I keep hearing about the Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays controversy. It seems that some Good Christians are upset that some people aren’t recognizing the true nature of Christmas. As an example, some retailers are wishing their customers “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”, and there are moves to either hold boycotts or protests. The most visible of the Good Christians seem to be on Fox Network, including Bill O’Reilly.
From my observations, I’d have to guess that most people use one phrase or the other without a lot of thought, and I’d also have to guess that most recipients of these good wishes aren’t particularly offended one way or the other. I’ve witnessed people saying both of these for many years, and I’m a little curious why, all of a sudden in 2005, this has become controversial. Two thoughts come immediately to mind. The first one is that ratings were falling and a new controversy was needed to keep them up. The second one is that poll numbers were falling and a new assault on Christianity was needed to keep them up. Most likely, some combination of these two.
The general goal of this type of manufactured controversy, aside from the money/power angles, is to convince the Christian majority that they are somehow under attack from the libruls, the atheists, the communists and the other usual suspects. All of whom added up constitute maybe 10% of the population, whom as far as I can tell have no political or cultural influence at all. Still, it seems to be working. In a recent Newsweek they listed a poll result where 64% of Americans think religion is under attack in the U.S. O’Reilly and Rove must be laughing all the way to the bank.
This is not the first of these controversies. Terri Schiavo, prayer in school, teaching evolution, ten commandments rocks, Christmas displays and so on are all part of an effort to keep Christians convinced that someone is attacking them. Christians, like most people, want to feel righteous, and being persecuted is a sure sign that you are righteous while everyone else is evil. It worked 2000 years ago for Christ, it worked last year for “The Passion” and it will work as long as humans are humans. That it continues to work so easily, in the face of all evidence and common sense, is discouraging.
Never mind that Christmas has never had much to do with the birth of Christ. It started as a celebration of the returning of the sun and was co-opted by the early Christians. More recently, it has been again co-opted by the new religion of consumerism. Turn-about seems only fair. And certainly consumerism is a far greater threat to the idea of Christmas than any attack from the non-believers. After all, even among observant Christians how much money is spent on presents compared with what is donated to the hungry? How much time is spent shopping compared with volunteering at a soup kitchen?
December 26, 2005