Today (during the 3rd week of the liturgical season of Advent), I’m going to start a multi-part article on the so-called “War on Christmas” that some people believe is being waged in our culture. Needless to say, I am most decidedly not one of those people. It is almost as if our culture needs another excuse to find fault, lay blame, avoid responsibility, increase hatred and division, and, generally, offer service to the satanized god of death. I believe that I am among a small minority of people who actually understand the feast of Christmas and I have an opportunity to prepare for that feast by reflecting on the celebration of the birth of the Christ and, at the same time, do my part to dismantle some of the mythological accretions that have served to create what many of the defenders of Christmas seek to preserve.
Here are some of the topics I want to cover in this brief series:
- History of the “War on Christmas”
- War, Victims, and the Satanized God
- The Saint of Coca Cola
- True Meaning of Christmas
- The Birth of the Christ
I remember as a kid being appalled that the retail industry had taken Christ out of “Christmas” and replaced him with an “X”. It was all part of a plot (I was certain) by secularists to secularize another Christian holiday, just the way they had replaced the resurrection with the Easter Bunny. I was incensed every time I saw “Xmas” in print. By the way, whatever happened to Xmas? I haven’t seen it around anywhere for a long time.1
However the “war” on Christmas long predated the “X” in “Xmas.” One of the earliest examples could be found in a set of articles in the newsletter published in the 1920s by Henry Ford (automaker and noted anti-Semite) entitled The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem. He wrote:
Last Christmas most people had a hard time finding Christmas cards that indicated in any way that Christmas commemorated Someone’s Birth… People sometimes ask why 3,000,000 Jews can control the affairs of 100,000,000 Americans. In the same way that ten Jewish students can abolish the mention of Christmas and Easter out of schools containing 3,000 Christian pupils.2
In 1959, it was the United Nations that had hatched a conspiracy to de-Christianize Christmas, at least according to the John Birch Society:
UN fanatics…What they now want to put over on the American people is simply this: Department stores throughout the country are to utilize UN symbols and emblems as Christmas decorations.3
This unholy war (according to Politico) continues unabated today:
Today’s War Over Christmas still revolves around department stores, and focuses on the rise of “Happy Holidays” and “Holiday Trees.” And it remains alert to an internal enemy poised to stab America in the back.4
I believe that the war on Christmas actually began with John Calvin in the 16th century. Calvin spearheaded the de-liturgizing of Christianity — that is, separating festival celebrations from the liturgical life of the Christian Church. This was the exact opposite of what Christian missionaries had done for over a thousand years: that is, subsuming the local pre-Christian festivals and holidays and re-purposing them to teach the Christian message. Once cut off from a formal, ritualistic, liturgical calendar, the secularization of (previously) Christian holidays had begun.
Christianity has always had its problems; however, until recently, there has always been a vibrant mystical tradition underlying all the superficial issues and squabbles. That tradition, for whatever reason, was tremendously impoverished during the 20th century. Perhaps it could be traceable to the experience of two world wars a cold war and countless isolated conflicts that inflicted terrible casualties with remarkable 20th century effectiveness. Not only did attendance at worship decline, it became popularized (and consequently de-mysticized). Christianity has suffered a period of perhaps its greatest impoverishment in its 2000-year history.
Now, what does a group do that is spiritually impoverished and finding itself increasingly irrelevant to the world’s population? In order to strengthen — or even maintain — it’s identity (it’s “us”), it must find or create a “them” against which to define itself. So the blame game continues. If it’s not international Jewery, or the United Nations, it must be “major corporations [that] ordered their employees not to say ‘Merry Christmas’”5, or it is the liberal secularists’ fault.6
In fact, it’s none of this. I see it as an attempt to escape from having to create a new, radical, meaningfully mystical Christianity. It is an attempt to escape from personal responsibility. It is an attempt to lay blame on a scapegoat (while realistically no such scapegoat can be found — the supposed “culprits” are all nebulous groups of anonymous people).
The so-called “War on Christmas” is therefore simply another manifestation of the ennui, the weakness and fear that infects our society in general and much of Christianity in particular. It is Satan, the Accuser, attempting to lay the blame on someone — on anyone — on us — rather than be exposed with regard to the shallow lie that festers uncomfortably at the core of Christian (and much non-Christian) spirituality: they are held captive by a punishing god who knows death.
Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!
2Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2013/12/war-on-christmas-short-history-101222#ixzz3uGfdJxDx.
5Bill O’Reilly quoted in Politico Magazine (op. cit.)
6“Secular progressives realize that America as it is now will never approve of gay marriage, partial birth abortion, euthanasia, legalized drugs, income redistribution through taxation and many other progressive visions because of religious opposition. But if the secularists can destroy religion in the public arena, the brave new progressive world is a possibility. That’s what happened in Canada.” (Bill O’Reilly quoted in Politico Magazine.)