Around this time every year, we begin hearing a resonance in the political/religious aether of conservative talk radio, pulpits, and other echo chambers where the cry can be heard “There is a war on Christmas.” This proclamation is oftentimes paired with the idea that the liberal propaganda machines are hard at work trying to make the U.S. a secular nation and that religion – specifically, Christianity – has no place in this type of society. This is none the more evident than during the Christmas season, as “Merry Christmas” turns into “Happy Holidays”. Traditional symbols of Christmas, such as the manger scene and religious Christmas songs, are replaced with Christmas trees, elves, and Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You.”
Many of these individuals also argue that this war on Christmas is really just one part of a larger war against Christianity. A war that is 365 days a year.
Where Did the War on Christmas Originate?
If you are like me, you might be wondering where all of this came from. To me, it all seemed to come out of nowhere. One day, you might be enjoying a Starbucks coffee, and the next day you hear that Christians are boycotting Starbucks because of their cup design. Or that the move to “Happy Holidays” over “Merry Christmas” is part of a larger conspiracy against religious Americans.
According to the New York Times the roots of this issue stem back to 2005 with the publication of John Gibson’s book “The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought”. Gibson was the host of the Fox News program “The Big Story”.
In his book, Gibson argues that there is a coordinated effort by the ACLU, atheist organizations, and “Christian haters” to secularize Christmas. Gibson’s book is a metaphorical call to arms for Christians to not allow their civil liberties to be violated.
As expected, Fox News decided to jump on the bandwagon and capitalize on Christian rage by proclaiming that they were the protectors of traditional family values. This was most often exhibited on the show “The O’Reilly Factor”. The host of the show was the outspoken Bill O’Reilly, who only a year after John Gibson’s book, published “Culture Warrior”. Similar to Gibson, the goal of O’Reilly’s book was to convince “traditional Americans”, that “Secular Progressives” were aiming to create a secular society to eliminate traditional family values.
From 2005 – 2017 Fox News was able to capitalize on a culture of fear among conservative Christians that was further exacerbated by politicians and other right-wing leaders. They routinely documented the cases they thought demonstrated secularists violating the rights of conservatives.
Now, 15 years later, a culture has been fostered through the constant reaffirmation of a plot to undermine traditional “American” values. In fact, in 2015 Donald Trump ran a campaign to woo conservative Christians by proclaiming that he would bring “Merry Christmas” back.
Are Christians Really Being Persecuted?
This begs the question, are Christians really being persecuted? Is there a liberal agenda to make the US a secular nation? Although some organizations indeed have a personal vendetta against religious Americans, it is NOT the case that this is wide-spread across multiple disparate people and organizations. Many of these people simply want the ability to express their beliefs just as Christians want to express theirs.
What does seem to be evident is that the constant reminders that there exists a culture war has created a fallacious way of thinking about reality. The delusion has positioned conservative Christians in such a way that all they can see are biases towards themselves. This is referred to as confirmation bias. In their mind, every act that opposes what they believe serves as just another example of the plot against them.
Ironically, there is much evidence to suggest that many religious conservatives do the very thing they accuse secularists of doing. Namely, plotting to make the country a more religious nation. They often do this by requiring those outside of the Church to adhere to their customs and practices. Sometimes that occurs through acts of legislation and other times it occurs through boycotts. The reality is that conservative Christians are more likely to be the persecutors than to be persecuted in American society.
Do Conservative Christians Have A Persecution Complex?
It seems to me there is a vicious cycle that exists between conservative Christians and our culture. The conservative religious/political machine is constantly picking at various aspects of the secular within our society. When those entities decide to fight back it is suddenly considered persecution.
Even if what conservative Christians say is true, the use of the word “persecution” is a misnomer. Only the most arrogant and privileged society would argue that what American Christians experience is persecution. We should reserve that word for those who are actually being persecuted. Those Christians around the world whose life is threatened every day simply because they exist. It’s offensive to believe that the discomfort you derive from hearing “Happy Holidays” is on par with the sounds of gunfire off in the distance.
Perhaps conservative Christians are too comfortable. Perhaps their need to seek out disdain for their beliefs is evidence of something much deeper. Regardless, something has to change because as a result of this attitude the Church is being perceived as “anti-culture”. Jesus never commissioned the Church to be against culture. In fact, just the opposite:
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35 NIV)
2020 has been a tough year for everyone. Instead of spreading anguish and hate, let’s spread love because you never know who needs it.