Thursday, December 24, 2009

Keep Christ in Commercialism!

On my way into work this Christmas Eve, I drove past a modest suburban dwelling with a sign in the yard. The sign carried the plea “Keep Christ in Christmas”. While this is certainly not an unusual sentiment from Christians, it was the picture accompanying the slogan that caught my eye. It was not, as the slogan might suggest, a manger scene or a cross or a Star of Bethlehem. Nope. It was a snowman. A bescarved, carrot-nosed, top-hatted - and very, very secular – snowman.

While I suspect this choice of illustration likely had to do more with a shortage of clip art at the sign printer, I think it unintentionally spoke volumes.

If indeed there has ever been, as some social conservatives are quick to argue, a “War on Christmas”, the recent “counterattacks” by the religious right are, in my opinion, a de facto admission of defeat.

The reason I have reached this conclusion is that, in past decades, many Christians voiced their discontent with the fact that Christmas had become “too commercial”, which is to say the holiday had shifted focus from a celebration of Christ’s birth to a secular holiday focused on consumerism and glitzy holiday displays designed to promote sales. These purists wanted to discard or at least downplay the commercial aspects of the season and focus on what they felt was the “true meaning” (i.e., the religious aspect) of the holiday. (As a Peanuts fan, might I suggest the 1965 production "A Charlie Brown Christmas" as a prime example of this meme. Ironically, the original version of the cartoon contained some very commercial product placement for sponsor Coca-Cola, but I digress.)

Today, however, those obsessed with the supposed “War on Christmas” have given up any hope of separating the religious from the secular/commercial aspects of the holiday and are, in fact, now reduced to pathetic pleas to have Christmas ride along on the coattails of what is now a completely commercialized and secularized holiday. They seem now to have moved from “Keep Christ in Christmas” to “Keep ‘Merry Christmas’ in your commercials”.

And what do they intend to do to the businesses who fail to heed their demands? Pray for them to become enlightened? Ask them to reflect on the message of “Peace on Earth”? No, they threaten the very secular strategy of boycotts against those businesses which refuse to stick “Merry Christmas” - like a Post-It Note hastily slapped onto a more important document - onto their sales pitches. In short, they have gone from decrying the entanglement of religion and commerce to threats of harming the commerce of those businesses which now have the gall to REFUSE to entangle religion and commerce!

How the “War on Christmas” types fail to see how hopeless and undignified this makes them look is beyond me.

But then again, I guess these folks are content to use a snowman to illustrate their message of "bringing Christ back to Christmas", so what do I know?

As for me? Despite being an atheist, I will light up my tree, have fun with family, eat until just before the point of a catastrophic digestive tract explosion and give and receive cool gifts. After all, celebrations around the solstice season predate Christianity and are a fun break from the drudgery of everyday life.

And Baby Jesus? He can tag along if he likes.

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