‘Tis the Season…for Culture War Stupidity

According to the Christian Science Monitor,

Wishing students “Merry Christmas” is now protected in Texas public schools thanks to a recently minted Merry Christmas law, which allows students, teachers, and administrators to say traditional holiday greetings on campus….

The bill, signed into law last year by Gov. Rick Perry, allows religious scenes and symbols, like a nativity or Christmas tree, to be displayed on school property. It also allows schools to teach about religious holidays, including their history, and include religious references and music in school performances.

Well, isn’t that special?

Can we deconstruct this embarrassing piece of theater? To the extent this measure purports to allow things that would violate the Establishment Clause, it is totally ineffective. (There’s this pesky little thing about the U.S. Constitution–it trumps local laws.) Christmas trees are fine, but nativity scenes (unless surrounded by symbols of Chanukah and Kwanzaa and other artifacts of winter’s seasonal celebrations) remain legally off-limits.

To the extent this law is inconsistent with the Establishment Clause, it is null and void. But more to the point, everything else “protected” by this legislative display of civic ignorance is already protected by the Free Exercise Clause. 

Teachers can already teach about religion, religious holidays, and the role of religion in history. Music teachers and art teachers are free to include religious music and art in their lessons–indeed, it would be difficult to introduce students to either discipline without recognizing the role religion has played in the evolution of those arts. (Granted, a “Christmas Chorale” composed exclusively of devotional hymns–no “Frosty the Snowman” or “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” to leaven the religiosity –is unlikely to pass Constitutional muster, but otherwise, no problem.)

Excuse me, but…those of you who are ostentatiously wearing the label “Christian”–can we talk?

I am getting really, really tired of your whining, tired of your petulant assertions that if you  can’t force everyone else to acknowledge your beliefs (in language that you deem appropriate) and genuflect to your observances (in recognition of their superiority), you’re being picked on.

Read my lips: There is no “War” against Christmas. Nice people wishing you a happy holiday are not trying to destroy the country and/or deprive you of your cultural heritage. They are just being nice. They are being thoughtful. Respectful of others.

You might try that sometime.

You might try acting….oh, what’s the word? Christian.


  1. I have received numerous Facebook posts telling me, not suggesting or asking me, to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Some of these messages are from family and friends. I began responding with the message that I have always wished those I know to be Christian, a Merry Christmas and will continue doing so. When it comes to strangers, such as store employees, cashiers, etc., I wish them Happy Holiday, not knowing their religion – or if they have one. It isn’t my business. I also point out that Christians would be insulted (it’s their nature) if constantly wished Happy Hanukkah or Joyus Kwanza. These Merry Christmas greeters are unstoppable because they are backed by the GOP and all their money from the 1% who benefit from the seasonal shoppers and now in some areas backed by law.

  2. An afterthought; should I wish my cousin and her extended family Merry Christmas before or after they bury their murdered granddaughter today?

  3. This sounds like more of conservative strategy of using a relatively meaningless issue to distract attention away from the core activities of using tax money to reward their supporters and their lack of interest in governing for the benefit of the at large population. It works every time.

  4. Rick Perry is in a bad place. He has no idea how to govern but needs to continued getting paid to. Perhaps his inability to govern is still not as bad as his inability to do anything else that pays.

    Much ado about nothing. I wish people out loud and publically many things. Anything that begins with “happy” is typically well received by all. A few Christians are the only exception. But, I ignore their wishes because I feel that the acknowledgement of my wish for good fortune for them trumps their wish of eternal damnation for me. Ya know what I’m sayin’?

    I don’t encounter many Muslims in my wanders. Do they also have a secret handshake I wonder?

    Good news. When Christians are all worked up about their special salute they’re less able to concentrate on making the poor poorer. That’s a good thing.

    BTW, I’ll bet that Pope Francis would not get all wadded up about any wish directed to him to lead a good life.

    Have a happy Friday!

  5. It should be, and is, beneath you to condemn all Christians because of some loud, idiotic right-wingers–and I resent it. I have been a liberal and Christian for as long as I remember and am always insulted when someone I know should be smarter than to write such screed without allowing for those Christians who are not caught up in the hate. I accept your apology in advance. Thank you.

  6. Wray, don’t let yourself get upset about this. Jesus told folks not to be judgmental, lest they be judged by the same standards. Well, that’s what’s happening, but the big problem is that all people who call themselves Christian get judged by those standards, be they loving, caring, winsome with a good spirit, or hateful, judgmental and mean-spirited. That’s the deal, and people like Jim Wallis of Sojourners knows that even better than we do.

    On the other hand, please also remember that the last thing that Sheila said was “You might try acting….oh, what’s the word? Christian.”

  7. Wray; please do not mistake this for an apology as you are mistakenly reading observations, statements of fact and law, personal opinions and asking for understanding the beliefs and opinions of others as condeming Christians. I found no condemnation in the blog or the comments other than your borderline condemnation of those who do not follow your perception of Christianity.

  8. Wray is right from the perspective of prejuduce. Judging groups for the behavior of some of their adherents. Typically when we do that we’re more wrong than right as any behavior is likely to be from a minority in the group in question.

    That having been said, we all are prejudicial. It’s a life skill that comes with the territory. We apply our learning from incidents broadly. And we are probably led in that direction by experience in having been judged by people by their over generalized beliefs about groups we are part of.

    When I say “happy holiday” it certainly confers broad respect not narrow insult to those whose holiday at this time of the year is Christmas.

    Why then is it treated by some as insulting?

  9. Sheila, as a progressive Christian, I have to agree with Wray. I have been subscribing to your blog for around two months now, and I am overwhelmingly with you on most things. But this is the second time you have lumped all Christians together. Would you describe Islam or Judaism or any other religion in the same generic way? I get no satisfaction from a sales clerk who wishes me a “merry Christmas.” This is a commercial use of a holy day. I am also very careful not to wish non-Christians a merry Christmas. I am a mainline protestant pastor, and almost all of my colleagues feel the same way. Try to respond with a little more fairness in the future. I am quite glad I do not live in Texas. However, Indiana is not far behind in its embrace of civil religion

  10. I am always surprised when people read into my blog sentiments that I am pretty sure aren’t there–and this is one of those times. As Stuart pointed out, my last line was intended as a recognition of precisely the point Keith and Wray are making. Not only are all Christians not alike, but–at least in my experience–the “War on Christmas” folks have more in common with the Taliban than with genuine Christians. (And lest there be further confusion–all Muslims aren’t like the Taliban, either.)

  11. Most Christians don’t even know who they are. They simply accept what some priest or preacher tells them. Should they ever take the time to look into what they profess to follow, they would discover that they really happen to be ‘Paulians’!

  12. The words “Merry Christmas” have no religious significance. Christmas was introduced long after the church was established and after the leadership of the church had been usurped by the government of Constantine. It is in effect, the remnants of a pagan holiday and nothing has changed about that.

  13. From the beginning, Christmas was created to placate the masses so maybe what Texas did was appropriate — just following the lead of ancient politicians. Christmas literally means “death of Christ” — so it should be celebrated like Easter if it was to ever be legitimate.

    Below is a posting from the website of the Reformed Church in America so show how the church really has to make a stretch to even make it a legitimate part of the church calendar. Most of the activities surrounding Christmas have morphed into “self worship” instead of “Sun worship” and have nothing to do with the death of Christ.

    “Questions of Faith

    Who created Christmas?

    Long before the birth of Christ, the winter solstice was established on December 25. In Rome, in the late third century, a special festival was connected with December 25 called the Festival of the Invincible Sun. The church, still struggling as an underground movement, “baptized” this secular celebration as an appropriate time to celebrate the “Sun of Righteousness” (Ml. 4:2).

    So, by the middle of the fourth century, when Christianity had moved into its new role as the state religion of Rome, Christmas was fully accepted.

    The term Christmas is a contraction of “Christ’s mass,” which derives from its roots in the Roman Catholic liturgy. The challenge of course is to make a historical celebration a relevant experience of God’s presence with us. That is not only an annual, but a daily quest. So all of us in a sense are called to be creators of Christmas, year in and year out.”

  14. I Googled “Christmas origin” and found an entire list of explanations from different sources. Years ago I was told by a minister that December 25th was simply a reminder of his birth and a fixed date to celebrate the birth of Christ on a regular basis. Just sayin’ Please; let’s NOT use this as a source of another religious war of words or beliefs, we have too many to deal with already thanks to the GOP.

  15. So after writing a column basically encouraging folks to take a breath and chill out the author decides to totally ignore what she wrote and go nuclear.
    “…at least in my experience–the “War on Christmas” folks have more in common with the Taliban than with genuine Christians”
    So you think that the people who use social media posts and pandering politicians to try and protect something they rightly or wrongly feel is being attacked are similar to a group of people who shoot and beat girls who try to go to school, stone to death women who were raped for being unfaithful, who beheaded men who dared to shave, and other inhumane behaviors?
    Iconically ironic – maybe the author should consider the advice she offered at the end of her rant – try being a little more “Christian”

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