From the Editor’s Desk…
So it is now Christmas, celebrated by Christians and many non-Christians around the world.
I am not quite certain what I think about Christmas. I was raised outside of any religious tradition. My parents were secularists and rationalists.
But we were, I suppose, what you’d call “cultural Christians.” And that meant that we celebrated Christmas. In fact, it was a very big deal for us. There was much joy involved. We travelled to see the rest of the family—my Grandparents, Uncles, Aunts, and Cousins, who we otherwise saw only rarely. The tree was always decorated, the gifts always bought weeks or months in advance, the opening of the presents a wonderful chaos of children and torn paper…
And the thing that I remember most about it, and which intrigues me the most, was that it was an oddly open Christmas. The mere fact that my parents were rationalists, while some of my cousins were ardent believers, did not matter particularly. We could engage in Christmas, and with each other. It didn’t matter what branch of Christianity we did or didn’t represent, it was all the same…so long as we embraced the joy of being with each other.
Indeed, as I look back on it, I’m struck by how much that used to be the case for many of us…that is, many Americans, in my youth, half a century ago, now. Oh, yes, there were Bible whackers then, too, but in the larger culture it seems to me we were more tolerant of Christmas and what it meant, and who could play. I remember friends of mine who were not Christians, who never the less found in the occasion a reason to celebrate. Why not? There’s nothing particularly Christian about a decorated tree (it does, after all, sound just a wee bit pagan). And as for Santa, well, come, there was a real St. Nicholas, and he was a Christian monk in what is now the very un-Christian nation of Turkey, but there is no reason why you have to dwell on that. You can easily focus on the jolly fat man with the beard and the sack of toys and the flying reindeer…none of which had a thing to do with the historical Saint Nick, much less Christ.
It was, in short, a less exclusive age, in which Christmas was a less exclusive holiday, a more humane occasion, and could be shared.
It is all somewhat different now, I’m afraid. Fox News and a host of others talk about a “war on Christmas” and call the faithful to arms. It’s now “keep Christ in Christmas,” and you run the risk of public rebuke if you dare say “happy holidays,” rather than “merry Christmas.” And if you are a retailer and you don’t have creches and crosses in your advertising…then God help you indeed.
But, you see…there’s the thing. I think the war’s about Christmas all right, but it hasn’t been we Liberals and Progressives attacking the traditional. Rather, it is the other way around. The war was declared by Evangelical Christians against the rest of us. It is they who are the aggressors, and they who have set out to tell the rest of the world how Christmas shall be celebrated, and by whom.
And, frankly, I don’t think that we should stand for it. I think that we should, indeed, wage a (non-violent) cultural war of self-defense. That is, we should not wage a war against Christmas, but rather, one for Christmas. We need to take it back.
We need to say to the Right, Christmas is not Yours…not the private property of a particular sect or group. We need to say that you… Franklin Graham and Betsy DeVos and Jerry Falwell Jr. and all the other Merry Christmas Warriors…you don’t own Christ. You don’t own Christ’s birth. You don’t own Christianity. No one does own those things.
We need to say proudly that our versions of Christmas, and of Christianity, and even of Christ are just as valid as yours. In fact, we feel that they are better…they are more open, they are more human, they are more Christ-like. At least “our” conception of Christ would live up to the mission he stated for his followers in the Bible — to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and defend the oppressed. At least our version of Christ would not imprison children in cages, nor gas them at the border.
But even if our version of Christ is no better and worse than others, then we have a right to envision God any way we care to, including as an absence. And you have no right …none!…to impose your conception of Him, or Her, or It upon us.
So, let us take arms. Let us reclaim what is ours by right. Let us say, we, too, own Christmas. It is ours to celebrate. Ours to honor.
And let us confront the Right with a central, Biblical reality…
To wit, it is a sin to use Christ’s name for personal gain…and that’s exactly what the Right is doing. It is using Christ as a means of attacking us, Progressives. The have turned Him into a weapon, a blunt instrument, a club, and a whip. And thus they, not we, are guilty of taking Christ out of Christmas.
Ergo, our purpose…
We will truly redeem Christmas…
By seeking, truly, good will toward all, and genuine peace on earth.