Is There a War on Christmas? Well, Obviously….
On the one hand, the answer to the question “Is there a war on Christmas” might seem intuitive: Since there is now a war on everything, why not Christmas. There’s a war on women, a war on men, a war on terror, a war on the war on terror, etc.
The folks over at Fox News believe there is a war on Christmas from tax raising liberals who want to end our American way of life. (Note that, as of my posting this, to the right of the page about the “war on Christmas,” Fox also the “Pic of the day,” which today is a supermodel showing off swimwear; not that I have anything against supermodels, but I thought the image presented interesting contrast with the “war on Christmas” from the Fox News angle).
Of course, no one can deny that the long transition from ubiquitous “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays” as well as the diminishing presence of public nativities are just minor marks in the well known secularist transition. In the subversive Thomist worldview (and I would argue it is part and parcel of Catholic thinking) the secular is good, because it is where God moves and reveals himself. But secularism, which is a worldview, one which denies the beauty of divinity and which seeks to strip nature of its sacramentality and impose at least marginal atheism on society, is bad.
Be that as it may, we might still ask: Is there really a war on Christmas? That is, beyond the transition to secularism (which seems to be inevitable in any liberal democratic society, and in that case asking if secularism is bad is like asking if it is bad that I have to eat right to stay healthy), is there something especially at stake in Christmas?
It’s barely been over a week since we saw the American tradition of honoring Christ in the manger by stampeding into our local WalMarts to get the best Christmas sales. Two especially pious men beat a man to death for shop-lifting.
It’s also apparent that this year more people will have to work on Christmas than in previous years. I’m not referring to crucial jobs like hospital and security and non-optional maintenance. I mean retail and restaurant jobs. Every year I see more and more stores and even fast food shops open on Christmas. I notice that Fox News never bothers to mention this when they rant about the “war on Christmas.” Apparently if it is pro-profit, it must be good for Christmas. But if you think Christmas has something to do with taking time with family for recreation and reflection, you’re not really on the Fox horizon.
I won’t deny that there are a handful of radical secularists out there willing to try to strip culture of any memory of its Christian heritage. They will always be around. For the most part, they will have about as much influence as extreme fundamentalists who seek to impose theocracy. The two groups are about equal in number and, although an interesting side show, are really irrelevant.
But I suspect the far greater threat to Christmas comes from the ghosts in the Capitalist machine: What this time of year should be about will be, once again, transformed into a giant commercial headache. People will drain their credit cards; parking spots will be fought over; and a few good drinking parties are sure to be heard.
But in all of this, will Christmas do what it is supposed to do: Will it make us better people? The whole point of Christmas is to remind us of sublime truths that transform us toward the divine: that God is really present in human history; that God comes to us in humble ways that we shouldn’t be afraid to approach. That God works amongst the poor and raises them up. In our Advent readings, we even see an emphasis on peace in the readings from Isaiah. Over and over again this month we will hear that God is going take away our spears and swords to turn them into plowshares and pruning hooks.
Christmas is about the divinization of the world. It is about overturning systems of greed to create equality and justice. It is about ending war and ushering in peace. Yes, there is a war on Christmas, and it might be that Fox News is yet another part of it.