It’s the first day of December, which normally means it would be time to gin things up on the “War on Christmas,” but, to be perfectly honest, I’m having some trouble mustering much enthusiasm this year.
I’m not the only one. The Religious Right seems to be losing interest as well.
Let’s face it, things just haven’t been the same since Bill O’Reilly got booted off the Fox News Channel. Old Blowhard Bill was the yuletide’s biggest defender. I swear he employed a seasonal staff of holiday elves who did nothing but comb the internet looking for stories about conflict over the placement of nativity scenes and so on. With Bill out of the picture, Fox rarely calls anymore.
In an attempt to survey the seasonal landscape, I’ve been looking around a bit myself. So far, there are just a few stories out there:
- In Washington, D.C., the government agency that runs the Metro, D.C.’s subway system, is being sued by the Archdiocese of Washington because it rejected a Christmas-themed ad. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority says its policies bar ads that contain sectarian or political content.
- In San Jose, Calif., a local chapter of the Satanic Temple erected a Christmas tree in a public park, taking part in a program known as “Christmas in the Park,” that allows religious and community groups to display decorated trees. The Satanic Temple’s tree was topped with a head of Baphomet, a goat-headed deity – and someone stole the head. Police are investigating.
- In Somersworth, N.H., an atheist flag is flying in Citizens Place, a spot where officials allow residents to display their own messages, usually in the form of flags. Richard Gagnon, a town resident and member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, said he made the request to mark Winter Solstice.
- In Blue Ridge, Ga., town officials invited residents to put up private holiday displays in a public park. One man affiliated with American Atheists erected a sign promoting non-belief. It was removed.
These skirmishes are interesting, but they’re weak eggnog compared to some of the battles we’ve fought in years past. In fact, the best evidence for the War on Christmas that I’ve seen so far comes, ironically, from the White House, where First Lady Melania Trump has decorated the East Colonnade to look more like the lair of Krampus than a Winter Wonderland.
Last year, President Donald Trump vowed that you would hear “Merry Christmas” in stores more often (instead of the dreaded "Happy Holidays" or – gasp! – "Season's Greetings"). Of course, Trump has no authority to dictate what holiday greetings are used in private businesses. His bluster may have pleased the Religious Right, but at the end of the day, Trump’s promise was thinner than dollar store wrapping paper.
Although it’s only Dec. 1, it looks like the War on Christmas this year may be a bust. What’s going on? Remember, the Religious Right powers itself with a kind of perpetual outrage machine. These groups rode the War on Christmas donkey successfully for many years, sparking donations and getting its supporters in a lather, but all good things must end. After all, there’s so much more to be angry about. I hear some football players are still taking a knee during the National Anthem!
So it appears that the Religious Right is moving on. There’s always another target to attack, another “culture war” fight to pick and another claim of “persecution” to assert.
Before he left Fox, O’Reilly declared victory in the War on Christmas. Again, it was mere bluster. The goal of O’Reilly and his theocratic pals was to force all of us to acknowledge Christmas as a religious holiday – and they failed miserably.
Our rights remain intact. If you want to go full-on Victorian Christmas with midnight mass, hymns and manger scenes, you have that right. If you want to celebrate a secular version that focuses on snowmen, Santa and sleigh bells you can. You can celebrate another holiday. Want to ignore them all? You can!
Despite the best efforts of O’Reilly, the American Family Association and other members of the “Christmas Police” who obnoxiously insist that you have to do things their way, we still have the right to decide for ourselves how, when and if to celebrate this month, as guided by conscience.
It’s a great gift – and I call it a victory for our side.