Question from e-mail:
Any thoughts on the current state of the War on Christmas™?
I think it’s about as silly as it ever was, considering that Christmas has conquered December, occupied November and metastasized into late October. To suggest that the holiday is under serious threat from politically correct non-Christians is like suggesting an earthworm is a serious threat to a Humvee. This is obvious enough to anyone with sense that I use The War on Christmas as an emergency diagnostic, which is to say, if you genuinely believe there’s a War on Christmas, you may want to see a doctor, since you might have a tumor pressing on your frontal lobes.
But — but — what about all those horrible atheists taking over holiday displays with crucified Santa skeletons? Surely that’s evidence of a war! Well, no, it’s evidence of some non-believers taking a page out of the PETA playbook, i.e., being dicks to get attention and to make a point. I do strongly suspect that if we didn’t have some certain excitable conservatives playing The War on Christmas card when a business says “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas,” and such, there would be less incentive for certain excitable non-believers to make a public show of desecrating Christmas symbols, but that’s just an opinion and I don’t have anything to back that up. What I do know is that the War on Christmas crusaders and the Santa crucifiers deserve each other; the rest of us, unfortunately, have to watch them both make public asses of themselves.
This is not to say that non-believers have to passively suck it up during the Christmas season; they have as much right to public display space as anyone and in a theoretical sense I’m glad they’re out there to remind people that not everyone defaults to Christian or even “religious.” I like it better when they do it in a manner that doesn’t explicitly say “take the symbols you cherish and shove them right up your ass.” But then I’m also the sort of non-believer who doesn’t take every public religious display as an intentional slap in the face. When people put up Christmas displays, or (to the point) when municipalities allow public space to be used for them, I don’t see them as a Christian majority saying “bow down to our hegemony, heretics and infidels,” I see them as people saying “Yay! Christmas!” Which is a different motivation entirely.
Here’s the thing: If you’re using the holiday season to go out of your way to be an asshole to someone, believer or non-believer, you’re doing it wrong, and I wish you would stop. That’s not a war, it’s a slap fight and it’s embarrassing. As a non-believer, when someone says “Merry Christmas” to me, I say “Merry Christmas” back, because generally speaking I understand that what “Merry Christmas” means in this context is “I am offering you good will in a way I know how,” and I appreciate that sentiment. Left to my own devices, I use “Happy holidays” because I know a lot of people who aren’t Christians (or at least Christmas-centered) and that seems the best way to express my own good will; the vast majority of people get what I’m doing and appreciate that sentiment too.
I think most people get the idea that regardless of religion or lack thereof, we’ve designated this time of year as the one where we make an effort to be decent to each other. Accept it. Welcome it. Live it, in the best way you know how. Be tolerant and gracious when others share this sentiment in a way different than you would. Look for what they’re saying means, not just the words they use to say it. It would be a fine way to have everyone enjoy the season.