December 22, 2005,
The idea that Christmas is offensive offends me.
I say this not as a Bible-waving Religious Right-winger, but as a socially relaxed libertarian whose last wisps of faith evaporated in college. (I never could wedge the phrases "loving God" and "gas chamber" into the same sentence.) Even as a non-believer, I resent the relentless drive to convert Christmas into "Holiday" and pretend that all those beautifully decorated trees are really Hanukkah bushes, Kwanzaa shrubs, or Solstice topiaries.
The Orwellian impulse to hammer Christmas into the generic "Holiday" is mainly a project of far-Left, militant secularists as well as corporate marketers whose courage can be measured in thimbles. Fearful that "Merry Christmas" might make someone "uncomfortable," they instead antagonize the 95 percent of Americans who celebrate Christmas, according to a Fox News poll.
Some have gone further, with acts that are insensitive, offensive, or simply stupid.
The White House this month mailed 1.4 million cards wishing recipients a "Happy Holiday Season." This is not the first such generic card design, but in today's atmosphere, it made many Bush supporters grind their molars.
In Manhasset, New York, Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman upbraided a Catholic priest who appeared at a December 2 Christmas festival. "We're here to celebrate the holiday tree lighting," Kaiman said after Father Nick Zientarski offered a blessing. "This is not the place for a religious ceremony." Kaiman apologized after he unleashed a maelstrom.
Centennial, Colorado’s Heritage Elementary School banned cookies shaped like Christmas symbols, candy canes bearing religious messages, and teacher and student references to seasonal gatherings as “Christmas” parties.
A Memphis public library allowed a Nativity scene provided Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were excluded. (Manger, yes. Messiah, no.) Attorneys persuaded the library to reverse this decision.
Much as "Uncle Joe" erased his enemies from photos of VIPs taken atop Lenin's Tomb, Stalinists at Ridgeway Elementary School in Dodgeville, Wisconsin airbrushed the lyrics to "Silent Night." Children in its "Winter Program" instead sang these bastardized words:
"Cold in the night, no one in sight/winter winds whirl and bite/How I wish I were happy and warm/safe with my family, out of the storm."
"Silent Night" is neither a paean to Christianity's darkest hours, such as the Spanish Inquisition, nor a blood-soaked depiction of Christian Muslim-killing during the Crusades. Either might terrify first-graders. Instead, it features some of music's gentlest lyrics:
"Silent night, holy night/All is calm, all is bright/Round yon virgin mother and Child/Holy Infant, so tender and mild/Sleep in heavenly peace/Sleep in heavenly peace."
This leveling campaign is also tactically idiotic. Many of those undermining Christmas happen to oppose the teaching of intelligent design, favor gay marriage, and support physician-assisted suicide. These are all weighty matters on today's public agenda. If "progressives" want to be taken seriously on these issues between January and November, it would be smart not to spend December pettily tormenting those who usually disagree with them.
Americans who busy themselves bleaching Christmas into "Holiday" are the same folks who otherwise preach tolerance and celebrate diversity. Well, how about tolerating those of us, Christians and otherwise, who advance diversity by observing Christmas, just as other Americans mark Hanukkah and assorted occasions this season? "Holiday" does not recognize these separate practices; it swirls them in a conformist blender. The meaningless puree that emerges satisfies no one. Christmas is a cultural expression as well as a religious one. It should be preserved as such.
For me, and surely others, "Silent Night," Saint Nick, and Christmas cards (not "Holiday" cards), conjure up fond memories of drinking egg nog with relatives at grandma's house, wrapping gifts with my mom and cousins, waking up at dawn to see what Santa Claus brought me and my sisters, and assembling train sets and Hot Wheels race tracks with Daddy. By laundering Christmas right out of December, the "Holiday" Police condemn these formative experiences as evil. Shame on them.
If the radical secularizers have the courage of their rigid convictions, they will lobby Congress to repeal Christmas as a federal holiday. Then we all can go to work every December 25. I wonder if that would make anyone "uncomfortable."
Enough is enough.
Get off our backs.
Deroy Murdock is a New York-based syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service.