the Paranoid and Righteous Defenders of Christmas (PRDC). These are the folks who are screaming bloody murder over the alleged plot to destroy Christmas in America, a plot that appears to exist primarily in their delusions.

The ridiculous rhetoric over this non-issue began in earnest last year and has only increased this year. This fantasy world of paranoia is pushed by the likes of John Gibson, the dimwitted Fox News reporter and author of a book with the breathlessly absurd title The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought. Egads, those damn liberals are out to ban Christmas! It’s an outrage! Well no, actually, it’s not. It’s a false claim that is tailor made for use by demagogues like Gibson, Pat Buchanan and William Donohue to whip their ignorant followers into a frenzy.

First of all, one must ask what their main piece of evidence is for this alleged “war on Christmas”. Surely if it’s a war, there must be major battles going on. Roving bands of terrorists blowing up christmas trees? Liberal special forces units invading churches and dynamiting their nativity scenes? Secularist commando units attacking groups of carolers? Well…no. The main argument for this alleged war on Christmas is….drumroll please….department stores putting “Happy Holidays” on their advertisements instead of “Merry Christmas” (pause for the gasps of horror). That’s it? Yep, that’s it.

Here’s Pat Buchanan making a brave leap from a reasonable decision by a department store to some breathtakingly hyperbolic rhetoric last year:

Now Macy’s has stopped using the phrase “Merry Christmas” in all store advertising, replacing it with what Macy’s calls the more inclusive “Season’s Greetings” and “Happy Holidays.”

But how is it “inclusive” to exclude the Christians’ greeting? Is that not anti-Christian? Why would the Macy’s of the “Miracle on 34th Street” do such a thing? Why would Federated Department Stores, Macy’s parent company, impose such a policy?

By Newton’s laws of motion, an object moving in a given direction will continue to do so unless an outside force intervenes. What hidden force intervened to cause Macy’s to reverse course and suddenly sever its ties to Christmas? Who insisted that Macy’s cease to mention Christmas, the holiday around which its selling season is built?

It is hard to believe some Macy’s executive took it upon himself to make so offensive a decision as to expunge “Merry Christmas” from the store, when so many of Macy’s most loyal shoppers were certain to be disheartened and hurt. Who is trying to kill Christmas?

It needs to be said. What we are witnessing here are hate crimes against Christianity – the manifestations, the symptoms of a sickness of the soul, a disease a Vatican diplomat correctly calls “Christianophobia,” the fear and loathing of all things Christian, coupled with a fanatic will to expunge from the public life of the West all reminders that ours was once a Christian civilization and America once a Christian country.

Okay Pat, climb down off that cross. Jesus was crucified, you weren’t, and frankly you’re much more suited to playing the bully than the victim. For crying out loud, this is so over-the-top in its self-righteous rage that it reads like a parody. The only thing missing is Dana Carvey in drag (“Who could be behind this infernal plot, hmm? Who would possibly want to destroy our ability to celebrate the birth of little Baby Jesus, hmmm? Who could it be? Oh, I don’t know…. maybe…. SATAN?”) to complete the caricature.

Is it really so hard to believe that a Macy’s executive looked at some of their basic demographic research and found that, with their stores exclusively located in large cities, their customers were a pretty diverse group with a large percentage of them being non-Christian? Is it really so strange that a major retailer would want to make their appeal as broad as possible, to encompass not only those shopping for Christmas but also those shopping for Hannukah or Kwanzaa gifts too? If this seems completely out of the question to ol’ Pat, I would suggest it can only be because he has no understanding how how advertising and marketing folks think.

You will surely not be surprised to hear that the Worldnutdaily is squarely in the Defenders of Christmas camp. Last year, they threw a fit over the White House’s “Christ-less Christmas” because – and no, I’m not making this up – the pictures on the White House website of the nativity scene erected in the East Room didn’t show the baby Jesus prominently enough. This year, in the first of what I’m sure will be dozens of such articles, they’re pushing a boycott of Wal Mart because, like Macy’s, they’ve chosen to use slogans like “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”.

This boycott is called for by William Donohue, the increasingly loony leader of the Catholic League. He actually claims that by saying “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas”, Wal-Mart is engaging in “discrimination”, which can only bring to mind the words of Inigo Montoya – “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” And their evidence? Once again, a website is the key to the whole thing:

He points out, and WND confirmed, that when using the company’s online search engine, if the world “Hanukkah” is entered, 200 items for sale are returned. The term “Kwanzaa” yields 77. But when “Christmas” is entered, the message returned says: “We’ve brought you to our ‘Holiday’ page based on your search.”

But even the Worldnutdaily was smart enough to look just a tad bit deeper than that:

However, the search also brings up a secondary link on which to click, which reveals 7,970 items that match the “Christmas” term. When WND entered the name “Jesus,” 5,668 items were displayed.

And these are from prominent religious right leaders and thinkers. If this kind of lazy and shoddy propaganda is being put out by them, imaging what is being generated by their halfwit followers on the hundreds of webmags that host their rants and raves. Actually, don’t imagine it. Let me show you. Here’s one Charles Cole, one of the thousands of little Ann Coulter wannabes on the internet, writing in the American Daily:

Have you noticed that this Christmas season seems to be the climax of a multiyear assault on religion in America? If a store puts up a simple “Christmas tree”, not to mention one with an angel at the top, the ACLU threatens to sue and the owner (or company) usually cowers under the legal threat and removes the “offending” object (be that a tree, a baby Jesus, a crèche, or even a “Merry Christmas” sign).

This, of course, is a flat out lie. The ACLU has never, ever, under any circumstances, threatened or filed a lawsuit against a private business for any sort of holiday display. I emailed Cole and offered to send him a large sum of money if he could document just one such incident. I’m sure it will come as no surprise that I got no reply.

So to all of these brave Defenders of Christmas, I present to you the Robert O’Brien Trophy for stupidity above and beyond the call of duty. It would be easy to compare these intrepid culture warriors to Don Quixote, atop their horses to joust with windmills that they believe to be giants sent by evil sorcerors. But I think a more accurate comparison is to Sancho Panza, Quixote’s squire, who knows that Quixote is crazy. Panza knows that the windmills aren’t really giants and he knows that the beautiful Dulcinea doesn’t really exist, but he plays along. Why? Because he hoped to get rich. For the William Donohues and Jerry Falwells of the world, weaving frightening tales of evil giants sent by Satan to destroy Christmas for their ignorant followers, the comparison seems quite apt. And perhaps it establishes that the award should truly go to their followers, who lap up such nonsense without question.

Here’s a simple fact that they are probably uniformly unaware of. In their zeal to claim that destroying Christmas is part of erasing “America’s Christian heritage”, they would probably be shocked to know that celebrating Christmas was viewed in many of the early colonies as an abomination. The Puritans were strongly against this holiday, arguing that it was based upon pagan practices (and it was) and was therefore a sin to celebrate. Indeed, for many years in the early Massachusetts Bay Colony it was a crime to celebrate Christmas, punishable by a fine. It was also banned throughout England in the mid-1600s. Isn’t it ironic that these folks who think they’re standing up for America’s “Christian heritage” would have been viewed by many Christians at the time of our founding to be engaging in the celebration of heathen and pagan festivals?

Comments

  1. #1 Phillip J. Birmingham
    November 10, 2005

    I remember last year’s flap over the “Holiday Traditional” stamp, and how it was evidence that the Post Office was banishing Christmas.

    “Holiday Traditional” was the stamp that had a picture of Mary and Jesus, with the word CHRISTMAS in caps. Downright secular, that was.

  2. #2 Ginger Yellow
    November 10, 2005

    Don’t forget Falafel O’Reilly. He’s even madder than Gibson on this topic.

    “But how is it “inclusive” to exclude the Christians’ greeting? Is that not anti-Christian?”

    Um, no. It would be anti-Christian if they put up a sign saying “God hates Christians”. Yet another example of the Christian right claiming anything that doesn’t actively perpetuate their current cultural hegemony is persecution.

    “By Newton’s laws of motion, an object moving in a given direction will continue to do so unless an outside force intervenes. What hidden force intervened to cause Macy’s to reverse course and suddenly sever its ties to Christmas?”

    Hmm. People with brains that work properly might notice an important difference between “an object” and Macy’s. One of them is made up of people, who can make decisions all on their own.

    Maybe I’m being paranoid, but given Buchanan’s form, I doubt it. We have “hidden forces” at work. Hidden forces that are trying to “kill Christ(mas)”. We have “sickness” and “disease” and a “fanatic will” that threatens to destroy civilisation. If I didn’t know any better I’d think he was blaming it on the Jews.

  3. #3 KeithB
    November 10, 2005

    This topic also ties in with your “Big Business” topic a few posts back. These folks don’t want a “free market”, they want to have their hobby horse protected with everyone else subjected to the force of a free market with the leftover crumbs.

  4. #4 jcw
    November 10, 2005

    Your last paragraph, Ed, sums up nicely the hypocrisy of Pat Buchanan’s and others’ statements. This holiday has attained its place in America because of retailers, they can call it whatever they want. The emphasis of the Christmas most people celebrate is not the birth of Christ but gift giving.

  5. #5 oolong
    November 10, 2005

    Here’s a partial transcript from Falafel O’Reilly fighting the good fight against the evil secular scum out to destroy our Christian way of life. You can’t write this stuff. It’s too good.

    ———————————–

    NULMAN: When businesses make decisions to be inclusionary as opposed to exclusionary, they do it on the basis of wanting to invite all customers in. They don’t want to exclude customers.

    O’REILLY (overtalks last 4 words): They ARE inviting all Christmas [sic] in.

    NULMAN: What happens very often is that the message gets through to the customer that – who is not Christian …

    O’REILLY: Yeah.

    NULMAN: … who is Muslim, who is Jewish, who is – follows another faith – Buddhist – that they are not being invited in or catered to. When we counsel businesses, what we want is to invite everyone in.

    O’REILLY: Well, then you put …

    NULMAN: “Seasons Greetings” and “Happy Holidays,” Bill, does not offend Christians.

    O’REILLY (emphatically): Yes it does! Absolutely does. Ummm – and I know that for a fact. But the smart way to do it is (gestures with hands as if posting signs) “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Chanukkah,” “Seasons Greetings,” Happy Kwanza.”

    NULMAN: It’s a long list.

    O’REILLY: It’s OK. Ya’ got a big store!

    NULMAN: Um-hum.

    O’REILLY: Ya’ got a big store.

    NULMaN: Right.

    O’REILLY: You can put the little banners all over the place.

    NULMAN: Uh-huh.

    O’REILLY: But to tell your employees don’t say “Merry Christmas” is, you know – I just think you are alienating far more people by that …

    NULMAN: Um.

    O’REILLY: … than you would be by saying “Merry Christmas” and all of the other slogans.

    NULMAN: Well, I think that, statistically speaking, we’d be hard-pressed to find that Christians are offended by gestures on the part of employees that say “Happy holidays to you.” [indecipherable]

    O’REILLY (overtalks): Alright. We’re gonna do a poll question and I’m gonna signal to my guys …

    NULMAN: Alright.

    O’REILLY: And I’m gonna prove it to you.

    NULMAN: OK.

    O’REILLY: Let’s do a FOX News/Opinion Dynamics poll question up there. Now, I’m givin’ the signal to my guys …

    NULMAN: Alright:

    O’REILLY: … about if you’re – “Are you offended if they don’t use the words ‘Merry Christmas’ in a – in a store that you go to shop” and we will – and I guarantee you …

    NULMAN: Alright.

    O’REILLY: … that I’m right.

    NULMAN: Well …

    O’REILLY: I’m guaranteeing that the Christian majority in this country is fed up, fed up to here (points to his forehead) …

    NULMAN: Um-hum

    O’REILLY: … with the ACLU and all of this business – this anti-Christian business. I’ll give you the last word.

    NULMAN: Wouldn’t you suggest, Bill, that you and Mr. Hannity were instrumental in raising this issue?

    O’REILLY: Absolutely.

    NULMAN: OK. And in so doing, created an issue that may have been a non-issue.

    O’REILLY: No.

    NULMAN: That’s my, that’s my [indecipherable]

    O’REILLY: I don’t, I don’t create anything. I react to the folks.

    NULMAN: Um-hum

    O’REILLY: And I hear what the folks are saying, and then I report on it. So, we don’t drive the car OK? We just react to what the cart is telling us. But, anyway, look. We’ll do the poll …

    NULMAN: Alright.

    O’REILLY: … and we’ll have you back.

    NULMAN: I would be delighted.

    O’REILLY: And it’s a scientific poll. OK?

    NULMAN: OK. I would be delighted.

  6. #6 raj
    November 10, 2005

    What is referred to as “christmas” is the winter solstist fest. It was a pagan festival taken over by the ancient christians. There were more than a few soltist fests conducted by ancient pagans.

    From what I have read, if there really was a Jesus (and that is highly debatable, although there may be many personalities reflected in the gospels) he was probably born in the spring.

  7. #7 spyder
    November 10, 2005

    Inigo Montoya?? Thanks Ed, that got the full chortles going. Now i can’t stop those two great scenes from racing through my head. It is such a great little movie, full of witty clever bits of dialog that ring true still today. But that aside:

    I think we all need to support the boycotters. Can you imagine if the righteous conservative faithful combined with the progressive anti-corporate anti-WalMart left to ruin the holiday consumer spending season for these big box retailers? The irony in that is delightful.

    Raj, sorry, i can’t stop the old, retired, grumpy teacher in me, with a little spell check referent: “solstice” not “soltist.” However your point is all too accurate indeed. And since the word Christmas itself refers to the celebration of the Eucharist/Communion held to honor the birth of this being, one would think that these most devout believers would like to use a less “sacred” term to celebrate the massive purchasing of consumer products.

  8. #8 Beaming Visionary
    November 10, 2005

    You just described the Stop the ACLU folks — probably the most delusional right-wingers I’ve encountered on the Web (and often wish I hadn’t) — with uncanny accuracy.

    Today, they’re claiming that it is indeed a “war to secularize Christmas, and erase its true meaning” fomented by misguided fans of political correctness.

    http://stoptheaclu.com/archives/2005/11/10/walmart-facing-boycott-over-banning-christmas/

    Having little tolerance for semiliterate religious fanatics, I tried to point out that “Happy Holidays” is inclusive, that Christmas was co-opted from the pagan festival of Saturnalia, and that Wal-Mart is not a house of worship (well, maybe of NASCAR) but a retailer. I also noted that one could ramble around any store wishing everyone a Merry Christmas without being asked to leave. For some reason, though, my comment was not approved ;o) — that site is one of those Internet locales designed so that righteous idiots can convince one another of their analytical acumen, and where interlopers are not tolerated.

    The truth is that these people would turn the country into a giant church if they could, and that anything that makes Christianity incrementally less visible is a reflection of this rabid bent. I’m not surprised they hate the ACLU; I’m sure few homophobic, anti-choice, Bible whackin’ gun nuts do.

  9. #9 Grumpy
    November 10, 2005

    By Newton’s laws of motion, an object moving in a given direction will continue to do so unless an outside force intervenes. What hidden force intervened to cause Macy’s to reverse course and suddenly sever its ties to Christmas?

    Goes to prove: those who scorn Christmas are not only anti-Christian, but violators of the Laws of Physics!!

  10. #10 Ed Brayton
    November 10, 2005

    Beaming Visionary wrote:

    You just described the Stop the ACLU folks — probably the most delusional right-wingers I’ve encountered on the Web (and often wish I hadn’t) — with uncanny accuracy.

    Oh, I’ve fisked their stuff many times. You’re right, they’re sort of the three stooges of the right wing. If Fred Phelps were dead, they’d be the bottom of the barrell.

  11. #11 Raging Bee
    November 10, 2005

    Yeah, right, the retail sector make half of their profits during this part of the year, but they’re cutting themselves off from Christmas.

    Ever notice how these “defenders of Christmas” don’t actually try to take on the over-the-top commercialism that’s REALLY ruining the whole thing for a lot of people? That alone speaks volumes about their priorities.

    Anyway, Happy Christmasaturnakwanzannakayulestice to all of you! Oh shit, did I just start the End Times? Sorry, my bad…

  12. #12 raj
    November 11, 2005

    spyder at November 10, 2005 07:03 PM

    Just to let you know, I never mind having my spelling or grammar corrected. Your spelling is, of course, correct, I new it was correct. I was having some vision problems observing the screen when I typed the comment..

  13. #13 Sastra
    November 11, 2005

    Although I’m an atheist who was raised a freethinker, I have always celebrated Christmas as a secular holiday which expresses values which encompass all of us — love, compassion, giving, peace on earth, good will to all, and, of course, cookies. I never thought any particular religion had a headlock on any of these, nor could I ever discern the sectarian nature of Santa Claus or Christmas trees. To me, Christmas was never about Jesus, even as a kid. The Christ child was simply another fictional character along the lines of Frosty or Rudolph.

    As far as I’m concerned, this is how it ought to be: Christmas for everyone. If you want to focus on Jesus, then fine. But if not, then you’re still okay. A holiday with so much cultural impact and common appeal should be universalized. That’s what I thought Loving One Another meant.

    Evidently, this makes me the very epitome of the “enemy” of Christmas. Christmas is NOT for everyone — it’s only for Christians. Arguing otherwise is an “attack” on Good People who truly understand the REAL meaning of Christmas.

    Frankly, those “Keep the Christ in Christmas” signs all around my neighborhood always seem far more Grinch-like, churlish, and bigoted than the fact that I, a non-christian, want to be included in the celebration also.

    If “Happy Holiday” actively offends Christians, then Christmas as they celebrate it is neither happy nor a holiday. It’s apparently only a grim attempt to separate themselves from the damned. Ho ho ho.

  14. #14 Ed Brayton
    November 11, 2005

    Sastra wrote:

    Although I’m an atheist who was raised a freethinker, I have always celebrated Christmas as a secular holiday which expresses values which encompass all of us — love, compassion, giving, peace on earth, good will to all, and, of course, cookies. I never thought any particular religion had a headlock on any of these, nor could I ever discern the sectarian nature of Santa Claus or Christmas trees.

    I totally agree with this. I’m a Christmas lover myself. I love the gift giving and the chance to cook for the family and spend time together. I think those things are great quite apart from the religious significance some people attach to it.

    Evidently, this makes me the very epitome of the “enemy” of Christmas. Christmas is NOT for everyone — it’s only for Christians. Arguing otherwise is an “attack” on Good People who truly understand the REAL meaning of Christmas.

    And more than that, they demand that everyone – even non-Christians – say “Merry Christmas” to them, and accept being told “Merry Christmas” even if they’re not a Christian because there’s nothing offensive about that. At the same time, telling them “Happy Holidays” is highly offensive and even – gasp! – a “hate crime against Christians”, according to Pat Buchanan. Like I said, I think this is highly offensive to Christians. None of the Christians I know are this petty and ridiculous.

  15. #15 CPT_Doom
    November 11, 2005

    Well, according to WorldNUTDaily today, Wal-Mart has “caved” to the threatened boycott and has a “Christmas” link, instead of a “Holiday” link, so Donohue is now thrilled. He does not care if the employees still say “Happy Holidays” as long as he gets his web link.

    The really sad part, though, is that a temporary Wal-Mart “associate” has been fired for sending an email reponse to an unhappy “Christian” customer. In the email, the associate explained the pagan origins of many Christmas traditions. The associate has been fired for sending an email that did not meet company policy – not that anything he wrote was incorrect, mind you, but apparently Wal-Mart is so concerned with the WingNut market that they are willing to fine someone for telling an uncomfortable truth to a “Christian” who didn’t want to hear it.