24 December 2015

A real war on Christmas?

Is it just me, or has there been less of the now-customary right-wing rhetoric about a "war on Christmas" in the U.S. this year? Are people still flipping out when a cashier wishes them Happy Holidays? A few still are -- I hear some of them in my capacity as a sort of comment moderator for a call-in line -- but I'd like to think that widespread anger at Islam has at least given Americans a sense of the wider world that puts their petty past complaints in perspective. After all, there are countries in the world where the celebration of Christmas is banned outright. Somalia has just done that, and a few other places have been doing that for a few years now. While the Somalis may have public-safety reasons in mind as well -- the local Islamist terrorists attacked a foreign enclave last Christmas -- they've also made clear that they consider Christmas un-Islamic, understandably enough. To hardcore Muslims Christmas is unacceptable because of its implicit celebration of Jesus's divinity. But other non-Christian places, notably Japan, celebrate Christmas as a mostly secular gift-giving occasion. The Christ in Christmas presumably troubles these people very little, if at all. Nor should it. A secular or non-Christian person should be no more offended by "Merry Christmas" than a Christian should be if a stereotypical British person were suddenly to exclaim, "By Jove!" But if certain businesses prefer "Happy Holidays," it's less to exclude Christ or Christmas than to include Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus or whatever someone might prefer to celebrate. If a Christian employee resents having to use the alternate greeting that's his problem, but he shouldn't have a problem, because "Happy Holidays" is a fitting motto for a society and culture in which Christmas is included. To insist on "Christmas" is to force a Christian character on an occasion that has evolved beyond that, and to force the issue with people who reject Christ. I hope no one equates "Happy Holidays" with the suppression of Christmas by law, but the right wing's "war on Christmas" rhetoric implies just such an equation. Now, however, they know where they can go if they want to fight a real war.

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