Wishing you a very merry

Dec 092008
Authors: Ryan Nowell

Continuing America’s proud tradition of misplaced outrage, the War on Christmas is entering yet another year of heated non-troversy.

With the Catholic League and the American Family Association threatening another round of boycotts against another set of retail giants, one can’t help but admire these righteous crusaders for sending the Christian persecution complex spiraling into heretofore unimagined levels of absurdity.

For it takes a special kind of mind to see a plot to destroy Christianity in something as seemingly clumsy as a corporate bid for inclusivity. “Happy Holidays” is the marketing department’s way of saying “diversify your investment portfolio”: The fewer people you exclude in your advertising, the more you’ll reel in.

How that translates into a left-wing jihad against the God-fearing, blue-blooded consumer-patriots of this country is a logical progression no mere flow-chart can unravel. True, the American Civil Liberties Union (having, apparently, nothing better to do) has been felling Christmas trees and kicking over nativity scenes for years now, but only in instances of state or federal displays, something having to do with the separation of something from something, I don’t know.

While Christian organizations have taken huge issue with such actions, the aforementioned boycotts are, year after year, on private, secular industries. This is not the evil urban lawyers swooping in and destroying the reindeer display in the town square, as that’s another argument entirely; the great injustice being grappled with here is Macy’s giving away “Holiday Gift Cards” instead of “Christmas Gift Cards.”

This strikes me as a forest-for-the-trees situation, because I do think there is a War on Christmas, but it’s a war that Christians already lost a long time ago.

They’ve spiritually bankrupted their own holiday by turning it into a month-long shopping binge. Intentionally? No. But over the years, consumerism has changed the holiday about messianic birthing procedures, which featured ancillary gift giving, into being about the gift giving.

The way this has been sold is that the spirit of giving, the togetherness of the holidays, the selflessness of providing gifts for friends in family, are all one in the same with well-established Christian tenets, but while the Charlie Brown rhetoric dovetails nicely, Christmas in practice is anything but religious.

There’s nothing Christian about people being trampled every year for $60 digital cameras, getting into fistfights over dolls or going into rabid hysterics upon receiving this season’s shiny what’s-it. There’s something distinctly American about it, but nothing innately Christian.

The AFA wants to bellyache about companies trying to secularize Christmas, but if you really want to point fingers, Christians secularized it first by pushing it beyond the dignified observation of a holy day.

Demanding that PetSmart validate the sanctity of your religious holiday only begs the question: What exactly is your holiday about if it requires corporate participation? What are you celebrating if you need Home Depot to give you the thumbs up?

And once it’s established that corporations are supposed to act as quasi-religious institutions for a quarter of the year, to what degree are they supposed to observe the holiday, the religion, the dogmas? Are we going to see bull-whipped-for-your-sins wrapping paper? Transubstantiation-nog? Pox n’ Boils Job ornaments? Frosty the Pious Self-Flagellator? Or would such displays of religious zeal be considered, oh, I don’t know, offensive?

At its core, this War on Christmas business is really anxiety over Christianity’s waning influence on the culture. Yes, it’s still the largest religion in the country, but you wouldn’t know that from the Napoleonic complex.

Boycotting a store for the mere acknowledgment of other holidays smacks of some serious reactionary xenophobia.

If the AFA wants to get their chestnuts in a twist over “holiday trees” and “winter sales,” by all means, but if they’re this attached to the privileges of a declining hegemony, the future will only be rife with far greater disappointments.

Ryan Nowell is a senior English major. His column appears Wednesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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