Monday, December 19, 2011

The synthetic, utterly bogus ‘War on Christmas'

   My wife knew what she was talking about, but her fine instincts were not enough to move me.

   "Write a Christmas book," she said. Nothing sells like a Christmas book. It's short. It's seasonal. It sells. You get it as a gift, you regift it next Christmas. 

    Sales receipts don't lie. Combine a cat with Christmas, a dog with Christmas, a reindeer, an orphaned tree, a gelatin mold with magic powers. Ka-ching.

     I could do it, I told my wife. But it would be wrong.

     Recently one TV talker decided these considerations outweighed any nod to personal integrity. But that was something he had left off at the hat rack when employed by Fox News anyway.

     Surprise: The War on Christmas became a best seller.

     The author's name gets no mention here, and needs none. The shill machine of Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes took care of that.

     The War masterpiece's subheading — "How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought" — no doubt was added to bump up the word count so as to justify its hardcover binding.

      When Mohandas Gandhi said, "I love Christ. It's just that so many of you Christians are so unlike your Christ," I'm thinking he had in mind people who march around in superficial umbrage over something that, well . . .

       For example, they will head step right over the homeless man sleeping on a grate to gesture at and denounce the "Happy Holidays" in the storefront window paint.

       That's what it's all about, mind you. Two words. Two words that are part of a "plot" to "ban" a sacred holiday.

       Call a Christmas tree a "holiday tree"? Horrors.

       Well, brethren, those furrowed brows are like plastified, simulated evergreen boughs. Fake. Store-bought.

       Outraged over a holiday greeting? Get real. Real Christians can find real outrages out there on the windblown streets, in the soup kitchens, in prisons, in struggling-to-get-by nursing homes, where Medicaid reimbursement rates are life-and-death matters.

      Name your phony spiritual concern — that school pageants are too secular today, that local governments seek to treat the holidays in pluralistic ways. The same applies to retailers. They have Jews celebrating Hanukkah this month, as well as with adherents of Kwanzaa, and non-Christians of many stripes who just like the pretty lights and are in the mood for egg nog. They are customers. They are Americans. A business, or a nation, or a school district or city hall that doesn't serve all of these people is running a fool's errand.

       Some Americans don't get the whole secular nature of the American experience and never will. This nation was born as a refuge from sectarianism. Its First Amendment protections against the latter have made it the most religion-friendly construct in the history of self-governance.

     Yet you have Rick Perry telling Iowa voters that "war" is being waged against Christians. Talk about plastic indignation. 

      I lived in Texas for a long time — Perry's neck of the North American woods. To say that Christians, particularly the conservative, evangelical, Republican kind, are oppressed is to insinuate that the Dallas Cowboys play in a cardboard shack.

     What Perry really says with this "war on Christianity" pitch to Republicans is that he doesn't buy the notion that government should be neutral regarding faith. He thinks its job is to exalt and advertise a majority's piety.

     It is worth pointing out that the religious oppression the Pilgrims and Puritans fled was, in fact, Christian. Then to enforce the kind of Christianity they wished to see, these refugees created their own authoritarian systems.

     The founders forming this republic agreed that such an approach, tyrannical piety, was no way to run a country. Apparently today, most retailers agree it's no way to run a business.

     An amazing thing about the holidays, American-style: Everyone appears to enjoy them — that is, sadly, except for those who grow red in the face pointing at a storefront that proclaims "Happy Holidays."

      Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

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