The Persecution Myth
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Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 09:35:05 PM EST
Michelle Goldberg at Salon debunks the notion that "secular humanist" forces are trying to put an end to Christmas.
"In fact, there is no war on Christmas. What there is, rather, is a burgeoning myth of a war on Christmas, assembled out of old reactionary tropes, urban legends, exaggerated anecdotes and increasingly organized hostility to the American Civil Liberties Union. It's a myth that can be self-fulfilling, as school board members and local politicians believe the false conservative claim that they can't celebrate Christmas without getting sued by the ACLU and thus jettison beloved traditions, enraging citizens and perpetuating a potent culture-war meme. This in turn furthers the myth of an anti-Christmas conspiracy." - Michelle Goldberg

Goldberg traces anti-Christmas hysteria through American history. From the John Birch Society and their ravings about the UN (and communists), to Henry Ford and his ravings of a "Jewish conspiracy" to end Christmas. Today the villains are the ACLU, liberals, and secular humanism. But the script Goldberg points out, remains the same.

"To compare today's "war on Christmas" demagogues to Henry Ford is not to call them anti-Semites. Rather, they are purveyors of a conspiracy theory that repeatedly crops up in America. The malefactors change -- Jews, the U.N., the ACLU -- but the outlines stay the same. The scheme is always massive, reaching up to the highest levels of power. In order to prove this conspiracy, Gibson, O'Reilly and others like them gather anecdotes from around the country of officials putting petty restrictions on the speech of aggrieved Christians. Some of these are exaggerated, some legitimate, but none support their paranoid claims of a vast secular-humanist conspiracy."

In fact, instead of a war on Christmas and Christianity, Christians may be amazed to learn that there is more religion in public schools now than at any other point in modern history. Scholar Charles Haynes, author of "Finding Common Ground: A Guide to Religious Liberty in the Public Schools," who often mediates religious issues for schools and institutions is surprised at all the ire and heated emotions tied to the issue.

"The big picture is that there's more religion now in public schools than ever in modern history. There's no question about that. But it's not there in terms of the government imposing religion or sponsoring it, and that bothers some people on the right. They miss the good old days when public schools were semi-established Protestant schools. Religion has come into the public schools in all kinds of ways ... many schools now understand that students have religious liberty rights in a public school, so you can go to many public schools today and kids will be giving each other religious literature, they will be sharing their faith. You go to most public schools now and see kids praying around the flagpole before school."

In reality the "persecution" of Christmas seems to be nothing more than a PR stunt to rally the faithful towards an offensive political strategy to "win" the war to "save" Christmas. How conservative groups plan to win such a war, and what the consequences of waging such a war will be on our culture remains to be seen.

If the alleged "War On Christmas" were even NEARLY as successful as the other "wars" On Poverty, Drugs, and Terror, Christmas will flourish for a long, long time.

by BOT on Tue Nov 22, 2005 at 12:27:41 AM EST

I monitor right-wing religious AM radio in Central Texas.
Over the years, I have noticed that the term "persecution" means different things to different people. In fact, listening to one antiabortionist describe the "persecution" which he claimed one of his children faced in a discussion of abortion with schoolmates, it became apparent that "persecution" could simply mean "disagreement."

by MaryOGrady on Tue Nov 22, 2005 at 09:30:57 AM EST

outlawed christmas makes no nevermind?

Churches have fought for years against secularizing the holiday now they fight FOR it???

I have a headache.

by Jenarm on Tue Nov 22, 2005 at 10:06:55 AM EST

I have for several years supported Christian friends in their efforts towards the "Keep Christ in Christmas" type campaigns.  Even though I am not Christian, I am concerned when the holiday has become so secularized that the assumption is that everyone celebrates it.  Ask recent immigrants to our country, and many think that Christmas is an "American" holiday - right up there with Thanksgiving and 4th of July.  Some adopt traditions of putting up a tree and lights, and don't know why they do it, other than it makes them the same as their neighbors.  And this type of behavior just makes it easier for people to look down upon those of us who know that the holiday is supposed to be an exclusively Christian one, and therefore do not celebrate it.  I feel that the move to "enforce" (so to speak) the link between Christmas and Christ may help our communities to remember that this is a religious celebration, and that there are a variety of religious viewpoints among our citizenry as well.

As for the comment about "persecution" meaning "disagreement" to some - I have seen this in action.  Some people, when confronted with a person who does not wish to celebrate the holiday, automatically get defensive and feel like that person's "opt out" mentality is actually a personal attack on their ability to celebrate.  It amazes me how pervasive this attitude is of being "under attack".  I am very concerned that this persecution concept may/will morph into an "us versus them" mentality - such that people who don't celebrate Christmas are automatically lumped into the "they persecute Christians" group.  The jump from anger at people actively trying to remove or change public Christmas celebration, to anger at people who simply choose not to celebrate is worrying.  Will this give rise to communities where non-Christians are persecuted by being labeled persecutors?

by EmilyWynn8 on Tue Nov 22, 2005 at 10:45:06 AM EST

As an atheist I make no apology for celebrating what's called CHRISTmas, I come from an old culture and even as a child knew that the coming to the end of dark nights was celebrated all through Northern Europe ever since humans "discovered" the lunar year. NO, you don't have to be a chanting candle-burning pagan to note that the days get a bit longer starting at the winter solstice. Everyone has a legitimate reason to make merry, the Christians and the agrarians. Send those greeting cards and pour the glogg.(If you live in the Southern Hemisphere, you have a problem ----)

by RigaBorn on Tue Nov 22, 2005 at 02:33:51 PM EST

At the tender age of 17 when my mother was running around the house getting ready to allow the whole family (Even the ones she warned me to never let in the house) over for x-mass day. She was on another of her rampages and asked me to do something (What I can't seem to remember) I did it in the typical teen-aged half assed way. She told me then "If you don't want to do things the way I want them done you don't have to celebrate x-mass ever again!" I felt as if a weight had been lifted from my soul and from that day to this I pretty much haven't.

Oh I tried once buying gifts for the children in the family but the anger and stress I found in the stores drove me back to what I do every year. I go to a church and cook for people.

Standing outside of the insanity making mad rush that is x-mass I have come to see it differently. I see it as not a holiday, but as a consumer driven, keep up with the Joneses, weapon.
Why do I call it a weapon?
 It is used by parents to keep their kids in line. It is used by churches to keep their congregation in line and by companies to keep their profits in line.
And I do not want to be used and I will not be used.

 Think it's bad to hear the screeds by the Chimpy McChristains against people who say happy holidays. Try telling them that you "Don't do x-mass." I have been called a hieratic, satanist, scrooge (And those are just some of the names I have been called that I can repeat in public.), I have been told that I will burn in hell, that I'm "Un-american", that I have dishonored my ancestors (This one I find more amusing than angering) and why? Because I do not drive myself into debt buying gifts for people. Will not plaster garish crap all over my home, only to have it taken down in a month or so and drive myself insane in the process. See I AM Christian, I was raised that way I see it as more of a road map for how to live a good, fruitful and happy life. Not as a measuring stick by witch to measure the morals and actions of another person. To me Christ was one cool, laid back, wise and loving man who wondered around saying "Hey come one people let all this crap fall by the way side and just enjoy your life, love your neighbors and have SOME kind of good feelings for your neighbors, friends and community!" Everything else, in the bible, is just an allegory or moral on how to do that. When I was young some thing stuck with me that I learned in "Lutheran" private school, that what it means to be a Christian was to "Walk in the path of Christ.". That is what I try to do. I'm not him nor can I ever be him so I can't walk in his foot steps. But I can follow his path. Following his path is not using anger and hate to "Shepherd" or corral  the lost or the immoral. Following in his path is Love. Watching my step along the way for pitfalls that will lead me astray and wounded fellow travelers who may have fallen. In the last case my job is to help them up dust them off and tell them which way I'm headed. If they are on another path wish them well and smile as we part company.

I don't think the Christ I was raised to emulate would be pissed because I chose to relax on a holiday and maybe give someone else a hand. I think he would smile pat me on the head and go on his way.

I feel the best way for us all as PEOPLE to get past all this crap is first to see it for what it is and move on past it, not to involve our self in something we find destructive to our communities, our selves and our souls.

For me X-mass has become destructive.

by Grumpymann on Thu Nov 24, 2005 at 07:42:35 AM EST

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