By Robert Mann
At the Louisiana Capitol on Tuesday, I counted seven large Christmas trees adorning the building’s Memorial Hall. And I thought, “That’s some brutal war on Christmas our government is waging.”
I’m not sure when the preposterous notion of a “war on Christmas” caught fire, but I am certain it was not set by someone who gives a flip about Christmas. This phony war on the holy season is not something a follower of Christ would have concocted. A real disciple would have been too busy feeding the poor or comforting the sick to craft a cynical campaign to prompt Christians to inflict non-Christians with guilt, fear or estrangement.
This “war” is what someone who wanted to slander Christians as intolerant louts would invent. If you wanted to make Christians look hateful and full of pride and grievance (everything Jesus wasn’t) and distract them from the real spirit of Christmas, a phantom war would be quite useful to your cause.
You would invent this “war” if you banked on certain Christians being more concerned with their social or economic status than showing goodwill to all. You would invent this war knowing enough secular Christians would regard the greeting, “Happy Holidays,” as an affront — not to their faith, but to their cultural and racial identities.
The “war on Christmas” in the manipulative hands of a political operative or a conservative TV host would be the perfect wedge issue to cast into relief the divisions between those who embrace multiculturalism and those threatened by our evolving, diverse society.
Awful as it may seem, there are those who wish us to forget that the real Christmas spirit is expressed, not in a casual greeting, but in the way we treat one another as sacred images of God. These cynical individuals create division and anger and stoke religious and ethnic grievance over the Christmas season merely to win votes or score better TV ratings.
I doubt that those trying to fool us into believing that saying “Merry Christmas” was ever banned have only the faintest familiarity with Jesus of the gospels, whether in a manger or on a cross.
But if the so-called Christian defenders who populate Fox News and other Christian-right environs truly wished to rescue Christmas from the imagined onslaught of the secularists, they would dry their faux tears and shelve the fake outrage about “Happy Holidays” and city halls without nativity scenes. They would, instead, urge viewers to meditate on something other — and more profound — than the superficial Hallmark version of Christmas.
But that would require a depth of understanding and contemplation about the divine incarnation that a fixation on Christmas greetings and city hall creches won’t allow. It would force the Christmas warriors to question if the holidays aren’t really about how our belief in the incarnation — “the Word became flesh” — changes us.
And here’s how Christmas changes many who ignore the “war” nonsense: Instead of extracting grudging Merry Christmases out of store clerks and baristas, these contemplative people consider how they can make a year-round home for the Emmanuel of the manger in their hearts.
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