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.