War on Christmas - Who wrote it?
Chip Berlet printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Nov 19, 2007 at 06:52:15 PM EST
Here is a gem from the past:
"And it has become pretty general. Last Christmas most people had a hard time finding Christmas cards that indicated in any way that Christmas commemorated Someone's Birth."

Where and when did this appear?  Take a guess. Bill O'Reilly? Wrong. Guess again. World Net Daily? Nope...read on...
Here is some more of the text:

"Easter they will have the same difficulty in finding Easter cards that contain any suggestion that Easter commemorates a certain event. There will be rabbits and eggs and spring flowers, but a hint of the Resurrection will be hard to find.

Still not clear?

"Now, all this begins with the designers of the cards. And even in this business one comes upon that same policy of declaring Anti-Semitic everything that is Christian. If Rabbi Coffey says the New Testament is the most Anti-Semitic book ever written, what must be the judgement on an Easter card that is truly an Easter card?"

Getting an inkling? How about this text?
"There has not been any 'persecution' of the Jews in the United States and never will be any, but all that the Jews have had to carry in the way of misunderstanding has been the result of the leadership which has misled them into paths of bloated ambition, instead of substantial human achievement."

Year? -- 1921

Source? -- One of the nastiest antisemitic tracts ever published in English: The International Jew: The World's Foremost Problem, Chapter 36.

Originally published as an article, "'Jewish Rights' to Put Studies Out of Schools," THE DEARBORN INDEPENDENT, issue of 19 March 1921.

Collected in:

Henry Ford and the staff of the Dearborn Independent, The International Jew: The World's Foremost Problem.  1920-1922,  Vols. 1-4.  Chapter 36: "Jewish Rights" to Put Studies Out of Schools.

Republished. Reedy, WV: Liberty Bell Publications, 1976. Originally published Dearborn, MI: The Dearborn Publishing Company, 1920-1922. Primarily consists of reprints of a series of articles from Ford's Dearborn Independent in book form.


A postscript: Michelle Goldberg and I found this text about the same time, and she has expanded on this and other themes in her excellent book, Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, (New York: W.W. Norton, 2006).
Chip Berlet, Senior Analyst, Political Research Associates
The Public Eye: Website of Political Research Associates --- Chip's Blog

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Chip Berlet: Research for Progress - Building Human Rights
by Chip Berlet on Mon Nov 19, 2007 at 06:55:28 PM EST

that don't mention the resurrection are true easter cards historically Easter is just another holiday the christians hijacked to promote an idea that has no proof.

Just like Christmas....

by Leckey on Tue Nov 20, 2007 at 08:14:25 AM EST


As a Christian, I am offended by your comments.  We are supposed to respect religious belief here at Talk2Action.  Please follow our rules.  They are here for a reason.

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Chip Berlet: Research for Progress - Building Human Rights
by Chip Berlet on Tue Nov 20, 2007 at 08:57:33 AM EST
but I'm afraid I have to agree with him/her. Most of the trappings associated with Christian holidays were indeed "hijacked" from pagan religions by the Roman Church in order to make the required conversion to Christianity more palatable to the pagans. There is precious little proof of the Easter story, outside of faith that it is true. As to Christmas - I don't think any serious Biblical scholar thinks that Jesus was born on December 25. That marks the solstice, or Saturnalia of the Romans. I hope my post doesn't also offend you, because it is not meant to be offensive. I always enjoy your articles, and T2A is probably my favorite blog! BTW, I am a Deist and an ex-Christian.

by phatkhat on Tue Nov 20, 2007 at 09:25:48 PM EST
Chip is correct about the site rules and is right to take offense. I am sorry he, and other Christians  had to be subjected to Leckey's insulting and trollish comment.  There is no excuse for it. A repeat performance will be grounds for immediate banning.

As for you, Phatkat. There is no apologia to be made here. There is no intellectual rationale for an obvious violation of the site policies or common courtesy, whether the offense is secular bashing, Jew-baiting or otherwise sneering at the sacred holidays or texts of others. The only relevant "hijack" here is what Leckey has done -- and you have taken further astray from the point of the diary and the clear intentions of the diarist.

We have writing and otherwise participating on this site, people who are religious and non-religious; Christian and non-Christian, and all are welcome. We expect participants to behave in that spirit of cooperation within our shared interests and concerns, and it is our hope that participants understand, or come to understand, that this is in part an excercise in learning to get along with others in a religiously plural society, while we discuss elements who generally oppose religious pluralism.

We understand that this is not always easy.


If we were gathered together in person to discuss what to do about the supposed war on Christmas, and someone brought up the remarkable and significant material he had found in Henry Ford's antisemitic screed The International Jew -- and the first thing response was a crank diatribe against Christmas and Easter, we would be forced to admonish that person and/or demand that person leave because clearly he was unable to participate constructively.

That is exactly what happened here.

It is not our custom to make a big deal out of these things. I prefer to deal with such things off line. But unfortunately, I did not notice what was going on until late in the day and it has already come this far. So I am forced to deal with it publicly. It goes with the territory that this happens from time to time, and when it does, it also affords us the opportunity to remind ourselves why we are here, the reasonable and common sense rules under which we operate, and their relevance to the real world of political life.

From the site statement of purpose and  guidelines:

It is our intention to take the conversation forward, and not let it be held back by debating what, in our view are or should be, settled matters of human, civil and constitutional rights. Similarly, religious debates are off topic, especially debates between theism and atheism.

Remember that when you register(ed) for the site, checking off the box means that you have read, understand, and agree with the purpose of the site and agree to abide by the guidelines.

Remember that the statement of purpose and guidelines, and the decisions of the site owners, administrators or moderators are not up for discussion and debate on the site; and that the statement of purpose and guidelines may be updated from time-to-time.

Don't be a troll. People who are offensive or abusive, are trolls. People who willfully hijack comment threads outside any reasonable discussion of the good work of the diarist, are trolls. People who write diaries or make comments obviously beyond the purposes of the site, are trolls. People who do not share the purposes of this site but join anyway, are trolls. Trolls and trollish behavior will not be tolerated.

by Frederick Clarkson on Tue Nov 20, 2007 at 11:29:17 PM EST

Leckey's point in part claimed that Christianity appropriated existing pre-Christian European traditions and (as far as I am aware) there is considerable evidence supporting that claim, but the construction of the comment - framed as historical fact vs. religious belief - seems problematic to me. Religion tends to be experiential and, for that, non-empirical. That is a rough line of demarcation between science and religion (E.O. Wilson might have more to say on drawing such a line). The basis of religion is experiential and is generally personal (though not always so).

Here's the problem ; given that religion is experientially based, to tie religious experience to empirical truth might seem to invalidate personal experience. Is that fair or, in strict logical terms, is that necessarily  true ?

And, if many Christians feel their "created" holidays to be real are those holidays invalid regardless ? Should we neglect the emotional (and psychic) realm in that way ?  Is religiously (or spiritually) charged emotion invalidated if the event that triggers those emotions is called into question ?

by Bruce Wilson on Tue Nov 20, 2007 at 11:48:25 PM EST

Certainly it is a historic fact that Christianity adapted Jewish and pagan rituals and holidays in a utilitarian way. I have no problem with that being a historic fact.

I was responding to the dismissive anti-religious tone of the comment, which Fred has pointed out violates a core principle of this website.

It is a fine line, but in this case I think the point needed to be made, and Fred made it well.

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Chip Berlet: Research for Progress - Building Human Rights
by Chip Berlet on Wed Nov 21, 2007 at 09:22:21 AM EST
let me just underscore that Leckey's original offensive comment served as what out here in the blogosphere we call a diary "hijack".

Chip's post started out as a revelation of the possible antisemitic origins of the contemporary war on Christmas narrative.  Quite an important discovery and certainly something that is worthy of discussion. Instead, Leckey's comment sparks discussion of what he wanted to talk about about, site rules and other stuff unrelated to Chip's post. A classic hijack.

by Frederick Clarkson on Wed Nov 21, 2007 at 02:03:49 PM EST

At the risk of continuing to give energy to this hijack, I do think that there is a detail that needs to be addressed here that Chip gets at but shouldn't be glossed over.

It is absolutely historically true that the church chose some of the dates for its religious observances to coincide with those of other faith traditions "in the neighborhood."  Christmas gets pegged on December 25th - Saturnalia - even though Jesus' birth was likely a spring event.  Etc., etc.

But how do you interpret that decision?  Those who want to slander the church and by extension Christianity (not the same thing in many cases) ascribe nefarious purposes to the church related to oppressing native peoples, stealing their religious practices as part of a colonizing effort of an evil church/state alliance.  Arguably, some of that is present here.

One of my professors in seminary said a very wise thing that I think is also grounded in a good reading of the development of early Christianity.  The Jesus movement started out as a set of pious practices within Judaism.  Aside from some metaphysical claims native to Judaism, the real point of the Jesus movement was a path, a way of life, meant to lead its practitioners into a closer relationship with God.  Early Christianity was a "piety looking for a metaphysic."  But metaphysical claims were only a very small part of what the early church was about.

Given this, the truth is that it doesn't matter when we celebrate important milestones in the church.  So in deciding when to celebrate Jesus' birth - since we don't have a birth certificate - when does it make sense to do so?  And what are other people doing at this time of year that might help us make the point we want to make?

Unless you come to that question with an anti-Christian bias to begin with, it might seem perfectly reasonable for the church to make a decision (albeit a decision that "evolved" as opposed to one that looked more like legislation) that would help to teach the lesson we want to teach in remembering the birth of Jesus.  And what better time to celebrate the "light" that shines in the darkness but couldn't be overcome near the day when nights are at their longest?

In that, the decision to peg Christmas near the Winter Solstice coincides with the decision to make the Solstice a celebration of light among pagan traditions.  Same motivations, its just the church's way of saying "darkness isn't the last word."  

Since the actual date of the birth of Jesus is not the point, who cares what date we choose, so lets choose a date that makes the point?  And if it looks familiar to our neighbors and makes it easier for us to explain our way of life to them in the process, all the better.

Of course, that's my interpretation of historic events but I am coming at this with a pro-Christianity bias.  The truth is undoubtedly somewhere midway between leckey's slander and my defense.  But leckey's viewpoint is fairly commonly held and stands as a kind of knee jerk default among those who see the church - and therefore Christianity - as a problem.  To leave it unchallenged with a different interpretation of historic events is to leave us with a two-dimensional parody of what should be a muddy and complex understanding of Christian tradition.
Jesus knew how to throw a party. We'll try to hold up our end of the bargain.
by jedwards on Thu Nov 22, 2007 at 12:10:59 PM EST

That is a much better way to explain the issue than my paltry attempt
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Chip Berlet: Research for Progress - Building Human Rights
by Chip Berlet on Thu Nov 22, 2007 at 08:15:58 PM EST

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