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War Against Christmas 2005 Competition [II]: Yes, Virginia (And Michelle Goldberg), There Is A War Against Christmas
[Last year by Tom Piatak: War Against Christmas 2004 Competition [IX]: An Orwellian Christmas]
The War Against Christmas, first noticed (to my knowledge) by Peter Brimelow, and long documented by VDARE.COM, is getting noticed by more and more people each year. FOX News' Bill O'Reilly has devoted considerable attention to the issue, and his website now contains a useful summary of retailers' willingness to actually name the holiday to which they owe so much. Even more mainstream news outlets are taking notice: on December 1, 2005, the Christian Science Monitor ran a piece by Beth Joyner Waldron noting that "After nearly two decades of watching community Christmas parades slowly evolve into Holiday parades, school Christmas vacation into winter break, and town hall crèches into snowmen, Christmas observers are revolting."
But the surest sign that the War Against Christmas has arrived as a national issue is that it has produced its first book, The War On Christmas, by Bill O'Reilly's colleague on FOX news, John Gibson. Further confirmation of the importance of the issue is that Gibson's book is not being ignored, but attacked, including in the New York Times.
First the book: It's valuable and timely. Gibson offers a lucid, reportorial account of the War Against Christmas, detailing successful attempts to ban Santa Claus, Christmas trees, instrumental Christmas carols, the word "Christmas," and even the colors red and green in a variety of schools and other public places, in such unlikely locations of anti-Christmas hostility as Covington, Georgia, Mustang, Oklahoma, and Baldwin City, Kansas.
Gibson's eye for detail has produced a number of revealing quotes. Again and again, those seeking to erase Christmas from the public square offer "diversity" and its variants as their justification. But, in practice, "diversity" and "inclusion" mean uniformity and exclusion, as Christian symbols are removed from public spaces.
As the bureaucrat behind the ban on Christmas trees on municipal property in Eugene, Oregon told Gibson:
"So we started a very large effort of diversity. As a part of that I started to have some discussions about holidays. And a subgroup of people started to discuss holiday decorations and . . . came to me eventually and said, 'There's a number of people in the organization who really do not like, they are upset with, holiday decorations that are of Christian origin.'"
As another Eugene bureaucrat told Gibson: "Some of these folks . . . just found the whole Christmas holiday season an offensive assault on them."
As Gibson's book also makes clear, we are allowing the misfits who feel that "the whole Christmas holiday season" is "an offensive assault on them" to get their way far too often. The message that Christianity is offensive is being picked up by students attending schools where references to Christmas are either sanitized or stripped. A parent in Maplewood, New Jersey—where even instrumental Christmas music is verboten—told Gibson that her son didn't want to include any Christmas symbols even on a poster that was actually supposed to illustrate the area's religious diversity because "I don't want to offend anyone."
As the mother told Gibson, "That's the climate in this town. We're told that all the time."
Because of the thoroughgoing secularization of the schools, believers in Christmas often find themselves fighting a rearguard action to preserve a Christmas tree or other symbol that would have been considered secular until recently.
This is lamentable, but understandable. As Gibson notes, quoting religious scholar Charles Haynes, once the tree is gone "[Christians] have nothing left" and the segregation of Christmas into a purely private ghetto will be complete.
Gibson also has a sharp eye for irony. Baldwin City, Kansas banned Santa Claus in its schools largely because one school board member complained. But that same school board member had also attacked the superintendent for stopping the reading of a story involving rape to sixth graders, complaining "One or two parents should not be allowed to dictate what the rest of the school can read." But, time and again, we placate one or two malcontents by eliminating all references to Christmas.
Gibson's book does not offer a detailed history of the War Against Christmas or a close examination of all the arguments surrounding the War Against Christmas, nor does it attempt to place the War Against Christmas in the broader cultural context of the continuing assault on Western culture and its traditions. And there is still a need for books that do these things. But Gibson, while placing too much emphasis on the legal aspects of the War Against Christmas, sees through many of the misconceptions about the War Against Christmas and generally comes to the right conclusions.
Gibson knows that the First Amendment is not the driving force behind the War Against Christmas, which afflicts both private entities outside the scope of the First Amendment and other countries that have no separation of church and state. Gibson also recognizes that this is a war against Christianity, not religious expression generally, noting that "Expressions of Judaism and Islam and Hinduism are regarded as inoffensive and merely cultural." Gibson also observes that when "a Jewish organization like the Anti-Defamation League . . . object[s] to a Jewish religious practice that is carried out under public auspices . . . the objection is lodged only to maintain the rhetorical standing to object to Christian practices." The target of the War Against Christmas is Christianity, and the Western culture Christianity created, not religion generally.
Gibson also provides a useful numerical framework for understanding the War Against Christmas. As Gibson notes, in 2002, 84% of Americans claimed to be Christians, as opposed to 1.3% who professed Judaism, with less than 1.0% professing Islam. But last year, 96% of Americans told pollsters they celebrated Christmas.
As these polls show, the number of Americans disaffected by Christmas is minute. More significantly, a lack of belief in Christ is no obstacle to enjoying Christmas, as shown by the millions of non-Christians who tell pollsters that they celebrate the holiday commemorating the birth of Christ. Only those unable to tolerate the Christian origins of the holiday will not find something to enjoy in the multifaceted celebration of Christmas that has developed in America.
Indeed, one of the people highlighted by Gibson, who wanted to restore the "winter break" in Covington, Georgia to its former name of "Christmas break," was not a regular churchgoer and was motivated by his belief that Christmas "was something that was, in a way, uniquely American" and was "recognized to one extent or another by people of different faiths, people of no faith."
Gibson's book has certainly struck a nerve. Michelle Goldberg wrote a piece at Salon.com [How the secular humanist grinch didn't steal Christmas] comparing Gibson's book to John Birch Society tracts and Henry Ford's musings in "The International Jew." According to Goldberg,
"There is no War on Christmas. What there is, rather, is a burgeoning myth of a War on Christmas, assembled out of old reactionary tropes, urban legends, exaggerated anecdotes and increasing organized hostility to the American Civil Liberties Union. It's a myth that can be self-fulfilling, as school board members and local politicians believe the false conservative claim that they can't celebrate Christmas without getting sued by the ACLU and thus jettison beloved traditions."
In Goldberg's world, nativity scenes have disappeared across America not because the ACLU or anyone else wanted them to go, but because conservatives, by going on about the ACLU, have scared local officials into removing them. Unsurprisingly, Goldberg doesn't offer any facts to support her novel view of reality.
Goldberg's aversion to facts is understandable, because an examination of the facts simply confirms what everyone but Goldberg knows—that the public celebration of Christmas is being diminished to the point that even the word "Christmas" is considered controversial. For example, Goldberg attacks the American Family Association's boycott of Target "because of the chain's purported refusal to use the phrase 'Merry Christmas' in its advertising." But Snopes.com—hardly a political site—investigated Target, and found that although store employees were allowed to say "Merry Christmas" at their discretion, the store, like other retailers, assiduously avoided the word Christmas, going so far as to refer to "traditional holiday stockings" and "traditional holiday ornaments."
Goldberg dismisses the whole "War Against Christmas" as an exercise in conspiracy-mongering, without offering any explanation for how a holiday celebrated by 96% of all Americans is now so toxic that retailers are afraid to call Christmas ornaments and Christmas stockings by their names.
The explanation, of course, is that those upset by Christmas have complained and their complaints have been carried by the media and incorporated into school curricula. And Americans eager to appear "tolerant" or simply to avoid controversy have responded by censoring expressions of Christmas.
Ironically, another critic of Gibson, Adam Cohen, undercuts Goldberg's attempt to paint Gibson as a conspiracy nut. Cohen, writing in the December 4, 2005 New York Times, criticizes Gibson for trying "to make America more like a theocracy." But Cohen also notes that there have long been complaints about the public celebration of Christmas, including a walkout of 20,000 Jewish students from the New York City public schools in 1906 to protest the singing of Christmas carols. [This Season's War Cry: Commercialize Christmas, or Else, By Adam Cohen December 4, 2005]
Such complaints have had their desired effect. As Cohen writes,
"For decades, companies have replaced 'Christmas parties' with 'holiday parties,' schools have adopted 'winter breaks' instead of 'Christmas breaks,' and TV stations and stores have used phrases like 'Happy Holidays' and 'Seasons Greetings' out of respect for the nation's religious diversity."
Yes, Virginia (and Michelle), there is a War Against Christmas.
Cohen, of course, approves of all this. And he doesn't approve of those who object, writing that
"There is also something perverse, when Christians are being jailed for discussing the Bible in Saudi Arabia and slaughtered in Sudan, about spending so much energy on stores that sell 'holiday trees.'"
Somehow, one doubts that Cohen would have criticized the Jewish students who walked out of the New York schools in 1906 on the grounds that they should have been worried about Tsarist pogroms instead. In fact, of course, Christians and others who enjoy Christmas are perfectly justified in objecting to the effort to censor and suppress Christmas, without waiting for a situation that resembles the oppression found in Sudan or Saudi Arabia.
Cohen also criticizes those upset by the disappearance of Christmas from stores for "not just tolerating [the] commercialization [of Christmas], they're insisting on it," even invoking "A Charlie Brown Christmas" to buttress his point.
Cohen is wrong. Wanting retailers to wish customers "Merry Christmas" isn't insisting on commercialization, but courtesy. Retailers depend on Christmas for their economic well-being. Asking that they at least acknowledge the holiday to which they owe their good fortune does not seem excessive, and treating the word "Christmas" as if it were a profanity to be avoided in polite conversation is offensive.
Nor did "A Charlie Brown Christmas" ask us to be quiet about Christmas, in the interests of "religious diversity." In fact, that wonderful program mentioned no winter holiday except Christmas, featured a religious Christmas pageant in a public school, had Linus recite St. Luke's account of the Nativity, and ended with the Peanuts singing "Hark, The Herald Angels Sing."
But Cohen does have a point, the same one noted by Gibson. So much of the public celebration of Christmas has already been lost that the areas currently being contested sometimes do not seem worth the effort. I would gladly keep quiet about retailers not using the word Christmas, if my being silent would bring back the sort of school Christmas plays shown in "A Charlie Brown Christmas."
But, unfortunately, silence will not cause the Christmases we remember to return, it will merely hasten the day when such Christmases become unimaginable.
Objecting to the continuing suppression of Christmas is the only way to bring back the spirited and joyous public celebration of Christmas—which is why, in their different ways, Michelle Goldberg and Adam Cohen are so angry with John Gibson.
Enter VDARE.COM's 2005 War Against Christmas Competition now!
Tom Piatak writes from Cleveland, Ohio.