Moral Victory The State of the War on Christmas 2011
Posted by Enrique on 12.14.2011
It's that time of year again, dear readers. There aren't many traditions I cherish, but there are some I feel obligated to continue. Every year, "Story Time with E" looks at the state of the War on Christmas that Christian conservatives are willing to fight until the job is done. This year will be no different. If Jesus can come back from the dead, there's a chance the horse I've been beating will do the same. (Previous installments here: 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010.)
Although secularists and atheists pose no serious threat to the security of the nation (and surely President Barack Obama would summarily execute those of us who did), there some folks out there who think we do. And those folks appear to think the best way to stop us from turning America evil and/or gay is by placing nativity scenes in government buildings. It all seems very silly to me, but that's faith for you.
The story so far
Artist's rendering of nativity scene no atheist would object to
In fairness, the War on Christmas doesn't peg the outrage meter a helluva lot in these trying economic times, but it's still tough out there for an atheist. There was a recent poll that found religious people think atheists are about as trustworthy as sexual predators. I happen to know a few non-believers, including some who are responsible married persons with children, and I've never regarded them as would-be rapists. Maybe I'm a poor judge of a character, but you can't take my word for it anyway, I could be trying to deceive you with my atheist dishonesty.
Even so, there's still plenty of religious folks who get antsy this time of year about insufficient displays of public piety. My 2010 holiday column featured the nice people at the American Family Association and their helpful efforts to inform American shoppers about what retailers aren't using the word "Christmas" in their ads. They appeared to be successful in getting Dick's Sporting Goods to change its practices, and they're at it again this year. For your information, here is their list of stores that aren't loving the baby Jesus as much as they should:
Barnes & Noble
Shop wisely, dear readers. Ask yourself, "Where Would Jesus Buy Home Electronics?"
Admittedly, the War on Christmas probably isn't going to be won or lost based on the shopping preferences of the American Family Association. Luckily for the forces of Christian decency, a much more influential combatant has proclaimed himself ready for duty. Have you seen this repugnant new Rick Perry ad?
To think this clown actually was a credible candidate not long ago. (Actually, he may still be.) Now Perry is reduced to pandering to the lame prejudices of the religious right to try and get back in the race. "You don't need to be in the pew every Sunday to know that there's something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military, but our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas."
No wonder everyone thinks this guy is a dope. What bizarro planet is he living on where American children can't openly celebrate Christmas? Polls consistently show that something like 90% of Americans believe in God, and I'm going to go out on a limb and assume they don't mean Allah. I understand that atheists can be irritating even to people who aren't particularly religious, but there is nothing, nothing more irritating (not to mention baseless) than American Christians acting like they are targets of widespread discrimination. But that crybaby woe-is-me victim mentality is ripe for pandering, as Perry's appeal demonstrates.
Still, Perry's a third-rate candidate whose primary accomplishments have been not messing with Texas during its economic recovery, and not being Mitt Romney. If he still thinks the War on Christmas has legs, it must be a sign that it's barely relevant. That doesn't mean there aren't some "dead enders" on both sides willing to keep fighting as long as possible. There are always some folks out there who just won't be satisfied until they've put a nativity scene on government property. And as long as those people continue to misconstrue the First Amendment, they will face the wrath of Wisconsin atheists.
A Henderson County resident complained to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based atheist group, and the foundation notified the committee that the nativity scene [outside a courthouse in Athens, Texas] was in violation of federal law. The foundation asked for the baby Jesus to be removed, or for a sign to be put up next to his crib that would read: "At this season of the winter solstice may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds." [ ]
Henderson County Commissioner Joe Hall says he'll fight to keep the nativity scene in place.
"Don't come down here and tell me there is no God. This nation is a Christian nation regardless of what those fruit loops and fruitcakes in Washington D.C. say. Hell will freeze over before I vote to have it removed," Hall said.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation has been doing this for years. Every time someone insists on placing religious displays in the public square, FFRF reminds officials of their responsibility to allow all religious perspectives to be represented, including the perspective of no religion. It's completely non-threatening. A little blasphemy never hurt anyone.
Although the War on Christmas is more of a Cold War on Christmas these days, the assertion by the likes of Commissioner Hall that America is a Christian nation must never go unchallenged. The First Amendment explicitly says that America is secular. That is not a matter of interpretation or opinion. It has nothing to do with what the Founders may or may not have believed about the nature of the Creator. The First Amendment prohibits state-imposed religion that is expression of secularism, and there's no way around it.
Conservatives like to criticize liberals when they torture themselves in their efforts to misunderstand the Second Amendment, which clearly says that individuals have the right to defend themselves with guns. And those same conservatives will turn around and do the same thing, trying to ignore the First Amendment's obvious secular meaning. Why won't anyone just take the words at face value?
In all, it appears the state of the War on Christmas is much less kinetic than it used to be. But as long as there are insurgents willing to prolong the conflict, it could go on forever. By the standards of other U.S. wars, if the War on Christmas never ends, that must be a sign it was a war worth starting.