For my last post on the “War on Christmas”, did you know that the historical and modern reality is that there actually has been, and still is, a war on Christmas? The crazy truth is that there actually is a war on Christmas– and it’s not being fought by the people you’d expect… the legitimate war on Christmas has been, and still is, waged by Christian fundamentalists. In the past, they had law and culture on their side. Today, they wage it through shaming and argumentation.
Either way, this is a battle that has been primarily fought by fundamentalists, and likely will continue to be fought by them.
With the affection we have for Christmas as Christians, we tend to assume that those who have gone before us held it in equal regard– but that’s simply untrue. Specifically within the context of American Christianity, celebrating Christmas was actually made illegal by the Puritans (in 1659)– any participating in Christmas would earn the more liberal Christian a monetary fine. Even the simple act of taking the day off from work was often considered participation in Christmas, and worthy of being charged.
While Christmas didn’t stay illegal, it actually hasn’t been a holiday in America for all that long. The last state to recognize Christmas did so in 1907, and the first didn’t until 1890, which historically speaking, isn’t that long ago. Yet even after it had become legal to celebrate, the fundamentalist war against Christmas continued– as John Gibson notes in The War on Christmas, as late as 1869 public-school kids in Boston could be expelled for skipping class on Christmas Day.
Hard-core fundamentalists/religious conservatives/puritans (depending how you define the terms) have always hated Christmas (along with the other celebrations of the Church calendar, such as Easter). The earlier ones in our country fought it quite effectively, winning the law on their side if only for a time. However, they still controlled the culture forces for quite some time, causing the celebration of Christmas to be something that was culturally frowned upon in parts of the country.
This, was the real war on Christmas.
Believe it or not, this culture war to rid ourselves of Christmas is still alive and well in fundamentalists circles, as I have just witnessed this week through watching conversations on Facebook. While they no longer control the narrative, there are still considerable pockets of fundamentalists trying to convince other Christians that it’s a sin to celebrate the birth of Jesus. The objections are the same as back in early American history; Christmas was originally associated with a pagan holiday and the Bible doesn’t command we celebrate it. The fact that a bit-o-drinking goes along with the holiday and some rowdy parties take place, sealed the deal withe the Puritans– and continues to seal the deal with fundamentalists today.
If you don’t think a Christian on Christian war over Christmas exists, you’d be wrong. Over the past few weeks, I haven’t received any negative e-mails from atheists or Hindu’s regarding the celebration of Christmas, but I have been told– by fellow Christians– that I’m not a “true” Christian for celebrating Christmas. As one commenter on the blog wrote:
Unfortunately, their argumentation doesn’t make a lot of sense (as with a host of issues fundies argue about). For example, this commenter cites Jesus’ teaching on money (you can’t serve to masters, God and money) as somehow relating to Christmas. They are convinced of their position and I fear there will be no unconvincing them: no good Christian should celebrate the birth of the leader whom our religion is named after.
The current war on Christmas looks differently than with the early Puritans. Gone are the days of actually trying to legislate a ban on Christmas– instead, like latter Puritan culture, the modern attempt is to wage the war within Christian circles, and to win by convincing other Christians that they are either “sinning” or “not true Christians” by participating in Christmas.
Case in point: the other night I stumbled upon a fundie conversation on Facebook on the subject of Christmas, and the thread made it clear that the fundamentalist Christian war on Christmas is still being waged. Now, for contextual purposes, the original poster is a fundamentalist street preacher (the kind with a vehicle that has “repent” sprawled across it), and the folks who chime in are presumably other, stricter fundamentalists. This context should show the battle ground where the real war on Christmas is played out:
So, when we talk about the “war on Christmas” we should first remember that there actually was a war on Christmas– fought by Christians, who actually succeeded in making Christmas illegal. Second, we should be aware that the modern war on Christmas isn’t being fought by the ACLU or the Freedom from Religion Foundation, but instead is being fought quietly within fundamentalist subculture.
The real war on Christmas doesn’t look like a billboard— it looks like Christians telling other Christians that God works for the NSA, has secretly installed a hidden camera in your house, and will know of you’ve hung a stocking by the chimney with care or not.
And, if you do, you might as well jump into that fire yourself– because that’s where you’re headed when God reviews the secretly recorded security footage of your house.
This is the real war on Christmas. The war on Christmas is quietly played out by telling others that you don’t “fear God” that “God is recording everything you do”, that you are not “set apart”, that you are “offending” God, and that you’re one day going to have to “stand before him” because you celebrated the birth of Jesus.
The beauty of this fundamentalist tactic is that as soon as Christmas is over, one can use the same exact lines and argumentation for the war on whatever is next.
So, yes, there is a war on Christmas– but it’s not being fought by the people you’d think.
The war on Christmas is, and always has been, a fundamentalist endeavor.