The War on
This is a little ridiculous (via Dara’s Google Reader feed):
Boss Creations, a new holiday decor company, has introduced the new “CHRIST-mas” Tree, featuring the unique trait of a trunk in the shape of a wooden cross. Company owner Marsha Boggs says the tree was specifically designed to counter the “war on Christmas.”
“When I became a Christian a few years ago,” says Boggs, “I was appalled by the secularization of the Christmas holiday. When retail stores started substituting ‘Happy Holidays’ for ‘Merry Christmas,’ and schools began calling their Christmas programs ‘Winter Plays,’ it all seemed ridiculous to me. That’s why we have created products that remind people what the Christmas season is really all about – the birth of Christ.”
It’s hilariously ironic that Boggs would use a Christmas tree as a means of combating the “war on Christmas.” After all, the Christmas tree has distinctly pagan roots and stands mostly outside of Christian tradition. Indeed, there was a time when Christmas itself was a controversial subject among Christians, many of whom wanted nothing to do with a celebration that hearkened back to the pagan festivals of old (if we’re going for accuracy, the Persian god “Mithras” is the real reason for the season). If anything, Ms. Bogg’s Christmas tree has the opposite effect: it reminds me that early Christians were a fairly opportunistic bunch, and would happily co-opt pagan celebrations if it meant that they could save a few souls (see: Easter).
That aside, the yearly outrage over the “war on Christmas” reminds me of one of the things that really bothers me about contemporary conservative evangelicalism, namely, it’s tremendous hostility to religious pluralism. “Happy Holidays” is a fundamentally inclusive greeting. It’s a way of respecting non-Christian Americans and acknowledging the fact Christmas coincides with other religious holidays equally worthy of respect (like Hanukkah, for instance). When someone wishes you “Happy Holidays,” they are saying something roughly the same as this: “I’m not sure what your religious beliefs are, but whatever they are, I hope you enjoy the holiday season as much as possible.”
This is the furthest thing from “offensive” that I can imagine, and yet, there are many Christians who are apoplectic about the change. From what I can gather, the offense comes from the fact that they have to share the holiday. It’s not enough that Christmas and Christianity are in every other way privileged above other religious celebrations, no, we have to actively avoid acknowledging the existence of other religions. “Religious freedom” for them isn’t the right to practice as they see fit, it’s the “right” to banish every other religion from the public square, or something to that effect. It probably isn’t my place to say this (since I’m not the ultimate arbiter of right belief, or something), but the stunning lack of charity and understanding inherent in this approach to other religions and other people strikes me as a pretty clear-cut example of what Jesus specifically asked us not to do.