Lazy Holiday Thinking: Part 2

Previously I delved into my disdain over sloppy thinking regarding a classic holiday song. This time I’d like to focus on the idea of Holidays and them being happy.

So lets start by stating the obvious, there is no “War on Christmas”. Such a phrase makes hyperbole blush. Have you shot at anyone saying Merry Christmas recently? Have you physically confronted and threatened anyone who said the phrase? Have you even gone out of your way to try and get people to stop saying it? No? I didn’t think so. The simple reason being individuals are free in this country to say and think nearly whatever they like. Christmas is nominally the holiday of Christians and as we have freedom of religion in this country, they have every right to celebrate it. Even though we’ve generally secularized Christmas, many still celebrate it with a Christian flavor and their worship is protected by the constitution. Conspicuous lack of actual war so far. So, that aside, is there a concerted effort to marginalize Christmas?

What if, a business decided it was going to stop advertizing with “Merry Christmas” and replace it with “Happy Holidays”. Would this be an attack on Christmas? If you think that it is, you’ve got a lot more work ahead of you than you may believe. If this is to be considered an attack on Christmas ie. when Christmas is not highlighted as the sole holiday of December, then it must be argued that Christmas is the holiday and all others are beneath it for the purposes of retailers who serve the general community. For, you see, WalclubJCMacy’s serves more than just Christians and may even be of the mind that the Free Market (peace be upon it) would react better to their show of diversity than the Free Market (peace be upon it) would react to advertizing the holiday of just one religion. Even beyond market interests, said business could also choose to change slogans out of nothing more than recognition of the numerous other faiths and their holiday traditions that exist in our country. Therefore, following this train of thought that going from Merry Christmas to Happy Holidays is an attack, it must mean that it’s an attack on Christmas if the acknowledgement of other religions (or no religion at all) somehow diminishes Christmas, making it less dominant in a multicultural public sphere.

You could say that, since Christmas once held a monopoly on advertizing and gov’t displays, that any space given to other faiths (and no faith) takes up room that Christmas was already using, thus diminishing Christmas. This, while true, assumes that because this is a mostly Christian nation, all displays must be Christmas themed or it’s an attack. This is a very narrowminded view to hold indeed. We are a secular democracy of multiple faiths and races and simply because the majority forced its way in the past regarding¬†public displays, doesn’t mean that it was right to do so then or that we should continue that policy now. Unless, there is another more persuasive argument as to why private and/or public companies should refuse to revise their Holiday slogan if they so choose, then we must admit that there is no “war” being waged in regards to it.

What if the gov’t decided it was going to stop celebrating Christmas? What if the White House (run by a Christian, mind you) decided it was going to refrain from making an overt gesture to a single religion at the expense of all others? Would this be an attack on Christmas? If so it’s been done lots of times before. When Jefferson was asked to institute a national day of prayer over Thanksgiving, Jefferson wrote

“I consider the government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises…”

So, Jefferson went a huge leap forward and stated the government wouldn’t get behind any religious affair. This is due to the first amendment which states:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Jefferson took that so seriously he wouldn’t even endorse a day of prayer, as he took that to be an intermingling of the Government and religious bodies. So, was Jefferson attacking Christmas? I certainly don’t see how that can be said to be the case. In fact his commitment to the first amendment caused him to state his solidarity in protecting Christians from other Christians. In 1801 the Baptists of Danbury Connecticut wrote to Jefferson because they were being persecuted by the Congregationalists of Danbury Connecticut. Jefferson wrote

“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”

Thus, the Government (State or Federal), if it is even tacitly endorsing any one religion should stop. Full stop.

But nowhere will you find in all this an attack on Christmas. Only an overdue recognition that one kind of Christian isn’t the only group living in America and that we should as a country make room for all/any others in our governmental and societal customs. All citizens are still free to speak of and follow whatever holiday they personally choose. The lesson here is simple “Not total dominance” does not equal “Persecution.”

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