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Wednesday, December 7, 2005
I Have a Confession to Make
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 3:00 pm

I have used the dreaded phrase “Happy Holidays.”

Yes, it’s true. Indeed, I specifically remember being a Teaching Assistant at the University of Texas probably back in 1992 or 1993 collecting final exams from students in a mega-sized section of GOV 310: American Government (or whatever it was called-that was the number anyway) and kept telling students “Merry Christmas” or “Have a nice break” or “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year” and other permutations. I eventually started saying “Happy Holidays” because it was easier to say. Plus, I will confess that it did occur to me that some people don’t celebrate Christmas. However, it was hardly an attempt to be “PC”-it just seemed the natural thing to do at the time.

I still find myself using a variety of phrases at this time of year, including “Happy Holidays”-and quite frankly, it is the one that makes the most sense in many ways because of the fact that there are at least two major holidays during this time of year: Christmas and New Years, both of which we all get off from work, not to mention Hanukkah. I will confess, I find Kwanzaa, with its artificial nature and relatively short existence to have a meager claim to recognition to Christmas and Hanukkah, which have, shall we say, rather more impressive and lengthy lineages. Still, that doesn’t mean I have to go our of my way to be rude about it either.

At a minimum, it is the “holiday season” is it not? I do find it ridiculous when school districts issue edicts that teacher ought not say “Merry Christmas” as happened to my wife when she taught for a year in Southern California back in 1989. For one thing, Christmas is a rather entrenched part of our national culture, and secondly there are secular versions of Christmas. I can understand not wanting teachers to go into detailed analyses of first couple of Chapters of Luke, but gee whiz, let’s not get crazy (and clearly, some have).

Calling “Christmas” Trees “Holiday”Day Trees is absurd, if anything because that is a blatant attempt to take something established and change it because it touches on the religious. More specifically, while there are a number of holidays at this time of year, only one uses a decorated tree, so please. Given that the Christmas tree itself isn’t Christian in origin makes the renaming even sillier in my mind, but oh well.

(Or course, to be fair, may Evangelicals who object to Halloween have “Harvest Festivals” that include dressing up, candy and stuff, with the name change meant to appropriate the holiday from its secular roots).

I will say this for certain: who gives a rodent’s posterior if Target, Wal*Mart or whatever retailer has “Happy Holiday” banners instead of “Merry Christmas”-the honest to gosh truth is that I don’t go to Wal*Mart for spiritual edification; I go to buy cheap stuff. Of course, I am not one to get excited about the lack of Ten Commandments monuments in court houses or prayer in schools, as I don’t look to those institutions for spiritual guidance either. (Indeed, God help those who do-literally). In fact, I have been in numerous stores and have paid precious little to what banners or ads say, except in terms of what the store has and what they are charging for it. Since I associate the overall symbology present in these places with Christmas (trees, garland, music, etc) it all screams “Christmas” to me, as I am sure that it does to most people.

And in all honesty: who can blame retailers for being as generic and inclusive as possible? What’s the real harm?

Understand: I am a Christian and I am a member of a Southern Baptist congregation. Tonight I will oversee our Awana program and I am currently in the middle of a substitute-teaching stint in our Sunday School class (it’s a study on the book of Hebrews-so stop on by if you’d like). As such, I would like to think that as imperfect as they are, my religious bona fides are decent enough that I can’t be accused of having the above-stated opinion about “Happy Holidays” because I am a secularist.

Clearly, many Christians get a bit too overheated about issues that simply aren’t that important. Of course, having Bill O’Reilly an Jon Gibson ranting about it doesn’t help. I would remind the Brethren (and Sistren) that Christmas Day is one of two days that America essentially stops as part of its observance of the day, so saying that there is a “war on Christmas” in a lot of hyperbole. And, I would note, Christmas hasn’t always been the holiday, either in Christian tradition nor in American culture. Those are both relatively new phenomena (and Easter really is still the High Holy Day of Christianity).

Are there people who are truly hostile to Christmas and Christianity? Of course there are. Is it ridiculously PC for a town to go out of its way to rename the Christmas parade the “Holiday” Parade? Yes, it is. I even think it silly that people get all hot and bothered over nativity scenes (if you think it’s all myth, what is the harm?)

I have been thinking about this for several days (and, indeed, think about it every Christmas season, as it seems for several years ow we have to live through the whole “there’s a war on Christmas” routine), but my proximate inspiration was this piece in WaPo: ‘Holiday’ Cards Ring Hollow for Some on Bushes’ List, which includes these statements, which strike me as absurd and focusing wholly on minutia, rather than reality:

“This clearly demonstrates that the Bush administration has suffered a loss of will and that they have capitulated to the worst elements in our culture,” said William A. Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

Bush “claims to be a born-again, evangelical Christian. But he sure doesn’t act like one,” said Joseph Farah, editor of the conservative Web site WorldNetDaily.com. “I threw out my White House card as soon as I got it.”

I mean really: it the best way to assess a person’s commitment to their faith an examination of their Christmas cards? This is just plain silly.

And heck, what does it say about my wife and I: we stopped sending reams of Christmas cards years ago and send our annual Christmas letter via e-mail to most people. (Please don’t tell the dudes at WorldNetDaily).

Filed under: US Politics, Religion | |Send TrackBack

8 Comments »

  1. “Tonight I will oversee our Awana program…”

    I thought you didn’t like Kwanzaa??

    Comment by Ringo — Wednesday, December 7, 2005 @ 3:07 pm

  2. What the heck is an “Awana program” anyway? Never heard of that, not in the Assembly of God, Episcopal, Baptist or Methodist churches that I’ve attended in my lifetime.

    Comment by Jan — Wednesday, December 7, 2005 @ 3:20 pm

  3. The behavior of American Christians is dunning….the spending habits are more important than the spirit of the holiday to these freaks.

    If in fact they were true to celebrating the birth of Jesus they wouldn’t be doing so in December.

    Happy Critical Thinking Holiday!

    Comment by augie — Wednesday, December 7, 2005 @ 5:46 pm

  4. Bing-frivkin’-O.

    Whoops. That should have been “A-frinkin’-men.”

    Comment by Steven L. — Wednesday, December 7, 2005 @ 7:55 pm

  5. Oh, btw, does that mean I shouldn’t send you a Christmas card?

    Comment by Jan — Wednesday, December 7, 2005 @ 11:24 pm

  6. I have nothing against Christmas cards. ;)

    And there is a link (I think) in my post to Awana’s website.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Thursday, December 8, 2005 @ 6:01 am

  7. Yeah, I saw it. Thanks.

    Comment by Jan — Thursday, December 8, 2005 @ 8:09 am

  8. OF course, we could always consider that the media was drumming up some “controversy” to make it look like Bush was dissing his base. After all, the libs in the media LOVED the brouhaha over Harriet Miers. Why not try to gin up some more? Especially now that Iraq and the economy are working in Bush’s favor again.

    Comment by Steven Schmitt — Thursday, December 8, 2005 @ 4:08 pm

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