A (Late) Christmas Rant

A while back I saw a church sign that said “I Miss Hearing ‘Merry Christmas.’” You know what, Mr. Christian? If you miss hearing “Merry Christmas” how about you say it more often? You can’t control anyone else, and you shouldn’t want to. If it floats someone else’s boat to say “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings,” what is it to you? We have this thing called “freedom” in this country, and that means people don’t have to celebrate the holidays in any one specific way, even in the way you want them to. So hows about you celebrate the holidays your way and let everyone else do it their way?

As we saw in one of Rick Perry’s television ads, there’s this idea among a segment of fundamentalist and evangelical Christianity that there’s a “war on Christmas.” There’s this idea that Christmas has been secularized and robbed of its religious meaning. And I used to believe it. I don’t any longer, and the reason is simple.

We don’t enforce any one way to celebrate holidays. There is no “war on Christmas” because there’s no one stopping evangelical or fundamentalist Christians from celebrating Christmas however they like. If there’s a “war on Christmas,” it’s that fundamentalists and evangelicals are not allowed to force their way of celebrating Christmas on everyone else – and that’s generally called “freedom,” not a “oppression.”

Have you noticed the men wearing black uniforms who go around taking away families’ nativity sets? Have you noticed how Christians have to sneak to church on Christmas Eve in secret so that they won’t be fined or imprisoned? Have you noticed that Christians must speak to each other of Jesus’ birth in secret, so that no one will report them? No? Yeah, me neither.

The beauty of this country’s emphasis on freedom, religious and otherwise, is that every family may celebrate holidays as they choose to. Jews can celebrate their Jewish holidays, Muslims can celebrate their Muslim holidays, and so on. No one is stopping Christians from celebrating their religious holidays, most primarily Christmas and Easter. If a Christian family wants to center Christmas around Jesus’ birth, and relate every aspect of their Christmas celebration to their religious beliefs, they can have at it and no one will stop them.

One argument I’ve heard made, including in Perry’s ad, is that there’s a “war on Christmas” because Christmas can’t be celebrated in public schools and nativity scenes can’t be placed on official government property. The problem with this argument is that we don’t celebrate Ramadan in schools either, or Purim, or any other religion’s religious holidays. Schools aren’t the place for celebrating religious holidays, they’re a place for learning – celebrating religious holidays should be left up to houses of worship and individual families. The only sort of holidays that should be allowed to be celebrated in schools are those that are cultural rather than religious. Or, conversely, we could celebrate all religious holidays in school, but I’m pretty sure evangelicals and fundamentalists wouldn’t like that either. As for nativity scenes, we don’t put religious symbols on courthouse lawns for Ramadan or Purim, and until we do I see no reason why religious symbols should be placed on courthouse yards for Christmas either. This isn’t an issue of religious persecution. It’s an issue of religious freedom.

Something I’ve noticed over the last three years is that when evangelical and fundamentalist Christians cry “persecution!” what they really mean is that their beliefs are not being held up as the establishment and enforced on others. The “war on Christmas” means “everyone else isn’t celebrating Christmas OUR way!” or “we’re not allowed to have OUR way of celebrating Christmas publicly endorsed by the government!” The war on traditional marriage means “everyone else isn’t doing marriage OUR way!” The war on Biblical morality means “everyone else isn’t following OUR morals!”

You know what? Christians are free to celebrate Christmas as they like, carry out their marriages as they like, and follow the morals they find in the Bible. What they are not free to do is force others to do the same. And that is not called persecution of Christians. It’s called freedom.

So yeah. That whole “war on Christmas” thing? Baloney.

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Arachne

    I agree. Most of the "War on Christmas" bs seems to stem from the horror of seeing other people having the freedom to celebrate winter holidays the way they wish to. I even had a conversation with someone a couple of months ago who claimed "our culture is being stolen from us" in America. lol what? Someone is forcing you to give up your culture because you can't make other people do what you want?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17500128753102750833 Mommy McD

    Its an odd disconnect. I have noticed that the problem is they feel that evangelizing is a central tenet of their religious freedom and they take that to the extent of forcing others to hear/ see their evangelism. Sort of like the cries against anti-bullying laws. It infringes on their right to discriminate. There is also a huge misunderstanding between private and public speech, and also between freedom of speech and freedom to hear(?) As you say, there is nothing stopping anyone from saying "merry christmas" all they want, barring some employees while at work (again private vs public speech). And to expect to only hear "merry Christmas" because that is your preference is truly a lack of awareness.

  • http://janeyqdoe.com Janey

    Good point, Mommy McD, but have you ever noticed that they seem to conflate 'evangelizing' with 'making everybody be exactly like me whether they want to or not'? It would be a poor god who bought into that.

  • Rosa

    It's too bad we can't just promise them the right to enforce their Christmas preferences…just as soon as they convene a big Town Hall of all the Christians in the country, to decide what the Official Christian Position is.My friends parents keep popping up on Facebook to say things like "We just want to keep the beauty of Christmas alive! How can you turn away from the simple focus on Jesus you were raised with?" and then when anybody says anything (like "well you took away all the fun parts so as a grownup I have no emotional connection to the holiday") they back off and say "well I didn't want to have a fight." Right. They want the freedom to say whatever they want and raise their kids however they want and never hear a negative word about it, even from those kids.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03579073876698902653 Rebecca

    Okay, related to your post is my biggest annoyance about the season: The "put the Christ back in Christmas" signs people put in their front yards around here. Every time I see one I roll my eyes. The problem for me in this whole "war on Christmas" business is that SOME Christians seem to forget that Jesus isn't generally thought to have been born in December. Hmmm… doesn't that mean that Christ had to be injected into another festival to create Christmas in the first place? I'm sure the other religious and cultural groups who had their festival hijacked would have liked their gods or philosophies put back into the season as well. Why is it so hard to practice your religion without whitewashing it? Why is your winter religious celebration less important if you admit that you were not the first one who thought of it? Why is it less spiritual if you say, "we celebrate this occurrence at this time of year because historically we wanted to appeal to people who became Christians from other faiths that celebrated at this time of year before converting."At least that statement acknowledges that Christmas wasn't originally "Christmas." The need to not only celebrate, but claim that you are the first or only group that has claim on a celebration, is the biggest thing that bothers me. BAH HUMBUG! :-p

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14775794907218052899 Amanda

    Yeah, speaking as a Christian? Ain't no war on Christmas. I'm free to celebrate it as I wish. My local mommy message board was discussing the use of "Happy Holidays" and "Merry Christmas" and all of us were just fine with either, and tend to tailor our usage depending on who we're talking to, then one smart-alek hopped in with "I am OFFENDED when someone wishes me Happy Holidays! Don't force YOUR way on ME! This country (blah blah blah)… and if you don't like it, go back where you came from!"Uhm, okay. And just how is a nice, inclusive "Happy Holidays" forcing anything on anyone? Good grief.So yeah, the whole "War on Christmas" is just flatly ridiculous.

  • JeseC

    I do love the "go back where you came from" arguments. Seems to me a lot of us were born and raised in the states. Methinks there's a bit of racism showing in their arguments? After all, we know that no good white american would be a non-christian.

  • Exrelayman

    Nice rant. Regrettably, too sensible to register with those who need to hear it. It is still 'happy holidays' is sooo offensive to me, but insisting on 'merry christmas' should NOT offend you. Ay yi yi!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11366638376991975702 Sheena

    Yes. Exactly. Precisely. A million times over.I am more frustrated (not offended, usually) by Christians who claim that the Baby Jesus story of Christmas is more important, relevant, or significant than cultural traditions related to Christmas — and that Christmas is more important, relevant, and significant than any other holiday. Each culture and religion has significant events. The fundamentalist Protestant version of those events is not superior to any other. Specific traditions are important to the individual following them, as they should be — but that doesn't mean they will or should be important to everyone.I mean, I still follow a "tradition" from childhood of watching "The Muppet Christmas Carol". I don't expect everyone else to watch the movie, or to know why it's important to me. Not everyone imagines Ebenezer Scrooge as played by Michael Caine, just like not everyone reads the passage in Luke on Christmas Eve or has a nativity scene in the living room (and another outside) or inflatable Santas or even multicolor/white/blinky lights on their trees. And, really, the only time I automatically wish someone a "Merry Christmas" is between 23-26 December. The day after Thanksgiving is not Christmas. It's November.

  • Judy L

    You hit that one in all the right places, Libby. Whenever anyone raises the spectre of the War on Christmas, I say that there is indeed a war on Christmas, and it’s the war that the religious right is waging against my enjoyment of secular Christmas, which is about friends and family and food and gifts and pretty decorations and Santa. I would never tell someone that they can’t wish me a Merry Christmas or a Happy Christmas, but they want to tell me that their way is the only way. Screw them. And Santa and the elves should arm themselves, because in this war against Christmas, they’re the targets.