Blaming the War on Christmas on -- You Know Who
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Nov 21, 2008 at 02:30:56 PM EST
As we enter into the season of overheated and half-baked claims about the desacrilization of the Jewish and Christian holiday season, led by Bill "War on Christmas" O'Reilly -- it is worth offering one small bit of perspective.

The war on Christmas is said to be perpetrated by "secularists," of various sorts -- people who are in other contexts (and amidst many other rediculous and unsupported accusations) said to be driving people of faith from the public square.

Scapegoating of the secular is part of a transcendent politics of the Religious Right, and a variant of that old time McCarthism -- baiting everyone with whom they disagree as advocating a 'godless' agenda. From McCarthite screeds against "godless communism" to contemporary Coulterisms about "godless liberalism" there is a tradition of American conservatism that is as despicable as it is antithetical to the spirit of Christmas and to religious pluralism in our constitutional democracy.

There has been a lot of secular-baiting in recent years -- by the leaders of the Religious Right, but also by ostensbly liberal Democrats like Rabbi Michael Lerner and Rev. Jim Wallis (as I detailed in an essay in The Public Eye magazine last summer.)

This essay concluded:

So much is revealed by how people use the term secular. Understanding how it is used by the Right helps us to better contend with the way that it is used as a wedge to divide the left against itself; especially between religious and nonreligious progressives. Mindless anti-secular sloganeering makes nonreligious progressives roll their eyes in astonishment at the vacuousness of the argument, the lack of intellectual integrity, and the sheer political ham-handedness of those who write and speak in such a fashion.

But most importantly, when left of center religious and political leaders engage in secular baiting, they are strengthening the religious right-framed argument against the best American ethos and the Constitutional doctrine of separation of church and state.

 (See also much discussion of this theme back in 2006).

There will be many efforts to divide religious and non-religious progressives, and one of the wedges will be smears against secularism. I mention all this as I see Bill O'Reilly warming-up for his annual vainglorious rants about the war on Christmas -- and a sleazy piece by Dan Henninger of the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, which seeks to blame the financial crisis on You Know Who:

And so we come back to the disappearance of "Merry Christmas."

It has been my view that the steady secularizing and insistent effort at dereligioning America has been dangerous. That danger flashed red in the fall into subprime personal behavior by borrowers and bankers, who after all are just people. Northerners and atheists who vilify Southern evangelicals are throwing out nurturers of useful virtue with the bathwater of obnoxious political opinions.

It is in this sense, that it is important to recall that religious progressives, overwhelmingly support the right of individual conscience and separation of church and state, and do not engage in secular baiting and consider the entire exercize to be beneath contempt. They are the natural allies in protecting the rights of non-religious Americans. It is important that we not let ourselves be divided against one another.




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It is in this sense, that it is important to recall that religious progressives, overwhelmingly support the right of individual conscience and separation of church and state, and do not engage in secular baiting and consider the entire exercise to be beneath contempt. They are the natural allies in protecting the rights of non-religious Americans. It is important that we not let ourselves be divided against one another.

Well said.  I have been visiting this site for a couple of years and posted the odd contribution and comment, but I don't think I've ever owned up to being an atheist till this point.  So, as a non-believer, but fellow progressive, I thank you for your words.

There is a time and a place for debating the existence of God, but such debate pales in comparison to the threat American society faces from the fundamentalist religious right.  They are so active and so dangerous now because they know that society is changing right underneath their noses, and they are pulling out all the stops in an effort to thwart that change.  Non-believers and religious moderates alike need to be united to confront their vigorous rearguard actions.

I was raised in the British Methodist Church which has a proud history of supporting progressive causes.  My parents are still practicing Methodists and, if anything, are more liberal than I am (that's what living in Texas for a decade will do for ya, I guess!).  Even though I don't believe as they do any more (and that's what listening to American fundamentalist preaching will do for ya) I still respect their beliefs and look up to the tireless work they do in aid of the environment and other local social causes as part of their church's congregation.

by tacitus on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 04:23:23 PM EST

We Americans can learn from the example set by people like your parents. I lived in Texas from 1976 to 1987, and believe me, I know what you're talking about. The religious right believes they own the term "Christian," but there are many of us who would take issue with this claim.

by khughes1963 on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 07:05:45 PM EST
Parent


would heed your words, or just look around this site to see that the goals are the same for us all. The Religious Right and secular wingnuts already have their echo chambers working overtime, and with economic upheaval, more people are turning to whatever mental life preserver they can grab.

by trog69 on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 03:52:17 PM EST

One thing that a magician, or bunco artist, is to keep their audience/mark busy with frivolities while they do the real work. Such is the mythical war on Christmas. What would they talk about that paints their collective enemies as needing to be muzzled and later, when they are in power, to be removed from their 'pure' society? Since they and their ilk control so much of the available information outlets they can maintain the fiction as if it were real. Whether by actively promoting the myth or just not addressing it. Using the 'neutral' stance to maintain it. Also they have this two contrary forces in their midst. One the corporate capitalist model to sell anything for a profit coupled with the holiday (they aquired) that talks about giving and sacrifice. Such is their dilemma amongst their group. When to market verse when to worship and hold their creed dear. The best we can do is to gently counter their myths then stand back from the venom spitting. I am an Atheist but I don't find any need to consider believers to be 'enemies' nor 'mentally ill' either. We can live together as long as we don't impose our points of view on others via laws.

by Nightgaunt on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 02:29:53 PM EST

I saw the title at the same time I was reading an article by MJ Rosenberg about the "War On Christmas" and how much of it is really rooted in anti-Semitism. http://www.jewsonfirst.org/05a/sep033.html A quick excerpt: But that does not mean that the "war on Christmas" brouhaha is not threatening to Jews. Long before there was awareness that Muslims or Hindus lived in the United States, there was an awareness that Jews did. And, in the wake of World War II, Americans did, to their credit, begin acknowledging Jews and their traditions as part of the American fabric. That is why schoolchildren in states where few Jews live sing "I Had a Little Dreidel" along with "The Christmas Song." Bill O'Reilly knows that and doesn't like it one bit, as evidenced by his response to a Jewish caller last December who said that he found O'Reilly's views on Christmas objectionable. O'Reilly told him to "move to Israel." It may also be why, when asked who the power was behind the "war on Christmas", he answered, "Now the reason this is happening is because of the ACLU and George Soros, Peter Lewis. Just a reminder: George Soros and Peter Lewis are the far-left, secular progressive billionaires who have funded - they pour money into the ACLU, they pour money into the smear Web sites, you know, they buy up a lot of the media time. And they basically want to change the country from a Christian-based philosophical country to a secular progressive country like they have in Western Europe." Soros is a Holocaust survivor, in addition to being a billionaire who backs liberal causes. Lewis, also a billionaire, is a major donor to progressive and Jewish causes. This week O'Reilly really went to town. After showing a clip from John Stewart's late night show which extolled separation of church and state, O'Reilly said. "There you go, Jon Stewart....We know what he's doing over there [on Comedy Central]. And it's not just Stewart. You know, 90 percent of quote unquote entertainers are secular progressives... And a Merry Christmas to you John Stewart. As I said in my newspaper column this week, three wise men showed up to honor the baby Jesus way back when. And if corporate executives are not wise enough to emulate that, well, those of us who respect Christmas might look elsewhere." Presumably, O'Reilly knows that Stewart is Jewish. And that may be why a few days later he brought on Jewish comedian Jackie Mason, who endorsed everything O'Reilly said about the anti-Christmas war and added that he was founding a new organization called "Jews Against the Defamation of Christmas."
"People are like the stars. There are bright ones, and there are those that are dim."
by agentS on Tue Nov 25, 2008 at 08:55:59 AM EST


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