Monday, November 28, 2011

The Silent (and Imaginary) War

Every year around this time, holiday* decorations and paraphernalia crop up everywhere. Christmas lights, Hanukkah lights, Advent candles, they all spring out of the dusty boxes in the back room and bedeck our stores, streets, and homes.

Every year it gets bigger, brighter, more festive, and more disheartening. Why disheartening? Because there is an imaginary war going on, and there are people who believe in it so strongly that they make the rest of us look bad just for being associated by religion.

When I look at things like this, I get worried about two things. First, I'm concerned about the commercialization of the holidays*. That is, that the spiritual message of the holidays* is lost in the wake of things like Black Friday, amazing sales and deals on things, and the constant streaming media that glorifies it all. Second I'm concerned about people who honestly believe that Christmas is under attack. To me, these are the people who desperately want to be the victim. Like many in the conservative world, they see themselves as the misunderstood and often devalued victims of society. It's ironic that self-described Christians should feel this way living in America, where Christianity is practically oppressive to other religions and beliefs. But no, they prattle on about how they are the ones being disenfranchised in the stores when the clerk says "happy holidays" instead of making the choice to wish them a "merry Christmas" without knowing whether they celebrate Christmas or not.

And how are the stores supposed to know if you celebrate Christmas? Really? The only place I know of in my area that it's not an issue is the place that is specifically geared toward Christmas. But saying "happy holidays" should not make people think that the spirit of Christmas is somehow diminished. If that's all it takes to make you feel like Christmas is under attack, I would encourage you to take a midwinter trip to North Korea and shout "Merry Christmas" from the tarmac. I'm pretty sure you wouldn't be home for New Years.

The fact is, America is an incredibly tolerant place, but that tolerance goes for everybody, and in that spirit, many retailer have rightfully decided to do away with greetings and thank-you's that are focused to one holiday. As this article cleverly points out, the war on Christmas is nothing more than a stunt of publicity and has more to do with being upset and angry about something than it does about being oppressed.

My concern, though, is that these people who believe in the war on Christmas don't seem to understand that they are doing more damage to the name of Christ and Christians than department store clerks. They become so hot-headed about this stuff, and it turns people off. Christianity is supposed to be about love and acceptance and Christmas, being ranked second as most-important holiday on the Christian calendar, ought to usher in a time of greater love and acceptance of everyone, don't you think?



*I use the word holiday here, not to diminish the spirit of Christmas, but to acknowledge that there is more than one holiday at this time of year, that they all deserve equal acceptance, and that everyone is entitled to their own beliefs. I'm not engaging in anti-Christian warfare.

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