`Tis The Season To Be Cranky: Religious Right Gears Up New Round Of `War On Christmas' Claims
Rob Boston printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Nov 21, 2012 at 10:46:09 AM EST

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving - which means it's time for the Religious Right to start carping about the so-called "war on Christmas."

Actually, there have already been several developments in this alleged war. As an unwilling combatant, I'd like to give you a little round-up of the action so far.

First off, the American Family Association (AFA) has released its annual "Naughty Or Nice" list of retailers. Traditionally, release of this list, which the AFA published on Nov. 15, marks the beginning of the annual Religious Right whine-fest about the war on Christmas.

Here's how the list works: Obsessive types at the AFA who obviously have way too much time on their hands spend time poring over print and web ads from stores and counting up the number of times the word "Christmas" appears.

Companies that use "Christmas" consistently are nice. Retailers that don't use the term much or not at all are naughty. Some companies are in between. It's all color coded for your convenience.

Again, I wish to point out that the AFA actually undertakes this project every year. This is not a parody designed to make fundamentalists look silly. (Note that Victoria's Secret is AGAINST Christmas. That company is naughty in more ways than one!)

Our second item deals with a flap in Santa Monica, Calif., where a large display depicting the nativity of Jesus had been erected for several years. Last year, an atheist group requested the right to use the space too, so city officials decided to hold a lottery. Atheist groups won most of the spaces in 2011, and there was some discontent over this - mainly, intolerant residents trashed the atheist displays. This year, the city has decided to shut down the forum rather than host any displays.

In response, a pro-nativity group filed a lawsuit attempting to force the city to host its religious cyclorama. Not surprisingly, this didn't go down too well. A federal court rejected the overture.

I appeared on Fox News Channel on Monday to discuss this issue. My debating partner, Tammy Bruce, a far-right radio talk show host, argued that non-believers have nothing to worry about because every public space that doesn't include a religious symbol is promoting atheism. I know - it didn't make sense to me either. (Bruce also derided atheists as nihilists who just need to get over themselves.)

To sum up: Santa Monica officials set up a neutral forum for parceling out access to a public space. Atheist groups played by the rules, used the forum and legally won most of the slots. The city decided to shut down the forum rather than deal with all of this fuss. The right wing's answer to that was to file a lawsuit arguing that it's just not fair. The government has to host its symbols!

So far, they aren't getting away with it.

Finally, everyone's favorite holiday elf, Pat Robertson, is spreading tidings of comfort and joy to all - expect those lousy atheists.

According to Bro. Pat, "miserable atheists" are plotting and scheming to "steal [Christmas] away from you."

Continued the mercurial TV preacher, "Atheists don't like our happiness. They don't want you to be happy; they want you to be miserable. They're miserable so they want you to be miserable."

Gee, Pat, too much fruitcake?

Americans United is a multi-faith, multi-philosophy organization. Some of our members are devout believers, while others don't believe. We all get along because we operate with mutual respect and don't make crude generalizations about one another. Pat, you could learn a few things from AU members.

I know it's early, but I'd like to wish a big "Happy Holidays" to the staff of the American Family Association, the pro-nativity gang in Santa Monica and Pat Robertson. I'd also like to advise them all that if they really want an old-fashioned Christmas with a lot of religious trimmings the logical place to find that is a church, not city hall.

Lists like this can work both ways! ;o) I will be sure to shop as much as possible at Family Dollar and stay out of Walmart! (I'm boycotting Walmart in solidarity with the strikers, anyway.)

by phatkhat on Wed Nov 21, 2012 at 09:55:55 PM EST

The depths of the AFAs modesty is expressed quite well by the way they give their own store a five star rating.

by LupusGreywalker on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 12:25:55 AM EST

they have no idea whatsoever about the history of Christmas, or they're deliberately ignoring it to keep up the political nonsense.  They remind me of the preachers I had when I was in that cult - "War on Christmas" (but I don't remember that phrase), but oh, yeah... your responsibility was to be in Church to celebrate and don't forget your wallet.  You weren't supposed to be having fun and partying and thinking about family and all of the fun and enjoyable things about Christmas, it was a time to honor Jesus.  Especially, you were supposed to give gifts to Jesus (of money to the church).  

Never mind that the preacher let slip one time that he always had a big "traditional" Christmas with his family - worked around his church schedule, every year, with lots of nice gifts to his kids and grandkids and all the trimmings.

They aren't mentioning the other side of their coin.  If all of the stores went out of their way to push Christmas (and nearly all do), they'd be fussing because "too much fun" and "Need to focus on Jesus".   That's part of the message behind the "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" signs I see every year, in many of the local yards.

Personally, the Christmas season is my favorite time of year, and always has been.  It's cooler (and drier), plus I love the decorations and music and such, and I appreciate the idea of Christmas.  I think if they got their way, all of the things I appreciate would be taken away and their religious ideology pushed instead.  (Example: Christmon tree - only crosses - a symbol of Christ's torture and death - and maybe a few stars and an angel.  I remember when those were being pushed locally by the churches as a replacement for the traditional Christmas tree.  No "pagan" symbols allowed.  They never once taught the real history of Christmas or the origin of the Christmas tree.)

by ArchaeoBob on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 10:26:38 AM EST

Yes -- It is the height of cheek for the Religious Right to complain about the "War on Christmas" when they have, in fact, horned in on the Pagan Yule celebration.  

It is gratifying for those of us of the Wiccan/Pagan path that traditional Pagan symbolism remains strong in the season (E.g., holly, Christmas trees, reindeer, mistletoe, Yule logs).

by coralsea on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 10:47:03 AM EST

Yeah.. Yule, the rites of Mithrias, there are a whole bunch of different religious traditions making up the Christmas we know today.  Ditto for all celebrations in a way.

Hey, if it's fun, if it's beautiful, if it brings light into your life, it can't be bad, and in a way they've given a back-assed compliment to the other faith traditions by taking these things into the practice of Christianity (although much of it is more secular-driven than not AND they were taken to use as a trojan horse to convert people).  

The thing is, all religions are syncretic in nature... very little is original.  A small thing added here... a pinch added there... a story modified and added elsewhere...   But I think it's time for a good education and credit where credit is due.

by ArchaeoBob on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 11:34:34 PM EST

another thing I like about Christmas is that after Halloween, a lot of people in Washington state put up lights, which they keep up until the end of January. On my country road here, they look real nice and brighten up the night for two months when things get dark around  5 pm.  Thanks, neighbors, even if you are atheists!

Jim of Olym

by rdrjames on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 07:55:32 PM EST

I have never subscribed to the whole "War on Christmas" thing because I've always felt that it was just more of that Religious Right whining about how discriminated against they are simply because everyone doesn't agree with them.  

However, after spending a couple of hours earlier this week in stores that were blaring "Christmas-themed music" (and by "Christmas-themed music," I mean the hideous, secular "Santa" and "Holiday" stuff belted out by caterwalling "popular artists"), I concede that they have something of a point -- at least in regard to the awful, awful music played to supposedly celebrate their sacred season.  

But this isn't the nefarious work of atheists and non-believers; it's the work of Capitalism, as retailers attempt to whip shoppers into an orgy of expenditure!

I personally like traditional Christmas music, partly because the songs that hale from the British Isles include many Pagan motifs, which, as a Wiccan, I personally find enjoyable, and partly because a lot of the "sacred" music is simply very beautiful.  However, I can see why some retailers shy away from a sacred song rotation, both because many of the songs, such as "Silent Night," are more likely to induce a pensive mood that isn't conducive to excessive credit card expenditure than a jazzed up "J-J-J-Jin-gle, Bells, J-J-J-Jingle Bells!!!"

Gee -- what a surprise!  The AFA, Pat Robertson, and other whiners of the Religious Right are once again aiming their criticism in the wrong direction.

by coralsea on Thu Nov 22, 2012 at 10:40:13 AM EST

...they are all confused. Christmas (Christ-mass) was considered a 'Popish' holiday by Protestants for quite a number of years. It was basically banned in Scotland until the 1960's. We all know the pagan origins of many of the symbols. So the AFA, a protestant organization (who's members most likely think Catholics are not Christian) is defending a Catholic Holiday. Nice.
It's much like their defense of the 7 Year Tribulation and Rapture, a theory concocted by the counter-reformation Jesuit Ribera, who was charged with coming up with an alternative to the reformation teaching that the book of Revelation was largely having it's fullfillment historically through the Papacy and the Catholic Church. In short, American fundamentalism is about 2,000 miles wide and 3 inches deep and as a result of their shallowness, are easy to manipulate and push their buttons.
Kind of sad to think that the AFA is the final result of the Protestant Reformation.

by COinMS on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 08:20:36 AM EST

I am a fairly traditional Eastern Orthodox Christian. Many of us celebrate the birth of Christ two weeks later than the 'world' does.  And we fast for over a month before we celebrate!  (that allows us to participate in the worldly post-Xmas sales to our hearts content, whilst not eating meat.)

My point is that 'old fashioned Christmas' is a rather recent invention, largly promoted by commercial interests, to increase their bottom line.  The Puritan forebears of the modern 'evangelicals' even tried to do away with the celebration since they considered it 'Popish'.  
And Pat Robertson is just a grumpy old man, in my book.

Jim of Olym

by rdrjames on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 07:52:09 PM EST

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