How many times have you heard about the "War on Christmas" over the years, particularly from conservative commentators? During the past decade, concerned parties on both sides of the spectrum have argued and yelled and screamed at the top of their lungs about the War on Christmas, what it means, and how society is crumbling under the weight of "Christmas censorship."
How often do you hear about things like "Holiday Trees" for example? Perhaps you heard about this year's controversy: the U.S. Postal Service decision to create a series of "Holiday Stamps" that featured content relevant to Hanukkah and Kwanzaa but omitted a stamp dedicated to Christmas. This kerfuffle ignored the prior existence of religiously themed Christmas stamps, but the slighted few attempted to make a case of it, nonetheless.
Christians have a legitimate concern about the attempt to remove Christmas and its religious aspects from mainstream society. As we have seen with the Affordable Care Act and the Obama administration's mandate that requires insurers to provide coverage for birth control even over religious objections, religious belief is on the defensive in modern society.
However, in the War on Christmas, society conceded the high ground years ago.
After the Great Depression and World War II, American society began to change. Consumerism took over as a driving force of American life and interpersonal relationships. As a conservative, I appreciate the need for commerce to drive the arsenal of democracy, as it did during the great economic expansion of the 1950s and 1960s.
The problem with that, however, is that society let things get too far afield. Consumerism began to seep into parts of our society where it didn't necessarily belong. Christmas became one of the dominant examples of that consumer culture. With the culture of gift-giving becoming more of an arms race than anything with special meaning, people began losing focus on the Christmas season. In the 1960s, the term "Black Friday" was coined by the police in Philadelphia to describe the onslaught of shoppers who descended into town on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
Consumer culture had taken over enough that by the time. "A Charlie Brown Christmas" aired for the first time in 1965, and Lucy told Charlie Brown "Look, Charlie, let's face it. We all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket. It's run by a big eastern syndicate, you know."
It's hard to argue that we're fighting a War on Christmas when so many combatants don't know what they're fighting for. How are we supposed to understand why maintaining Christmas as part of our culture is important when we don't understand what Christmas represents?
Naturally, there are two meanings of Christmas. The first, and most important to me as a Catholic, is the religious one. We are celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, born of the father before all ages, who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man.
There is also a key secular aspect. Christmas is an opportunity to come together with friends, with family, and with loved ones. It gives us, regardless of religion, race or creed, an opportunity to slow the pace of life, reflect upon the year, and spend time with others.
Getting back to "A Charlie Brown Christmas," the pivotal point of the episode comes when Charlie Brown, frustrated with his classmates regarding the Christmas pageant, asks if anybody knows what Christmas is really all about. Then Linus takes the stage and recites the story of the Nativity from the Gospel of Luke; it's one of the most moving recitations in all of television history. Controversial for its time, the producers knew — even then — that modern society needed to refocus on the truth of Christmas.
Those individuals insistent on fighting the War on Christmas might first want to take stock of their own lives and see what it is they are fighting for. Are those fighting this war legitimately concerned that the basic shared tenets and precepts of Christmas are being threatened and disrespected by our government and our society? Or are they just superficially annoyed that somebody changed the name of a tree?
For all of us at Red Maryland, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a most joyous blessing for the season.
Brian Griffiths is a parishioner at St. Jane Frances de Chantal Catholic Church in Riviera Beach and a frequent contributor to Red Maryland, a conservative radio network and blog whose content appears regularly in The Baltimore Sun and on baltimoresun.com. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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