The AFA’s Crass ‘War on Christmas’ Campaign

Every year at this time we are now treated to the American Family Association and Liberty Counsel, among other Christian right groups, breathlessly telling their followers which companies are engaged in a “war on Christmas” and which are not. Alyssa Rosenberg reveals just how crass and idiotic the whole thing is:

First, the measure of whether a company is pro-Christmas is hilariously divorced from any theoretical Christian values or expression of the Christmas spirit, and determined solely by marketing. “BLUE: An AFA ’5-Star’ rated company that promotes and celebrates Christmas on an exceptional basis,” the list’s key explains. “GREEN: Company uses the term “Christmas” on a regular basis, we consider that company Christmas-friendly. YELLOW: Company refers to Christmas infrequently, or in a single advertising medium, but not in others. RED: Company may use “Christmas” sparingly in a single or unique product description, but as a company, does not recognize it.”

The only stated value, in other words, is how much retailers talk about Christmas. By this metric, a porn company, or one that kills Bengladeshi child laborers it’s stolen from their families as part of its production process, could issue a statement declaring its belief that Christmas is the most important holiday of the year, slap the term “Christmas” on all of its products, and earn at least a Green rating (though in the former case, the AFA would certainly step in to intervene). The AFA is ostensibly a Christian organization, but the way it determines what counts as naughty or nice rewards effectively companies for how intensely they commercialize the birth of Christ.

That potential for hypocrisy gets even clearer when we look at the list of “Companies For ‘Christmas’” in detail. Walmart, Best Buy, Target, Kmart, Macy’s, Kohl’s, J.C. Penney, and Toys R Us all get passing grades from the American Family Association. They’re also stores that are opening at 6PM on Thanksgiving Day to jumpstart their Black Friday sales, a grotesque invasion of the commercial spirit into a day that’s supposed to be a celebration of America’s beginnings, and has historically been a nearly-universally observed holiday that gives families times together.

But that is only hypocrisy if one believes that the AFA is actually a Christian organization, as opposed to a political machine designed to support right wing causes and sell merchandise (at the bottom of their “naughty and nice” list webpage they’ll be happy to sell you packs of buttons and yard signs to let everyone know that you’re pro-Christmas). This is just another way to fire up the rubes with tall tales of anti-Christian hostility that exists only in their minds.

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  • sigurd jorsalfar

    In other words, “Christmas” is just a brand name and being ‘pro-Christmas’ means mentioning the brand name as much as possible.

    Soon the local Santa Claus parade will be no different from the annual veterans’ day parade in which proud christian soldiers from the War on Christmas will march solemnly, displaying their purple hearts and campaign medals.

  • tomh

    The last sentence quoted seems like a rather gratuitious slap at retail stores that open on Thanksgiving. A “grotesque invasion” of the sacrosanct holiday of Thanksgiving? Ridiculous.

  • Chiroptera

    …J.C. Penney…get passing grades from the American Family Association.

    That can’t be right. Isn’t JC Penney that lesbian company?

  • richardelguru

    “the birth of Christ”

    ‘the supposed, but probably erroneous (even supposing that what they think they are celebrating took place at all) date of the birth of Christ’


  • Eamon Knight

    There’s a fleeting shot in the movie “Brazil”, of a banner from “Consumers for Christ”, bearing a cross emblazoned with a dollar sign. These fools think that’s the way things should be, not a satire of an ugly travesty of what their supposed founder is alleged to have preached. They’re bigger blasphemers that Hitchens, Ingersoll and Madalyn Murray O’Hare combined.

  • zmidponk


    I don’t see it as gratuitous at all. Even leaving aside the rampant commercialism and deliberately manufactured hysteria surrounding Black Friday sales which now intrude into Thanksgiving Day itself, there is also the point that this now means that, for US retail workers, who are often working minimum wage or not much above it, one of their two guaranteed days off a year is now replaced by an extension of probably the most stressful working day of the entire year by quite a margin, simply in the interests of raising the profit margin of the company a bit more.

    All I can say is thank fuck that, despite the best efforts of Asda (owned by Walmart), Black Friday doesn’t seem to be catching on over here in the UK, by and large.

  • tomh

    @ #6

    Sorry, I don’t see the difference between “rampant” commecialism and plain old commercialism. Perhaps we need a list of what is allowed on sacred days like Thanksgiving – stores must be closed, but football stadiums can be open. Are restaurants allowed to open? Certainly not bars, that might intrude on hallowed family time. It’s all just silly. As far as workers go, I don’t know what you mean by “their two guaranteed days off a year,” but minimum wage and hours are an entirely separate subject.

  • wordsmatter

    “…(at the bottom of their “naughty and nice” list webpage they’ll be happy to sell you packs of buttons and yard signs to let everyone know that you’re pro-Christmas).”

    Anyone want to bet against those buttons and yard signs being printed in China, at factories that are operating on Christmas Day?

  • Pierce R. Butler

    What color ranking would a store win for heavily promoting Crassmas?

  • Akira MacKenzie

    wordmatter @ 8

    But those are worthless “chinee” who have no souls, so we don’t have to worry about their salvation. /sarcasm

  • zmidponk


    Sorry, I don’t see the difference between “rampant” commecialism and plain old commercialism.

    Then I suggest you consult the nearest dictionary and look up ‘rampant’.

    Perhaps we need a list of what is allowed on sacred days like Thanksgiving – stores must be closed, but football stadiums can be open. Are restaurants allowed to open? Certainly not bars, that might intrude on hallowed family time. It’s all just silly.

    So actually allowing people who work in these places to actually have time off on Thanksgiving to, you know, actually spend it with their families is ‘silly’? If that’s what you honestly think, then I could not disagree with you more.

    As far as workers go, I don’t know what you mean by “their two guaranteed days off a year,”

    It’s really quite simple – there were only two days in the entire year that US retail workers could be virtually guaranteed not to be working, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. Now that many of the major retail companies have seen fit to even open on Thanksgiving Day in order to chase ever greater profits, that is now one day.

  • Scr… Archivist

    Pierce R. Butler @9

    Or perhaps it should be spelled “Crass-mess”, referring to the Christian Right’s politicization of December and all the fights it sparks. (Never mind the general gaudiness.)

    As for the intrusion of shopping and work obligations on Thanksgiving, let us not forget that Franklin Roosevelt moved it to its current date, which was (in that year) a week earlier than normal. The Republicans were furious. But Congress formalized the change a couple of years later. In other words, Thanksgiving has already been changed for economic reasons, and has long been tied to the beginning of the annual buying binge that Industrial Christmas itself has been since its invention two centuries ago.

    Too bad we can’t have a Labor Thanksgiving Day, like the Japanese have. Maybe then people could get the day off.

    Marry, Commerce! And Mammon bless us, every one!

  • democommie

    “Alyssa Rosenberg reveals just how crass and idiotic the whole thing is:”

    I appreciate the gesture but I need to have that revealed in about the same way that I need to have revealed that a 1/2″ diameter twist drill being forced into my left testicle will hurt.

    KKKristianist assholes will be KKKristianist assholes.

  • whheydt

    Re #’s 7 & 11:

    “Rampant” commercialism is standing upright with its forelegs raised.

  • spamamander, internet amphibian


    Would you care to know how I spent my Thanksgiving? I worked 5am-2pm getting out pies and rolls to lazyasses who couldn’t be arsed to shop before that day, instead of being with my family. Many of my co-workers had to work 6pm-3am because of the effing Black-Friday-is-now-Thursday crap. And as people become even MORE entitled asshats they get pissy the store closes at 8pm on xmas eve and is closed on xmas, because us retail drones should be there at their beck and call. And did I get any kind of extra compensation? Nope. I got 7 hours of holiday pay, and worked 8 hours that day for my normal (low) salary.

  • Modusoperandi

    spamamander, internet amphibian, I don’t know if it helps, but I did not go to your store, did not get in to a fight, and did not get in to another fight. I’m doing what I can to help you out.

    If it helps, I worked too.

    Worked it, I mean. You’d be surprised at the tips harried holiday moms give afterwards. They don’t want presents. All they want is a little attention.

  • tfkreference

    What surprises me is that they use blue for their top rating, but if a store puts blue lights on a tree instead of red, they probably get a lower rating. (The hypocrisy doesn’t surprise me a bit – speaking of which, aren’t they boycotting Target for being gay-friendly?)

  • democommie

    I am fine with stores being open on thanksgiving–as long as everybody working in them prefers to be doing so.

    I have a few beers, from time to time, with a guy who’s diametrically opposed to me, politically*. He’s leaning teabaggish, but still has the ability to reason. He works, part-time at Walmart. Last week his part-time job sucked about 65 hours out of his life, including about 24 hours between 6 PM on Thursday and 11 PM on Friday. He’s rethinking the whole, “Free hand” concept since he had it up his ass all of last week.

    If the Waltons and the rest of the assholes that own MurKKKa have to be open on holidays they should all be working the door or a cash register.

    * FWIW, I have a few beers with almost anybody who will talk with me in public.

  • caseloweraz

    Tony Rohr, manager of an Elkhart, IN Pizza Hut where he’d worked for ten years, was fired for refusing to order his employees to work on Thanksgiving.

    He was re-hired the next day due to nation-wide press coverage. But this incident only reinforces the point that commercialism continues its creep into all aspects of life. Does any state still have the “blue laws”?

    That term, BTW, may be the reason blue is the color for AFA’s top rank.

  • caseloweraz

    Correction: Rohr was offered his job back, but AFAIK he hasn’t decided whether to accept it.

  • wscott

    What bugs me most about the War On Christmas meme is it’s so inherently self-contradictory. Do you want Christmas to be a religious (ie Christian) holiday? Then stop complaining that not everyone celebrates it. Or do you want it to be a cultural celebration that everyone celebrates? Then stop complaining about the secularization of Christmas. Pick One. I really don’t care which. But you can’t have it both ways.

  • Michael Heath


    Great post.

    Of course your framework and frustration presumes religious freedom is a protected right. So the frustration by those falsely claiming a War on Christmas is just another example of their zeal for a theocratic fascist state that they run where we submit.

  • Eamon Knight

    @21: They want it to be a Christian holiday that everyone at least pays lip service to, because Christianity is Teh Awesome, and the rest of us live in this Christian country on their sufferance. Seriously, that is about the size of it. It’s not contradictory, it’s perfectly consistently noxiously theocratic.

    It’s also a stupid lie. As anyone who knows a little history (or is old enough to remember more than 30 years ago, and not just the way they want it to have been) knows, Christmas has had a substantial extra-Christian* component for decades, even centuries.

    * “extra” meant in the sense of “outside”, not as an intensifier.