There has been much ado in recent weeks about the "war on Christmas." Bill O’Reilly, the Rev. Jerry Falwell and others have done their best to persuade us that this nefarious plot threatens the American way of life, that ACLU storm troopers will descend upon anyone who dares to utter the phrase "Merry Christmas." As a leading religious scholar, I feel that it is my duty to tell you the truth: It is all hogwash.
If a store chooses to wish you "Happy Holidays" or "Season’s Greetings," how can you possibly interpret it as an attack on Christmas? There are several perfectly legitimate reasons why a store might choose to use these generic holiday greetings. For one, not everyone celebrates Christmas. Why would a retailer want to risk offending its Hindu or atheist or canine Muslim customers? I am not suggesting that retailers should avoid saying "Merry Christmas" – in fact, a cashier at Wal-Mart wished me a Merry Christmas on Sunday, and I returned the greeting. But "Happy Holidays" is an inclusive greeting, and it is perfectly understandable if businesses prefer to use it. Another reason stores may prefer "Happy Holidays" is that this is truly a season of holidays -- plural. It begins around Thanksgiving, runs through Hanukkah and Christmas and Kwanzaa and Festivus, and concludes with New Year’s. And the bowl games. One of the rallying cries of this "Save Christmas" movement is that "It’s OK to say Merry Christmas." I think we can all decide for ourselves what we would like to say, thank you very much. To presume to put words into the mouths of others is arrogance, pure and simple. And as regular readers of this blog know, arrogance is not tolerated here.
I read on another fine blog the story of a shopper who was so offended when a Lowe’s employee wished her "Happy Holidays" that she lectured the store manager on the true meaning of Christmas and returned all of her merchandise. Even President Bush has been assailed because his holiday greeting cards do not explicitly mention Christmas (though they do contain a verse from the Old Testament book of Psalms). "I threw out my White House card as soon as I got it," Joseph Farah, editor of the conservative Web site WorldNetDaily.com, told the Washington Post.
What would Jesus do? Throw a temper tantrum because people were trying to be respectful of one another? I think not. Wasn't it just a few years ago that the big complaint was that Christmas was too commercialized? And now these busy-bodies want to marry Christmas and commerce? Methinks somebody is just out to stir up trouble.
If Falwell, O'Reilly and the other organizers of this nonsense were really interested in doing something positive (rather than fomenting conflict and lining their wallets), they could urge their fans and followers to tackle any number of real problems. Feed a hungry child. Help a poor family stay warm this winter. Adopt a dog from a shelter. Tithe 10 percent of your earnings to Pug Life Ministries. (It's really quite easy, you know. There is a PayPal button to your right. Or I can help you arrange an automatic deduction from your paycheck. That way, you won't even notice the money is gone. And through the power of compound interest, it will grow and grow in the Pug Life coffers. Did you know that Albert Einstein once called compound interest the greatest mathematical discovery of all time?)
I fear that I have already devoted far too much space to this silly manufactured controversy, this feeble attempt to embrace victimhood. But if anyone would care to take issue with my teachings or boycott Pug Life, I would welcome your comments. And if you'd care to protest, well, you bring the picketers and I'll supply the blank signs and markers. Merry Christmas, all.