I’m one of the fools who paid $49.95 to gain access to the TimesSelect portion of The New York Times web site. Most days I’m not certain it’s worth the money, but today they published a terrific entry in their continuing Talking Points series. This story is entitled “The So-Called War On Christmas.”
I think The Times is foolish to limit people’s access to this kind of wonderful material. For those of you who can’t get to the story, here are a few quotes and a summary. The main points are:
1. There is no liberal plot to destroy Christmas
2. What has changed in the United States is religious diversity. Because we are increasingly religiously diverse neither individuals nor department stores nor governments can assume or act as if everyone is Christian.
3. The radical religious right’s purpose is to use this “manufactured crisis” as a cudgel to beat the U.S. into becoming more of a theocracy.
4. This so-called campaign for Christmas is becoming increasingly anti-Semitic.
It is a manufactured crisis. Christmas is a holiday that is primarily celebrated in churches and in the home, and by all accounts it is thriving. The reason conservative media outlets have to keep pounding away at the theme, clearly, is that most Americans who are busy celebrating Christmas with family and friends are probably under the impression that the holiday is doing justfine.
Religious conservatives are using Christmas for a political purpose: as a cudgel to push the prayers and displays of their own form of Christianity into public spaces, including public schools, and to make America more like a theocracy.
The Christmas defenders' real enemy is not secularism, but inclusiveness.
The Christmas"defense" movement is starting to be openly anti-Semitic....Charges that Jews are behind the "War on Christmas" are beginning to be made directly. The president of Liberty Counsel, a conservative religious group, stated on Fox last year that a Florida mayor was conducting a vendetta against a nativity scene at least partly because he "apparently is Jewish." When a Jewish caller to Mr. O'Reilly's radio show objected to Christmas in the schools, and said that he "grew up with a resentment because I felt that people were trying to convert me to Christianity," Mr. O'Reilly responded. "If you are really offended, you gotta go to Israel."
There is a simple explanation for the increasing use of phrases like "Happy Holidays" — but it is not one that the Christmas "defenders" want to talk about.
The nation is rapidly becoming more religiously diverse. The percentage of the population that describes itself as Christian has declined to 77 percent in 2000, from 86 percent in 1990. The biggest increase has been in people who do not identify themselves with any religion, a group that has more than doubled since 1990.