Christian friends and relatives complain about how Christmas is commercialized. Every year, one of the most sacred events in Christianity is used as a mechanism to sell everything from jewelry to SUVs. To the dismay of sincere believers, the ascetic, self-sacrificing religious message is washed away by a tsunami of tacky hucksterism. As Tom Lehrer put it: “Angels we have heard on high, Telling us to go out and BUY!”
Now, the Christian right is actually demanding more commercialization of Christmas, not less. They are angry this year as last because some commercial establishments, such as the Target chain, give their seasonal commercial campaigns a sort of generalized “holiday” aspect rather than a specific “Christmas” one.
Last year, there was contrived anger because some shopping center had a display of a Hanukkah menorah and not a nativity crèche. The “scandal” became muddled with the separation of church and state issue.
Because government entities are forbidden from putting up specifically religious displays, it is claimed that “liberals” are also taking away Christmas symbolism from commercial establishments, even though private businesses can, in fact, do what they please. We are told that this is a LIBERAL CONSPIRACY to abolish Christmas.
Yet there is Christmas stuff everywhere. All churches are open for business, and the businesses are got up like churches. True, the Christmas displays show more of Santa than of Jesus, but still, it’s Christmas stuff. Personally, I would rather listen to Bach’s “Christmas Oratorio” than “Jingle Bells,” and I’m not even religious, but live and let live.
What is really going on here? First, the “liberals are stealing Christmas” campaign is just another thing for the right-wing media to yell about, like Teri Schiavo or Natalie Holloway who disappeared in Aruba, or “our broken borders.” The motive is to get people to watch your program and buy the sponsors’ products.
But I also think there is some genuine bigotry going on. Not everybody in the country is a Christian. For many, Christmas is indeed important, but for others the key thing toward the end of the year is Hanukkah, or Ramadan, or Kwanzaa, or even simply New Year.
People who are not practicing Christians don’t mind having their own symbols recognized now and then, be it a Hanukkah menorah among all the Santa Clauses, or whatever.
In order to get some of the dollars of non-Christians, or even of Christians who don’t like to see their religion commercialized, businesses tone the specific confessional message down to “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings.” The ACLU did not tell them to do this, their marketing consultants did. They know that it would be offensive to most Christians to depict Jesus saying “The Prince of Peace says buy a brand new Jeep Cherokee today,” so they just put up a sign saying “take advantage of our holiday special on brand-new Jeep Cherokees.”
This drives the fanatics wild; they give the impression that THEY ACTUALLY WOULD LIKE IT if a depiction of Jesus Christ were used to sell cars, even though Jesus always rode on eco-friendly donkeys. Like their soul mate Grigori Rasputin, they have trouble distinguishing piety from blasphemy sometimes.
To the rest of us the Christian right says, “How dare you, infidels! America is a Christian nation, and you will bow to Christian religious symbols, and like it!” Nut jobs like Pat Robertson state that trends in Christianity more liberal than their own, such as Presbyterians and Methodists, are the voice of the Antichrist. Jews are (temporarily) needed because Revelations says their return to Israel is necessary for the longed for end-of-the-world scenario (in which most of them get killed off or converted to Christianity), but where the Hell did all these other heathens come from?
Like the other hobbyhorses of the cable TV lunatics, the “liberals are stealing Christmas” campaign is also a political red herring, meant to distract our attention from what is really being stolen from the people — namely, our tax dollars in an illegal war, and our public services as Congress cuts the budget for essential social programs while giving obscene tax cuts to the rich. And they will steal our democratic rights, including religious freedom too, if we let them.