Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Christmas Culture War that nobody actually wants

I'll get to Jerry Falwell's "With us or against Us" Christmas farther down, but first I want to explain something:

Christmas is two distinct holidays. One is secular, commercial and begins the day after tomorrow with Black Friday and ends Christmas morning. It is the center of our consumer culture, the reason for our season and such. If you don't go overboard, I guess, there isn't really anything wrong with secular Christmas, I just don't like getting it confused with the other Christmas.

Religious sacred Christmas, some would argue, starts on St. Lucy's Day. Others, myself included, say it starts on Christmas Day and ends on St. Stephen's Day (ah the St. Stephen's Day Murders). This Christmas is very different that the other secular one in that its a religious holiday. And, in an officially secular, not sectarian country, I understand some people don't like to celebrate this one. Far be it for me to force anyone to celebrate this one instead of the other. I like to celebrate it, its the second most important day on the Catholic calendar.

What does piss me off are people (like Falwell) that bemoan the secularism of Christmas, and those that are trying to put Christ back into something that has become a secular, consumer season. They don't bemoan the crassness of the season, the craziness of Black Friday, people running over each other at 5 in the morning running for DVD players. No, they sue Target who (this isn't actually true) ban "Merry Christmas" from their stores.

So says David Batstone at Sjourners:
The American Family Association... announced a boycott on all Target stores, because, according to the group, the retailer has chosen not to use "Merry Christmas" on advertising and in-store promotions. Disputing that charge, Target spokeswoman Carolyn Brookter told the San Francisco Chronicle, "I don't know where they're coming from. We have no such policy on Christmas. You can see it in our stores."

Her denial is unnecessary anyway, in my mind. If a store chooses to honor the holiday traditions of all its diverse shoppers, why should I punish their embrace?

I know that I am not the only American - Christian, Jewish, Muslim or other - who can't be troubled to join these cultural wars. Share the joy of Christmas and Hanukkah - which begin on the same day this year - with each other. And express it in the way that delivers your best wishes. Those who are looking for offense will find their cause. Look instead for ways to celebrate the gifts of the season together.

I want to celebrate a religious holiday, and I don't want to get it confused with a secular one. By pushing for more religious behavior in the secular Christmas (shopping malls, Target Stores, government in general) it ruins the sacred nature of Christmas. It cheapens it.

If they want to attack the crass, commercial Christmas, then do that. Go after the nature of our retail economy that literally depends on our spending habits during December to stay in business. Attack the consumer nature of our culture, that somehow if we don't have the newest or shiniest things, we are lesser. Their point isn't to attack consumerism, just to throw a Jesus blanket over a consumer holiday and call it good.

By setting up false choices like a "secular consumer Christmas" vs. "secular consumer Christmas (+Jesus)," the right announces a culture war that doesn't really exist. People should be able to participate in an American consumer tradition (no matter how shallow), while still being able to follow their own particular religious tradition. Mine, for example, doesn't include "He's the reason for the season" buttons in Wal-mart.

1 comment:

Sverige said...

Of course nobody wants war, if i can choose all i want is Christmas all the time.