Friday, December 26, 2008

"Assualt" on Christmas? - Not Really

First things first: A very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to my fellow bloggers! I hope it was special for everyone.

Which brings me to something I wanted to muse about momentarily. There seems to have been much news and commentary lately regarding a so-called "assault on Christmas." I read a news item referring to a woman being fired for saying "Merry Christmas" rather than "Happy Holidays" to customers at her place of business. At first blush this seems an outrage. Five minutes with an employment or First Amendment attorney, however, and one might begin to see things differently.

Let me say from the outset that nothing about Christmas is worthy of assault. What to many religious people appears to be an assault on their faith is really a subtle shift in the cultural zeitgeist. By this I mean to suggest that the cultural dominance of Christianity in America is slowly and inexorably diminishing. The challenge may lie in convincing Christians that this is a good thing and in their best interest. The very preservation of Christianity in our culture depends not upon its dominance but rather on the recognition and preservation of other world views - religious and non-religious alike.

The truth is religious people, especially Christians, have had their way with American cultural influence for a very long time. But as our country evolves toward a more representative and inclusive brand of multi-cultural society, it is important that minority religions, as well as the religiously skeptical, be allowed the freedom to express their ideas without being made to feel inferior or less relevant and with the protections of pertinent law.

As Barack Obama said in 2006, "Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation. We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation and a Hindu nation, and a nation of non-believers." See Barack Obama On Religion and Politics. This concept is simply difficult for many Christians to accept; and espousing this kind of thinking does not constitute an assault on Christianity.

It makes perfect sense that nativity scenes be displayed on the lawns of churches and museums and not on the lawns of town halls. Adherence to the principle of church-state separation is critical to the protection of free religious expression. Government can not be seen as promoting or preferring one religion over another precisely because as guarantors of free expression such an imprimatur would subvert the very freedoms it seeks to guarantee.

Christmas will survive - even thrive - in a culture of religious plurality and government neutrality. Such is the way with things as special as Christmas.


  1. Whoa, I got something to sink my teeth into on this one Bill. Woo Hoo!!!

    If our country was based on separation of church and state, I have never understood the flox over having religious objects either being displayed or there lack of on or in any government building.

    Once I was old enough to get the whole separation thing (pre-atheist days) I still did not understand why such an uproar was taking place. A funny thing just occurred to me while typing this comment.

    What if, Mr. Obama, executes his right to worship any religion he so see fits to. He professes to be a Christian, but he does have Islamic background. Can you see the white house observing Ramadan. I would be in my glory. Now, where was I?

    What I do not understand is a few things about Christians. Why do they feel so threatened. (For those who have seen Jesus Camp, you will understand) If you are confident in your faith, then why am I or anyone else be a threat to you.

    As far as you are concerned, I am going to hell anyhow, unless you can save me. And if I am hell bent on not being saved, then why the threat. I don't feel threatened by them. And they try to save me. And in no uncertain terms told me that if I do not accept Christ, I will not enjoy the benefits that Heaven has to offer. Oh well.

    And why can't they leave well enough alone. Do they realize how obnoxious they are when they try to save us? I don't try any sway them to the 'Dark Side', so why to they feel this impending need to make sure I reach the gates of heaven I feel do not exist?

    But I do believe Obama's words to ring true. We are no longer a nation of Christians. And is it not the motto of every Christina to love they neighbor. But in my head, I can hear in the background, "Only if they are a Christian!"

  2. Bill, as usual a good and thought provoking post.

    Cooking Lady, more often than not, you and I seem to be on the same wave length, it's almost eerie. I have been pondering a post on "Jesus Camp" for days, but have hesitated for various reasons, I think I will work on it today.

    As far as Christians trying to "save" you...IMHO a true Christian or friend is only trying to reach you out of love and concern, it is because they love you, and even if you feel they are the misguided ones, at least know that they care enough to risk offending you. On the other hand, many so called Christians seem to try to reach out and "save" "the poor lost souls" out of some sort of imaginary browine point system and I find them rude and obnoxious to say the least and can totally understand your thoughts and feelings!

    I agree with your perception of "love your neighbor...but only if they're christian" that sadly is how it appears more often than not, and I apologize for that!

    I think the whole world would be a better place of we just followed the golden rule "do unto others" and the great command love your neighbor, and really lived it out the way it was meant to!

    As far as the whole, "Happy Holidays" vs. "MErry Christmas" I don't get it...I think employees should be allowed to say either. While for me, Christmas is a deeply religious experience, it isn't for most. My Buddhist friends, Muslim friends and even an Athiest or two I know celebrate the holiday, the tree, gifts, the whole nine yards...of course they may leave out the nativity and other religious symbols, but it seems to me even many christians today are, it is getting hard to tell one from the other. As far as I know my Buddhist friends, call Christmas, Christmas, their gift basket to me said "MErry Christmas" so, while as a Christian I find it a little sad that Christmas has become so secluar, the fact is it has, but even so it is a secular "Chritsmas", not any other name that I am aware of. So why the big deal over saying Merry Christmas? I say both, depending on my mood and company,(merry christmas or happy holidays) but Christmas is a holiday, there are many holidays, Easter, Valentines, etc..the proper name/noun would be Christmas, I guess I am just confused on where the offense would be in saying such?? Feel free to enlighten me.

    I don't mind someone saying happy holidays vs the other, but to me again, it is more of a free speech issue than what one chooses to call the holiday or how they choose to celebrate...a rose by any other name....

  3. Good Post!

    This is just an idea, but, perhaps, PEOPLE have really just reached their end with the whole idea of OTHER PEOPLE deciding, irrevocably, who's right and who's wrong and who's in and who's out and who's "saved" and who's not... Especially when these "moral deciders" can't agree with each other, sometimes end up on the wrong side of the law, and, at their extremest extreme, can be a source of terrorism in our world.

    I once considered myself to be a full-on born-again Christian. I spent a lot of time in prayer and in the bible and occasionally witnessed to others, etc., etc., etc. In fact, off and on, that was my understanding and way of life for over 20 years. I believed that my faith was right and that people of other faiths were simply misled. And I won't go into all my reasons for no longer thinking that way or being a part of that whole society...but to say that, ultimately, it came down to the whole theme of COMPASSION toward other human beings and the planet we share.

    Today, when considering Christianity as well as many other religions, it seems that their sense of "being right" and "holy entitlement" so often trumps their human-kindness and practicality toward OTHER PEOPLE with whom they share a lifetime and a planet. It seems that they far prefer obedience to their own understanding of a supposed god that they CANNOT see... to concepts such as acceptance and tolerance toward people they CAN see.

    And, perhaps, a lot of us are just ready to have a little "Christmas", and any other holiday for that matter, without the heaviness of so much religious speculation and presumed favoritism. So we are instead tending more to say a simple "Happy Holidays" that does not ultimately imply the need to draw a line in the sand.

  4. I am in agreement with you, Tara, if we operate from the assumption that Christmas is largely a secular institution. As an atheist, not only am I not in the least bit offended when someone says, "Merry Christmas" to me, I am quick to offer the same wish to others precisely because Christmas today has such secular characteristics in our society.

    There are those, as I'm sure you know, who want to keep Christmas a strictly religious institution. Ironically, it may be these very people who are driving political correctness to extremes. If one is to treat Christmas as a strictly religious event, it makes perfect sense not to say "Merry Christmas" to strangers whose religious proclivities we know nothing about.

    You seem willing to accept that the tradition of Christmas in America has evolved into quite the secular event.

    To beat this dead horse even further, I happen to be aware that you are a Christian, which is why offering you a hearty "Merry Christmas" is doubly pleasing for me. I get the reward of your accepting my greetings on both secular and religious grounds. In other words, I want Christmas to be an especially joyful time for you precisely because you are a Christian.

    Now, this "Jesus Camp" thing has my curiosity piqued. . .

  5. When people say "We are a Christian nation" I cringe. I respect Obama's brave assessment,
    "Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation. We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation and a Hindu nation, and a nation of non-believers."

    I like Bill611 comment:
    "PEOPLE have really just reached their end with the whole idea of OTHER PEOPLE deciding, irrevocably, who's right and who's wrong and who's in and who's out and who's "saved" and who's not... Especially when these "moral deciders" can't agree with each other, sometimes end up on the wrong side of the law, and, at their extremest extreme, can be a source of terrorism in our world."

    There is a certain arrogance, especially with the more "fire and brimstone" types of faiths.

    I am also psyched to see "Jesus Camp." I'll check it out at our local library.

    Happy Holidays everyone.

  6. Look up "Jesus Camp" on Youtube. Some very interesting videos and trailers on the brainwashing going on.

  7. Jesus Camp can be viewed for free in it's entirety here: