Monday, December 21, 2009

All Your Faith Are Belong to Us

I took another look at the blog post that led me to write about the War on Christmas, because a word from it had been echoing in my mind all day. That word was "inclusive," which I had trouble believing was really in there because it's such a Politically Correct word to those Canutes who want to return to the 1950s if not the 1890s. But there it was:
There has been a movement in the past decade or so to make Christmas all-inclusive, to call it "holiday" and to expunge any reference to Christmas. Well, Christmas has always been inclusive -- never exclusive. Changing the name to "holiday" does not change the inclusivity of Christmas. It belongs to everyone, but it is still Christmas. How on earth did we allow Christmas to become politically incorrect?
Jo is flat wrong here: Christmas is not "inclusive." Saying "Merry Christmas," for her, is intended to slather Christmas all over the celebrations of non-Christians. (As Stephen Colbert said, there are infinite paths to accepting Jesus Christ as your personal savior.) In one respect that's nothing new, since so much of Christmas as we USAns and Canadians observe it is non-Christian: the Yule, the tree, the holly, the mistletoe -- even the prominent role of Santa Claus / Saint Nicholas / Father Christmas has nothing to do with the Mediterranean dying-and-rising god whose birth is commemorated on December 25. But all this is at best syncretism, not inclusiveness: at worst it's forced conversion and assimilation. Christianity absorbed a good deal of local religious forms as it spread all over the world, and often it is difficult to say for sure who absorbed whom: was Rome Christianized, or was Christianity Romanized? The Korean Christians I know, for example, have kept the form of a Confucian funeral and reverence for the dead, baptizing them as it were. This is fine as far as it goes, and it's not unique to Christianity by any means.

Actually "Happy Holidays" is the inclusive phrase, because it includes Christmas with New Year's, the Winter Solstice, Hanukkah, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa, and Epiphany. It does not, as Jo claimed, "expunge any reference to Christmas" any more than it expunges any reference to the other holidays. Indeed, that is the real crime of "Happy Holidays": it treats Christmas as just one more holiday, even if primus inter pares. The same attitude is exhibited by people who object to calling heterosexuality a sexual orientation because to do so implies that homosexuality is equal to heterosexuality. I suspect it's also involved when someone denies that Christianity is a religion, because "religion" is what the heathen believe, while Christianity is a Relationship with God or some such nonsense.

Sometimes, it's true, mere ethnocentric ignorance is involved. A young Pentecostal woman I used to work with asked me one day if I'd be going to church for Easter. I explained that as an atheist, I never go to church. "I thought everybody went to church on Easter," she said with unselfconscious directness, and kept repeating that refrain as I explained that Jews don't go to church for Easter either, since though they believe in the same God they don't believe in Jesus; that Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists don't worship Jesus, so they don't celebrate Easter either. "But I thought everybody went to church on Easter," she insisted. That, I think, is the kind of inclusiveness that Jo has in mind when she says that Christmas is inclusive.

Her attitude wasn't ill-intentioned, but her kind of ignorance, when combined with the War on Christmas crowd's hostility to anyone who won't agree that they own December 25, isn't benevolent either. One of my Facebook friends -- the same one, in fact, who claimed falsely that President Obama had a "holiday tree" in the White House a month back -- posted this weekend to the effect that "They" want to take "Christ out of Christmas." (You know, Them: the same shadowy figures who ruin your favorite movie by making inferior remakes. But then people who'd do that would do anything.) I know she probably just pasted something she'd found online into her status again. She also had it backwards: folks like her won't be satisfied until they've forced Christ into everybody's Christmas, whether we're Christians or not. If the church of her choice hasn't put enough Christ into its Christmas, she should do something about it or find another church. But outside that haven, she needs to mind her own business. Christ never was in my Christmas, and I won't let him in.