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War On Christmas Doesn't Exist

It's Christmas time again, and many Americans will celebrate by overeating, giving gifts, gathering with family – and fighting a war to save the holiday from extinction. World Net Daily Columnist Ben Kinchlow launched the next round of pointless debate with a column decrying the fact Christmas is morphing into “... a secular holiday,” because schools now take a “winter break” and most stores are careful to wish their customers “happy holidays.”

Many people treat these innocuous cultural changes seriously. “You're taking Christ out of Christmas!” they complain. The reality, however, is less conspiratorial than the holiday's staunch defenders would suggest. The war on Christmas is a myth; many Americans don't celebrate it and society is rightly acknowledging that.

The same people who accuse retailers of kowtowing to political correctness during the holidays are typically conservatives, who also supposedly approve of capitalism. Now, why would a for-profit business change the way it engages its customers during a major shopping season? Probably because they realize it's good for business. Retailers are doing exactly what conservatives say they should: everything they can to make money. They're doing this by catering to the values of their customers, even the non-Christian ones. I suggest that this is simply the market at work, not an attack on anybody's cherished beliefs.

When it comes to our public institutions' unwillingness to acknowledge Christmas, I have even less sympathy for the religious right. This group will tell you with a straight face that they don't want the state practicing social engineering; after all, a government that tells us how to live our lives is stepping way beyond its constitutional bounds. But then, in the same breath they'll scream about public schools refusing to emphasize their religious holiday. If we're going to have federally-funded public schools, an idea Republicans obviously aren't opposed to, then we should also be prepared to compromise when educating children that come from all sorts of religious and social backgrounds.

But on the political front, there's a simple fact about Christianity often overlooked by the soldiers in this faux culture war; Christianity began as an entirely non-political movement. Jesus almost completely ignored government in his teachings and never used it to further his cause. And as the famed literary scholar C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, the faith doesn't claim to have a detailed political program, and anybody who claims otherwise is “... approaching it in hope of finding support ... for the views of their own party.” Would it be too much to ask that people actually know their religious heritage before starting a fight to save it?

I have no qualms about admitting that Christianity has played and will continue playing a major role in the Western world. Similarly, I don't doubt that there are people (the new atheists, for example) who really do want to see religion disappear. And when they level serious charges at religious belief, they should be rebutted. But the fictional assault on Christmas isn't something believers should expend much intellectual effort on.

As Nathan Stringer recently argued in a PolicyMic article on this subject, nearly everybody celebrates their winter holiday with gifts and quality family time. There are no anti-Christmas crusaders to fight off, just other people celebrating the exact same way Christians do. If that is not enough, consider some examples of this war in progress. Fox News lamented last year that the NBA scheduled basketball games on Christmas Day, and the Catholic League criticized Best Buy several years ago because the company wouldn't incorporate “Christmas” into their advertising. That's not war. It's just people doing things differently than they used to.

Still, if people want to boycott stores that snub their holiday and put their kids in private schools that teach the “true” meaning of Christmas, fine. But the very boring bottom line is this: As long as the 60% of Americans who call themselves Christians keep celebrating the birth of Christ every December 25, the holiday will survive long into the future. 

Photo Credit: zizzybaloobah

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