Monday, November 21, 2005

Can't This Wait Until We've Had Thanksgiving Dinner?
Buckle up, everybody, because here we go:
Evangelical Christian pastor Jerry Falwell has a message for Americans when it comes to celebrating Christmas this year: You're either with us, or you're against us.

Falwell has put the power of his 24,000-member congregation behind the "Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign," an effort led by the conservative legal organization Liberty Counsel. The group promises to file suit against anyone who spreads what it sees as misinformation about how Christmas can be celebrated in schools and public spaces.
Last year, I attributed nattering about "the war on Christmas" to post-election dick-swinging by emboldened wingnuts. Twelve months later, nothing has changed. The right, with the aid of two prominent Fox News commentators, is going to war against the war again this year.

That they'd go after Macy's is one thing--Macy's is old New York money, after all, and from a snobby blue state at that. But to get an idea how extreme the Christmas crusaders really are: this year they're pissed at Walmart. Walmart--the CD-censoring, book-banning retail embodiment of red-state culture; Walmart--the high tabernacle at which Americans demonstrate their love of country by buying as much landfill crap as possible. The day Walmart becomes too liberal for these people is the day the rest of us should start pricing flights to Auckland.

As is the case with many popular wingnut cultural crusades, it's almost unnecessary to point out that the supposed liberal assault on Christmas is a paranoid fantasy, as Salon's Michelle Goldberg demonstrates today. (She didn't suggest that Falwell's first lawsuit for misinfomation-spreading should logically be directed against himself--but I will.) And apart from its ramshackle nature--isolated instances of secularist overreaction converted magically into a vast, coordinated plot--this crusade rings false for another reason: Falwell, Fox News, and the rest are closing the barn door after the reindeer has escaped.

Contrary to Falwell's fightin' words, most Americans are neither with him nor against him. If they choose to do so, most American families are perfectly able to make room for both Jesus and Santa--the religious aspects of the season and the secular ones. They'll go to church on Christmas Eve to hear the story about Jesus' arrival, and then hurry home to await Santa's arrival, and see nothing disrespectful to Jesus in doing so.

If ever there were a case of a small minority raising hell over something out of all proportion to that something's actual significance, this is it. The number of benighted fools who honestly believe liberals are out to eliminate the religious dimension of Christmas is tiny. There's a far greater number of political opportunists who see the idea as a seasonally appropriate way to carry on their same old fight, just like you put a wreath on your front door in December.

But if Fox News is really serious about fighting the secularization of Christmas, they'll prove it--by refusing to accept advertising from companies that don't extend holiday greetings in Fox's approved fashion. In fact, maybe they shouldn't accept advertising from people trying to make money off such a sacred holiday in any way.

(Insert sound of crickets chirping here.)

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