The American Idea

It’s December. Are we ready for the War Over Saying Merry Christmas?

I don’t mean to be flip. After all, when you step back and look at the issues that are currently pitting Americans against one another, virtually all of them are rooted in a profound disagreement about what I call “The American Idea”–a disagreement that animates the Christmas wars.

On the one hand, we have the Christian Nationalists, whose vision of America has much in common with the “blood and soil” beliefs that roiled Europe for centuries. America, to them, is a White Man’s country, with various “others” here essentially as guests. So long as we “others” mind our manners and recognize the rightfulness of their ownership–so long as we “know our place”– we can be permitted to stay and participate in the workforce and (to an extent) political life.

Most of us see the American Idea rather differently. As I read the country’s history and philosophy, an American is someone who believes in the governing philosophy advanced in the Declaration, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Unlike citizenries that depend upon some element of identity–ethnic, religious, etc.– for their cohesion, one becomes an American via acceptance of those overarching ideas. As G.K. Chesterton argued, America aspired to create “a home out of vagabonds and a nation out of exiles” united by voluntary assent to commonly held political beliefs.

As America has diversified, White Nationalists have found themselves faced with a new and unpleasant reality: rather than inviting “guests” to “their” national table, they are facing claims to shared ownership.

In a very real way, how we manage difference is a fundamental challenge of humanity, and it is a challenge we can no longer evade, thanks to the communication and transportation technologies that increasingly shrink the distances between people. It has become more and more difficult to isolate like-minded and otherwise similar folks into the kinds of self-contained communities that used to dot the American landscape.

I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that this clash between world-views goes a long way toward explaining our current political dysfunctions. It also helps–but doesn’t completely explain– the differences between Red and Blue states. I recently came across a  chart ranking the states by various measures and types of diversity, and I was unsurprised to find that my own state of Indiana was ranked 40th overall. Indiana clearly has a long way to go when it comes to recognizing, let alone accommodating, diversity–thus far, our legislature is firmly in the grip of lawmakers who think they still live in the “Father Knows Best” 1950s.

The study on which the graphs were based broke “diversity” into a number of different kinds of difference: racial, religious, political, income and other categories, providing sociologists with intriguing data that can be mined to determine what sorts of differences are most or less politically relevant.(Different states, of course, come to these challenges with very different political cultures–and taking very different approaches to their changing populations. The top two states on the diversity list were California and Texas, states with governments that have responded to their growing population differences in dramatically different ways.)

White Nationalists are not responding well to the country’s changing demographics, to put it mildly. In his book “The End of White Christian America,” Robert P. Jones offered some trenchant observations about Americans’ very different approaches to the American Idea, and the degree to which those different world-views have influenced the identities of today’s Republicans and Democrats. He especially highlighted contrasting responses to the country’s changing demographics and culture as the country has ceased to be a majority White Christian nation — going from 54 percent in 2008 to 43 percent today.

As Jones has written,

Democrats — only 29 percent of whom are white and Christian — are embracing these changes as central to their vision of an evolving American identity that is strengthened and renewed by diversity. By contrast, Republicans — nearly three-quarters of whom identify as white and Christian — see these changes eroding a core white Christian American identity and perceive themselves to be under siege as the country changes around them.

America’s first  motto was e pluribus unum–out of the many, one.  Our “Christian soldiers” prefer to substitute “One nation under God.” Those competing slogans tell the tale of Americans’ contending approaches to nationhood. We either celebrate our differences within the overarching philosophy embedded in our constituent documents, or we revert into a “blood and soil” society based upon acceptance of White Christian male dominance.

It’s a war, and not just about Christmas.

 

24 thoughts on “The American Idea

  1. Lol, right on Sheila!

    The war on Christmas, blood and soil! (Blut und Boden) We heard that chant in Charlottesville! The Nazis borrowed much from the United States, and the United States nationalists borrowed much from the Nazis, including Fake News or (Liebensrom).

    In actuality, Christmas had nothing to do with Christ! It had everything to do with pagan worship though.

    The combination of the saturnalia and the December 25th birthday of Mithra, one of their gods, the sun god, was easily changed to the Birthday of the Son of God!

    As the Christianity movement took hold led by Roman emperor Constantine, the pagan still wanted to celebrate their original entities, so without knowing the exact date of Jesus birth, they used the birth date of Mithra.

    Course the Bible doesn’t talk about the birthdate of Jesus Christ, but it does give us clues! One is, the shepherds were in the fields! This time of year or around this time of year, it is very cold and the sheep are kept inside for the most part. The shepherds are not out watching the herds of sheep. So that shows it was not late in the year like late December, more like September judging by the descriptions.

    The evergreen tree or Christmas tree was used to worship the god Woden, another pagan ritual! And evergreen tree was deemed to have special powers.

    Santa Claus is another probably made up chain of events where St Nicholas supposedly saved women from being sold into slavery by throwing gold through a window and miraculously it landed in a sock that was hanging. This is what Christians celebrate! But really it’s about who can out Christmas their neighbors. All these ritualistic holidays were practiced in December, so they were all combined. Of course it continues its evolution! But it has nothing to do with Jesus Christ. If one is a Christian, there should be a war on Christmas! Because Christmas is nothing but a conflagration of pagan holidays designed to keep pagans interested in Christianity!

    So, if one wants to fight against untruth, then one would have to fight against Christmas!

    Soon, the harvest festivals, Thanksgiving, day of the Dead, Halloween, will all be combined into one long bizarre holiday season. None of it rooted in reality!

    What do rabbits and chicken eggs have to do with the birth of Jesus Christ? The rabbit being a symbol of fertility, and of course the egg which oozes fertility.

    Easter was named after the pagan god Eoster!

    And naturally it was around the spring equinox, which the fertility of the animals would come into play along with the birth of the pagan god. Another blending of paganism into Christianity to keep pagans in line and bring them into the church. None of these holidays were ever described in scripture. These were all made up by religious leaders and their money grabbing expansionism.

    A war on Christmas is a war on paganism and pagan holidays, sounds all right to me!

    Unfortunately the Caucasian race has used fake religious beliefs to enslave their fellow man, fight wars, persecute those who they deem undesirable, and legalize witch burning that usually affected heretics of the church. And let’s not forget the torture along with a heaping helping of hypocrisy.

    Confronted with these self-evident truths, they will indignantly reply, I don’t believe it or, so what! So, they don’t believe in their belief?!?!?

    Swiss Canadian painter and teacher Andre Bieler stated several times, “Oriental (Asian) and Greco-Roman pagan cults continually led Christianity astray.”

    Oh how right he was! So next time you say Merry Christmas or Happy Easter, think about what you’re actually endorsing! Pagan gods that actually had children sacrificed to them.

    This time of year sure gives me a warm fuzzy loving spirit? Not!

  2. According to 23and me I am 55% British/Irish, 19% German/French with a smattering of Scandinavian; DNA determines race so I am definitely white which has nothing to do with my religion or my politics. When it comes to religion I claim to be a Christian who follows the teachings of Jewish Rabbi Jesus Christ whose identity and name have been stolen by predominant “Christian” denominations who follow their individual rules, laws and ordinances which have little, if anything, to do with his teachings. Sent by parents to Methodist church as a child and continued as a young adult but later, merely out of curiosity, studied Latter Day Saints with two young men of that “Christian” denomination and attended a few confusing services. Later agreed, again out of curiosity, to study with a young woman friend from the Jehovah Witness denomination of “Christianity” who ended her teaching by packing up her brief case and walking out of my home after I said I wasn’t afraid of death. She never spoke to me again. The White Nationalist, anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ orientation, racist, antisemitic Catholic “Christianity” sets my teeth on edge, and I wear dentures. As I watch this war, not only about Christmas, and the blatantly public political turmoil tearing this country apart, I often ask myself why thousand upon thousands of immigrants continue to pour across our borders.

    Even as a young child I was always the “odd girl out”, the “outsider” and the “black sheep” of my family and neighborhood because I disagreed with their “isims”. I learned to stop speaking out till into my 30s when I lost family and “friends” and since 2016, have lost all friendly neighbors. They may believe they are at war with me but I am not at war with them; I agree to disagree and believe they have the right to their beliefs, wrong and hateful as they are. Their hatred is only meaningful to them; it doesn’t effect my life or pay my bills.

    On this December 1, 2022; I wish all of you Happy Holidays, whatever your religious or non-religious beliefs or affiliations may be. I will continue my “war” actions by signing surveys and petitions and donating to my chosen political candidates and voting for those in Indiana.

  3. I was going to comment on this blog post citing the American Pledge of Allegiance. The term “under god” was added some time in the late nineteen-forties or early fifties. I thought ah ha! Here’s proof that christian nationalist have been squirming for a long time. Well, I looked at the Wikipedia article on the pledge and it’s more complicated than that. The article stated that the change happened in a cold war reaction to the rise of godless communist governments and the US felt it needed to distinguish itself.

    But, that said, it still feels like christian nationalists were staking out ground even then, eroding the idea that government and church are separate. Like comments about Florida lawmakers indicated, there is a significant portion of the population that could use a lesson in remedial civics.

  4. The American “Ideal” that the present-day “patriots” worship is based on the distorted image of the founding of the country that has been the foundation of what is taught to students. In fact, the country was settled in the 17th century by cranks, religious fanatics, indentured servants, and criminals. Very few people living today would have been comfortable in the original American colonies. And it is worth remembering that some of the Founding Fathers, the ones who wrote the Constitution, pushed it through the Congress, and lobbied the state legislatures to ratify it, owned slaves and had no intention of considering them to be full-fledged Americans. Jefferson and Madison come to mind immediately. They were human beings, not the demigods that today’s “patriots” seem to believe. They did a good job, but it has taken twenty-seven amendments to the Constitution to whip the document into one that is the foundation of a reasonably decent nation. And now we have a group of Neanderthals on the Supreme Court who want to disassemble the document, so the country can return to being run by cranks and religious fanatics.

  5. Dan, I think your first impression was correct. As I recall, the Pledge was changed in 1954 when I was eleven years old. Even now, I can remember feeling threatened by what I viewed as a betrayal of the American ideal of freedom of thought. Up to that time I had said the Pledge sincerely. Afterward, not so much. Now, I say it not at all. For me, the change made the Pledge UNpatriotic.

  6. There is no law forcing us to include saying or thinking “under God” during the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag or to accept “One nation under God” as our alternate motto. There are no laws requiring we Pledge Allegiance to the Flag or accept the motto alternate to “e pluribus unum–out of the many, one”. Our thoughts and our minds are still free; watching the Republican party change drastically in recent years is what happens when people allow their thoughts and minds to be entrapped by a dictatorship in government brought about by one snake oil salesman who bought and paid for their thoughts, their minds and their allegiance. That ex-Emperor is still wearing no clothes and everything he touches dies; never turning to the gold he has promised.

  7. All of these supposed “wars” fought by white Christian nationalists seem to be mostly noise. who are they fighting? I really don’t see anybody fighting to take Christ out of Christmas.

  8. The future is coming and the past is leaving. That’s not a profound observation. Neither is, there’s nothing we can do about it. Some folks remember the past so fondly though that they ignore those big truths but try to grab on to some small truths like existed when they were children in rural areas where there haven’t been new families for many decades. Everyone looks and acts the same in a cohesive culture. They all say Merry Christmas especially when they see each other in church.

    Just drive through big cities though, if you dare, and look around. There are different people with different looks and cultures and languages and costumes everywhere you turn. And TV makes it clear, big cities have all of the crime. It may well be just in proportion to the population but still………criminals have the guns there rather than the decent folks like back home. Who could live there even with the ridiculous amounts they get paid for jobs that even I could do if I learned how. They don’t even sweat at work so how hard could it be?

  9. Peggy – “I really don’t see anybody fighting to take Christ out of Christmas.”

    I really don’t see anybody fighting to put Christ into Christmas. It is all glitter, Santa and gifts.

  10. My friend John Sorg summed things up perfectly. Well done!

    BTW, to add to the hypocrisy of white, Christian nationalism, the invasion of Europeans with guns and white man’s diseases ended up stealing this continent from the original inhabitants while nearly causing mass genocide. Well done, Christians.

    I’m all for diversity if, for no other reason, it keeps exposing the hate and hypocrisy of the most devout. Their brains are clouded with lies, so it’s no wonder, really, that they favor the Republican party, a group founded on lies and in power to practice them.

    The Viet Nam war was, for us, predicated on fear and lies of Godless communism… by both Democrats and Republicans. So, we wasted 58,000+ American men and women for the sake of a lie. So, to John Sorg’s point: Lies, myths and fear lead to hate, not love. So much for Christian holidays and myths.

    Has anybody spoken to God this week…and received an answer?

  11. Yes, Pacal, “Under God,” was put in place by Pres. Eisenhower, as I have read, to separate us from
    those “godless” Commies.
    The idea of the U.S. as a melting pot goes back a good way, and we have always been a nation of
    immigrants, from 1620, or so!!
    On one level we need immigrants to do the work so many of us consider beneath us. I do not think that many of us,
    of whatever belief, want to see our kids wish to pump gas for the rest of their lives.
    But, more diversity is our future.

  12. I admit, I usually skip John Sorg’s comments but he and Vern were on point today! Thank you both. John, listing all those things reminded me of my conversion. I remember being all pious toward atheists…giving them the side eye…until I gave myself permission to be one. I have come to despise December, the holidays, the fake cheer, and the complete take-over of our society for these weeks! Red and green with gold Everywhere drives me nuts. Holidays weren’t good memories…at…ALL. But we can’t escape them either. Bah humbug.

  13. Peggy –
    It’s actually that other great American god, “capitalism” that has taken Christ out of Christmas.
    Insisting on the adjective “merry” is actually a secular rejection of the idea of a holy or blessed day.

  14. Vernon,

    Good morning and good day!

    I have to say, I cannot wait for the book that you’re collaborating with Littlejohn on! I’m smelling best seller my brother! It’s an exposé that will knock the socks off of our hidden racist legal system. By the way my brother, (😒) Merry Christmas, now, you know, I’m just joking!

    Your works in the pipeline are astonishing, you are definitely making a mark proving the rampant inequality in America’s society. Asian Americans, African Americans, and Native Americans, are going to be so excited!

    You are a good man Vernon Turner, and, a voice for those who have none.

    Aging Girl,

    I don’t know what opinions people have formulated about me, but I’m not quite the monster or fanatic that people think! I’m actually pretty rational. And thank you for your nice comment. I look at the world through the lens of scripture and history, it gives me a different perspective than a lot of folks. Faith and the lack of thereof, is unfortunate for society! Because if you have faith that something’s going to be better, or that there is something better out there, it gives you hope that your life or the life of your friends and family and even those not related will be better. But to live life with no faith, hope does not exist. Faith and hope go hand in hand! Please stay strong, and never stop learning.

    Pete,

    Isn’t that what happens every year during New Year’s? Out with the old, and with the new? The old man exit stage left, and stage right here comes the baby. Unfortunately, that particular pagan holiday which I won’t get into right now, has been practiced for many millennia, and it never accomplishes anything except a bunch of unwanted pregnancies or an STD with a severe hangover as a companion, lol!

    Lester,

    Right on!

  15. To my knowledge, there never was a war on “Merry Christmas”. Certain among us chose to be more accommodating to those of other faiths by wishing them “Happy Holidays”. Those looking for a way to make political points used that to claim their ‘victimhood’, manufacturing a war on Christmas that never existed.

    Not to fear. The commercial world will never let go of this profit-making season, no matter their religious, ethnic, or political preferences. My Christmas wishes are for people to let go of the mythical war on Christmas and for innocents to stop believing them.

  16. HeyJohn,
    I’m an optimist but I don’t have religious faith of any kind anymore. I was taught some Catholicism but after the priest monsters and the cover up, I’ll never step foot to pray in a church again. I take photos of them. I have faith in the good people of this world because I truly believe you can be good Without god. Your comments are sometimes longer than the Professor’s post so that’s why I skip ‘em. Have a good day.

  17. With the birth of a new grandchild this year, we are embracing some of the traditional aspects of Christmas. Even though Christmas is based on religious myth that drew aspects from other cultures and beliefs, I think most people have some awe by the birth of a new baby. Children love hearing the biblical stories Noah’s Ark, Passover, and Christians Christmas and Easter etc. Other religions Hinduism, Islam, Confucianism all have their traditional stories that are retold over again.
    In this Country we have the freedom to see and understand the myths, and how they came about and if we want to embrace any for whatever positive value they can instill.

  18. Thanks John. I’m looking forward to writing that book with your friend. Meanwhile, my non-fiction books covering today’s and other topics remain available on Amazon.com with my name Vernon or Vern Turner. They’re powerful reads written in difficult times; turns out they’re still relevant.

  19. John. Faith is not a prerequisite for either hope or morality. Faith at least implies, if not demands, certitude. Science requires an open mind. I’ll take science over faith any day of the week. Hope is sustained by evidence, however slim. Faith is impervious to evidence. Faith can be used to justify the most horrible and violent acts imaginable, and it has.

  20. Another great post, Sheila.
    John Sorg covered Christmas with his usual scholarship.
    Mitch covered “under God”.

    Thank you both.

    You can wish me a Merry Christmas and I won’t be offended, although it is not my holiday, but I never understood what was wrong with Happy Holidays (for Americans, Christmas and New Year are both holidays).
    What gets to me, although I saw but a single post recently, is the “pious Christians” who object to Xmas, an old Christian abbreviation from the Greek. Learn Greek and learn Christian history is all I can tell them. The mass of Christos with the first letter being Chi or “X” in the Greek alphabet. It also takes up less print space.

  21. Dr Docherty of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in DC, preached “One Nation Under God”.
    I believe the sermon can be found on the internet. Dr. Docherty proposed that the phrase “Under God” be added to the pledge. To mark the divide between the country and Russia. It wasn’t the first time for this suggestion. It fit the times of the era around 1954.

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