Rev Irene Monroe

The Religious Right's War On Christmas Continues

Filed By Rev Irene Monroe | December 20, 2013 1:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Bill Donohue, Bill O'Reilly, black Santa, Megyn Kelly, privilege tantrums, War on Christmas

WarOnChristmas-segment.jpgFor the past decade now, when the holiday season rolls around we can always count on a kerfuffle from someone on the Right: the continuing "war on Christmas."

That this year's annual present comes from a host on Fox News is no surprise.

On her recent show "The Kelly File," Fox News Channel host Megyn Kelly ignited a conflagration when she stated that both Jesus and Santa Claus are white.

Kelly's assertion was a response to a contestation made by Aisha Harris -- an African American and Slate culture blogger -- that the commercial image of Santa Claus, in this day and age, should no longer be a white man, but rather a penguin:

"Two decades later, America is less and less white, but a melanin-deficient Santa remains the default in commercials, mall casting calls, and movies. Isn't it time that our image of Santa better serve all the children he delights each Christmas?... I propose that America abandon Santa-as-fat-old-white-man and create a new symbol of Christmas cheer. From here on out, Santa Claus should be a penguin."

While Kelly has backpedaled on her assertion that Jesus is white, she has remained, however, both unwavering and unapologetic in her claim that Santa is: "For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white."

For Kelly, the "incontrovertible" evidence is the 1947 Hollywood classic Miracle on 34th Street and the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.

In her cleanup effort to stem the avalanche of criticism that she is at best, naively insensitive and at worst, an outright racist, Kelly now states that her remarks were merely tongue-in cheek, calling her critics "humorless."

In 2012, the right's holiday kerfuffle was about what exactly the appropriate season's greeting should be.

With Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the winter solstice, and Christmas all celebrated this time of year, one would think that we would embrace a two-word, all-inclusive seasonal greeting emblematic of our nation's religious diversity: "Happy Holidays!"

In 2011 the governor of Rhode Island, Lincoln Chafee, vexed his Republican colleagues by renaming the state house Christmas tree a "holiday tree."

"The governor defended his decision by arguing that it is in keeping with the state's founding in 1636 by religious dissident Roger Williams as a haven for tolerance -- where government and religion were kept separate," the Daily Mail reported.

Some see the "war on Christmas" as an assault on Christianity, where the mere utterance of the word "Christmas" is gradually being expunged from the holiday public lexicon.

And it feels to these Christian holiday revelers that the country, in its effort to be politically correct, is moving toward religious intolerance. In their view, the political correctness concerning how to inclusively greet, speak and commercially showcase this holiday season in public borders on fanatical.

Many Christians will argue that the "war on Christmas" has been going on for decades, but it revved up again with a new band of Christian soldiers in 2005, helped along by Fox News praising John Gibson's new book, The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday is Worse Than You Thought. Gibson wrote:

"Christmas has been declared politically incorrect, and the situation is much worse than you realize. ...At first it was just nativity scenes in the town square and other overtly Christian symbols. But now the secular militants have expanded their war on Christmas to go after things regarded by most Americans--and even by the Supreme Court--as innocent symbols of the federal holiday that is Christmas.

"You can't say 'Merry Christmas' at a school or office anymore; only 'Happy Holidays' is acceptable. No more caroling in public. Friendship trees instead of Christmas trees. No more Santa Claus, treetop stars, wreaths, Christmas music -- even instrumental versions!--or school performances of Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Even the colors red and green are under attack."

But there is a difference, in my opinion, between Christian apologists and Christmas apologists.

For many Christians, Christmas is one of their high holy days, and it's their religious bedrock that not only anchors them in their faith but also shapes and governs them and their view of the world. The author and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis eloquently captured this when he wrote in his 1945 essay, "Is Theology Poetry?": "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."

But Christmas apologists refuse to see anything else because the "war on Christmas" is about their perceived loss of cultural dominance. And they are fighting back with all their might.

For example, Fox News anchor Bill O'Reilly has advocated boycotts of retailers like Walmart and Target for not using the words "merry Christmas." O'Reilly misses the point that by using his political and economic clout to cripple stores for not showing commercial deference solely to Christmas, he's desecrating the very character of our multicultural holiday season.

In 2009 William Donahue of the Catholic League told MSNBC's Joe Scarborough that the "war on Christmas" is fueled by "secular Jews who hate Christianity and Catholicism in particular." And of course Pat Robertson had to chime in and said on his 700 Club television show that Muslims are actually to blame.

Truth be told, Muslims, secular progressives and Jews have never been the folks trying to abolish Christmas. Instead, it was once an extreme group of Protestants -- yes, the Puritans.

The date of December 25 derives from the Saturnalia, the pagans' wintertime celebration. It is not mentioned as the birthday of Jesus anywhere in the Bible. So the Puritan Parliament banned Christmas from 1659 until 1681.

The intolerance of multicultural themes and Santa Clauses of color has little to do with a renewed interest in the birth of Christ by the Christian right. Instead, it's a backlash spearheaded by Christian conservatives as the country continues to grow more culturally and religiously pluralistic.

And just for the record, the real St. Nicholas -- you know, the Christian saint who inspired Santa Claus -- hailed from Turkey.


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