[EDITOR’S NOTE: This post is part of our series on controversial questions. A NO post will normally follow a YES post. Join in by posting your comments.]
by Elgin Hushbeck
Is there a war on Christmas? If “war” is understood in a metaphorical sense as a deliberate effort to diminish and/or change, and Christmas is understood as the religious meaning and Christian roots of this holiday, there clearly is. Nor is this anything new. The first drafts of the introduction to my book Christianity and Secularism were written back in the 1980s. There I wrote concerning the secularization of society,
“It is not simply a matter of society turning its back on religion, for a segment of society in general, and government in particular, is becoming increasingly hostile to religion. There is a conscious effort by many groups to oppose religion wherever and whenever they can. Christmas and Easter, for example, have become the seasons of lawsuits over nativity scenes and crosses. In most schools, Christmas and Easter vacations have been renamed winter and spring breaks. The traditional Christmas nativity plays have been replaced by those with non-religious themes. Christmas has become an almost completely secular holiday, with all reference to Christianity being removed. Christmas has become merely a day of celebration; a day of celebration without anything to celebrate.”
Since I wrote those words, things have only become more visible, so much so that a bit of a backlash has started. Sometimes this backlash is distorted into an objection to inclusive phrases such as “Happy Holidays.” But this misses the point, as those objecting to these changes did not get upset when people used “Happy Holidays” but only when people were told that they must use “Happy Holidays” and could not say Merry Christmas. They did object when non-religious Christmas songs were sung, but only when Christmas hymns are removed, or even rewritten to remove any religious references. It is not inclusiveness that they object to, but the exclusion of Christianity.
Some claim there is no war on Christmas by pointing to all the commercialization, often while lamenting the same commercialization. But to me the commercialization is a result. The “war” is not on Christmas per se, but on the Christian underpinnings of Christmas. School do not ban the celebration, they just change it to a secular celebration. They do not stop singing songs, they just remove or edit out references to Christ. Rather than Christ being the center of Christmas, Santa Claus has taken his place, at times even to the point of the being the one to whom we are supposed to pray, and the North Pole being where good people go when they die to become one of Santa’s helpers.
Ultimately, the war on Christmas is just a more focused form of the larger conflict resulting from the growing secularization of society in general. Many who reject that there is a war also support this growing secularization, some because they are themselves secular, others because their view of Christianity differs from traditional Christianity and its value, and still others because they desire a purer form of Christianity unhindered such cultural celebrations.
While one can certainly question how “Holy” Christmas was in the past, seen by the culture in general, there is no question that the sense of Holiness in the season has been greatly diminished. When you remove Christ from Christmas all you are left with is the crass and commercialization.