US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Hold your fire! Let's call a truce in the war on Christmas

To the barricades, patriots! Lock down the airports! Prepare a preemptive attack! The enemies, whoever they are, have launched a war on Christmas!

By Father Paul Boudreau | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Here's the intel: This war, evidently, is being fought on two fronts. First, the pious pundits of fair and balanced cable TV news have determined that those nasty, unscrupulous, butt-dumplings of the liberal left have launched an anti-Christian attack on our most sacred holy day. And second, just as we've long suspected, the commercialization of Christmas has reached the tipping point. The regents of retail have tossed off all references to a Christian celebration in favor of generic holiday come-ons. They've taken Christ out of Christmas, and we want him put back!

Careful analysis of the political and commercial activity of this nefarious yuletide axis of evil has determined that they possess a growing arsenal of WCDs, Weapons of Christmas Destruction. And that they intend to use them on us, the unsuspecting coalition of Christian Americans who devoutly kneel, side by side with Santa, at the cradle on December 25.

Without an immediate and forceful response of shock and awe, Christmas will be lost and our Christian nation will sink into the winter darkness of secularism without the manger at the mall, without our blessed tree in the town square, and without "Silent Night" wafting through the halls of our public schools. These are the times that try men's souls. But united we will stand, and in God we will trust. Commence firing!

Wait! Stop! Hold your fire. This all sounds way too familiar. Is there a war on Christmas? Is the intelligence accurate? Are there really WCDs hidden in the political agenda of the liberal left and the retail strategy of commercial enterprise? I don't think so.

This whole war on Christmas business got started a couple of years ago with a book written by Fox News commentator John Gibson: The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought (Sentinel). My brother, a brilliant entrepreneur and a Rush Limbaugh-listening, Fox News-watching Reaganista, was kind enough to send me a copy. Thanks, bro.

Now our Lord Jesus told me not to call anybody a fool. (Matthew 5:22. Of course, two chapters later in 7:26, he goes and calls the guy who built his house on sand a fool. Go figure.) So I'm going to play it safe and not call this guy Gibson a fool. But what an idiot!

Gibson spends 190 pages ranting about how the liberals won't let public schools and municipalities celebrate Christmas. He laments that school administrators have banished the word "Christmas" and have inserted "holiday" in its stead. With great umbrage he goes on about how the Christmas tree has been replaced by the holiday tree. He harumphs about how Christmas parades and Christmas parties have been tossed in favor of "holiday" versions of the same thing. He shrieks with righteous indignation because towns won't allow the crèche to be set up on public property or Christmas hymns to be sung in public school celebrations. He reasons that since Christmas is Christian, and since most Americans are Christian, American public institutions should celebrate Christmas.

This guy just doesn't have a clue. Here's the deal: I don't want some public school teacher telling our kids about Christmas. I certainly don't want some TV newsboy dictating the criteria for the Christmas celebration. He equates Christmas with a Scotch pine, for crying out loud.

And the crèche? Don't get me started. If we're going to do the crèche, then I want us to do it. I don't want the crèche retailers setting the scene for the birth of Christ. I've seen a lot of manger scenes, and frankly some of them give me the willies. Somehow the Holy Family in translucent plastic with a light bulb stuck up their insides doesn't celebrate the Incarnation of the living God for me. Last year I got a catalog of Christmas tchotchkes that featured a crèche with all the characters played by dogs. Dogs! The ox was a Lab, the ass was a Doberman, the shepherds were, well, shepherds; the sheep were poodles-even the baby Jesus was a schnauzer.

And I don't want religious hymns sung in public schools for the same reasons. Can I trust Ms. Fundy, the fourth-grade teacher, to explain to her class that the lines "Away in the manger, the poor baby wakes / But little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes" don't accurately reflect the humanity of Christ, who shares in our human suffering? (I would say that little Lord Jesus cried plenty if he shared my humanity.)

This is the same classroom, by the way, that introduces the possibility that God, under which this nation stands indivisible, somehow approves of such American institutions as abortion, the death penalty, and unjust wars of aggression. No thanks.

This is the reason we have a clear separation of church and state written into the Constitution. The government is no more competent teaching theology than I am teaching rocket science. We Catholics have one source of religious learning and that's the magisterium of the church. If it don't come from Rome, you don't take it home. Otherwise you're paying for your kids to get religion from whatever denomination du jour the teacher belongs. What do you suppose "The Church of What's Happening Now" has to say about the pope?

And as far as outrageous commercialization and taking the "X" out of Xmas subverting your kids' Christian understanding of the reason for the season, I've got this to say: that's why God gave them parents-to teach them the difference.

Expanding the seasonal market is a good business strategy in the American free economy. Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and Baha'i bucks are as good as Christian cash any day. Besides, where would Christmas be without all the commercial hype? Subtract all the shopping frenzy, the incessant barrage of advertising, the sales, the greeting cards, the neighborhood display contests, the catalogs, the presidential tree, and Santa at the mall, and what do you get? Pentecost!

When's the last time you fretted over Pentecost shopping and getting your list of Pentecost gifts crossed off? When did you stay up half the night addressing Pentecost cards and baking Pentecost cookies? Have you ever enthralled your kids with stories of the Pentecost Dove coming down the chimney? No! That's why, no matter how hard we try, Pentecost is just another Sunday.

"Oh, Father, you look good in red." Um, it's Pentecost. "Oh? Well, red is your color. You ought to wear it more often."

And while we're at it, how come no one gets all weirded out about taking Mary out of the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God? January 1 comes around and what do we celebrate in our churches? New Year's! I've seen parish bulletins with bubbling champagne glasses, party hats, confetti and horns, and "Happy New Year" banners on the cover. And midnight Masses with the elevation of the host timed to the stroke of 12: What's up with that?

There is no war on Christmas, pilgrims. What we really need is a shopping season for Pentecost.

Flickr photo cc by johnnysilvercloud