By Jack Kerwick
Contrary to what many on the political right would have us believe, there is no “War on Christmas.” If there is, it has to be the most poorly prosecuted war that there has ever been.
Granted, the despisers of Christianity dwell among us. Yet it is a mistake to think that they compose a monolith. We can divide these “Christophobes” into three tolerably distinct groups.
First, there are those who would like nothing more than to relegate Christianity itself to the dustbin of history. Their disdain toward, not just public expressions of the Christian faith, but individual Christians appears instinctive.
Second, there are those who have no problem acknowledging the good in Christians. Nor do they mind if Christians go on practicing their faith—as long as they do so outside the proverbial “public square.” For so-called public expressions of faith, however, they have no tolerance.
The third group of anti-Christians consists of those who don’t necessarily mind public expressions of Christian faith—as long as they are accompanied by equally public expressions of other faiths. Those in this third group seek to deprive Christianity of the privileged position that it has historically enjoyed in our culture.
But, even though the substitution of “Happy Holidays” for “Merry Christmas” and the transformation of traditional Christmas symbols—trees, music, films, etc.—into “holiday” symbols would make it seem that Christianity’s enemies have waged a successful “war” on Christmas, a closer look brings into focus a far different picture.
If there really was a war on Christmas, or if the prosecutors of this war were really serious about getting rid of Christmas, then they would see to it that the federal government—hardly a friend to Christianity—would at once revoke Christmas’s standing as a federal holiday. Unless Christmas falls on a weekend, all federal employees should be at work on Christmas Day.
If there really was a war on Christmas, the state governments as well would refuse to observe Christmas. All state government offices would be open on Christmas Day. And since public schools are government schools, this means that all schools would be open as well. Unless Christmas falls on a weekend, all public school students would be required to attend school on Christmas.
If there really was a war on Christmas, public school administrators would forbid teachers from orchestrating Christmas concerts for their students to participate in—even if they call such events “winter” or “holiday” concerts. These concerts are clearly designed to coincide with Christmas, and they invariably contain songs that celebrate this holiday.
If there really was a war on Christmas, “Corporate America”—always ready to succumb to the least bit of political pressure—would be pressured into conducting its affairs during the Christmas season just as it conducts its affairs during any and every other season. More specifically, department stores and malls would purge themselves of all of the decorations that they exhibit, the music that they play, and the sales that they promote between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Macy’s, especially, would be made to desist exploiting the special connection between itself and Christmas that the classic film, Miracle On 34th Street, forever impressed upon the popular American consciousness.
Needless to say, the familiar seasonal sighting of the department store Santa Clause would become a thing of the past as corporations banished this eminent Christmas symbol. Nor would corporations any longer permit those collecting for the Salvation Army and other Christian charities to use their properties for the sake of eliciting donations.
If there really was a war on Christmas, then Hollywood would be made to stop producing “holiday” films and television shows—i.e. Christmas films and television shows.
If there really was a war on Christmas, then the most beautiful music that has ever been created, the music to which we are routinely treated by radio stations every November and December, Christmas music, would cease to be aired. Those waging “the War on Christmas” and their accomplices in Corporate America would insure it.
In reality, as every single American can readily attest, the Christmas season is impossible to escape. It is ubiquitous. It is the air that we breathe every time during this year. The contemporary enemies of Christmas have been no more successful at weakening it than their counterparts from past times and places. They have proven to be equally powerless.
The Grinch from Dr. Seuss’s The Grinch who Stole Christmas waged a much more effective “war” against Christmas than has anyone who can be said to waging this “war” today. It may be recalled that the Grinch thought he could stop Christmas from coming to “Whoville” by erasing from the town every last tangible vestige of Christmas. All presents, trees, ornaments, etc. he stole. Those who are supposed to be waging the war on Christmas today, however, are timid by comparison. All that the Grinch stole and a whole lot more pervades our Whoville, America, every Christmas season—in spite of their decades-long hostility toward Christmas.
There is one other respect in which the Grinch deserves more respect than these aspiring “grinches.” It didn’t take the Grinch long to realize that he had been sorely mistaken about Christmas. Just hours after stripping bare the residents of Whoville of every material thing that could remind them of Christmas, they came out on Christmas morning in full force to pay homage to this Day of all days. The Grinch, upon listening to their songs of praise, realized two things. First, Christmas, transcending as it does all of the signifiers by which we celebrate it, cannot be stopped. Second, it is something that deserves, richly deserves, to be celebrated.
The enemies of Christmas aren’t nearly as bold as was the Grinch. Unfortunately, neither are they as enlightened.
The Moral Liberal Contributing Editor, Jack Kerwick, holds a BA in religious studies and philosophy from Wingate University, a MA in philosophy from Baylor University, a Ph.D. in philosophy from Temple University, and is currently professor of philosophy at several schools in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Mr. Kerwick writes from the classical liberal perspective inspired by Edmund Burke. He blogs at www.jackkerwick.com. You can contact him at [email protected]