The War on Christmas in 2017 was marked by the same pattern we have seen in recent years: the vast majority of ordinary Americans love Christmas, but those who think of themselves as their betters do not. Before a handful of us began calling attention to the elite’s War on Christmas, many ordinary people were going along with the diminishment of the public celebration of Christmas, no doubt because they felt their pro-Christmas beliefs must be in small minority. But publicity over the War on Christmas, most recently and dramatically President Trump’s oft-repeated preference for “Merry Christmas,” has made it clear that tens of millions of Americans absolutely do not want to see Christmas replaced by “holiday.” This year, after the continuing trauma of Trump’s first year in office, the elite’s disdain for Christmas expressed itself in increasingly nasty ways, unquestionably because they sense that on this issue, as in others, Americans were no longer content to follow their lead.
The opening salvos against the public observance of Christmas were comparatively mild. Back in October, Colbert King [Email him] used his perch at The Washington Post to chide Donald Trump for expressing his preference for “Merry Christmas”—
As if we don’t already have enough trouble across the length and breadth of the land with Trump’s forays into cultural wars, the last thing the United States needs is combat over use of the words “Merry Christmas.”Similar sentiments were later expressed in the same paper by self-proclaimed conservative Brandon McGinley, who claimed that, thanks to Trump, “Merry Christmas becomes, in this cynical worldview, exactly what oversensitive secularists have always claimed: an intentional affront”. [Saying “Merry Christmas” isn’t an affront, but Trump is trying to make it one, December 7, 2017]
The Huffington Post even found a Jesuit Catholic priest, Fr. Kevin O’Brien, [Email him] to voice similar thoughts and exulted, “Jesuit Priest debunks ‘The War on Christmas’ In the Best Way Possible.” [By Ed Mazza, December 18, 2017]
“The Best Way Possible,” it turns out, is claiming that “I don’t think Jesus would care much about whether we say Merry Christmas or not,” saying that “I don’t like the concept of a War on Christmas,” and opining that “we have to be careful about the language we use in a pluralist society. . . because in it we encounter people of different faith traditions.”
There is much nonsense here. The people responsible from turning “Merry Christmas” from a universal greeting and a friendly commonplace into a conscious choice—and hence a political statement—are those who insisted there was something wrong with saying it, not with those who continued saying it.
Trump and all the Americans who are protesting against the effacement of Christmas are not creating a conflict but recognizing one that already exists, and fighting back.
Indeed, Fr. McGinley admitted in his piece that there never was a reason to regard “Merry Christmas” as offensive and Colbert King acknowledged that “Merry Christmas” was once a universal greeting.
Nor does “pluralism” require anything else. Just before Christmas, another Jesuit, Pope Francis, bemoaned the fact that “In the name of a false respect for non-Christians, which often hides a desire to marginalize the faith, every reference to the birth of Christ is being eliminated from the holiday.”
Pope Francis is no one’s idea of a conservative, but in this he was in perfect accord with his predecessor Pope Benedict, who criticized “those who argue that the public celebration of festivals such as Christmas should be discouraged, in the questionable belief that it might somehow offend those of other religions or none.”
And it does matter whether we refer to what is going on in late December as “Christmas” or something else. The name “Christmas” points to Christ and to all the wonderful traditions that have developed to adorn the celebration of His birth. Calling Christmas something else points away from Christ and those traditions.
As mistaken as they are, I don’t think that King, McGinley, or Fr. O’Brien actually hate Christmas. But the same cannot be said for others making the news in 2017.
In early December, Manny Laureano (right) a trumpeter for the Minnesota Orchestra, very properly walked off the stage to protest the antics of homosexual singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright, who was performing at the same concert. Laureano walked off after Wainwright began attacking Republicans, but he was first offended when Wainwright had “’mocked’ the performance of ‘Cantique de Noel’ [the carol known in English as “O Holy Night”] earlier in the show.”
The Star-Tribune reporter writing about the event noted that Wainwright “seemed a tad put off to have to sing [“Cantique de Noel”] at all, saying, “One of the requirements for this evening’s performance was I had to do a Christmas song”. [ Minnesota Orchestra trumpeter storms off stage in protest of performer's anti-GOP comments, By Chris Riemenschneider, December 5, 2017] Since arts organizations benefit tremendously from Christmas concerts, it takes a special kind of churlishness for an artist to object to Christmas music in a December concert. But churlishness is not in short supply among those who object to Christmas.
Indeed, a plentiful supply of churlishness was evident in Zachary Jason’s attack on the Hallmark Channel’s Christmas movies and the people who love them in Slate. The malice lacing that essay was on full display in its scabrous opening paragraph:
At a rally in November 2015, Donald Trump heralded, “If I become president, we’re all going to be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again, that I can tell you.” Of all his empty guarantees, the president has perhaps fulfilled none better than a counterstrike in the War on Christmas, and no battalion has fired more rooty-toot artillery for him than the Hallmark Channel. In 2017, the network is premiering 21 original Christmas movies (up from 20 last year)—42 hours of sugary, sexist, preposterously plotted, plot hole–festooned, belligerently traditional, ecstatically Caucasian cheer. [White! Christmas!, December 12, 2017]The not so subtle point of Jason’s piece: those who enjoy Hallmark’s Christmas movies are dim, backward, and probably racist. [Email Jason]
That is quite an indictment of such a large number of people, whose real sin is enjoying movies that present Christmas in a wholly positive fashion while also eschewing the profanity and sex that mar so many contemporary films.
Jason makes no attempt to understand the audience for those films, which even he admits is enormous:
Hallmark’s Christmas programming . . .generates more than 30 percent of its annual ad revenue and has helped Hallmark become the season’s highest-rated cable network among women aged 25–54. More than 70 million Americans watched Hallmark Channel Christmas movies last year.Hallmark Channel executives, quoted in an E-News article by Tierney Bricker linked to by Jason, show far more insight. Bill Abbott, the channel’s CEO, explained that the “channel acts as a ‘safe space, a feel-good space’ in a marketplace that has gone ‘past the point of edgy.’” Abbott also noted that “it's all about ‘creating a destination and understanding this appetite at Christmas.’”
In other words, there is an enormous demand for wholesome movies that celebrate Christmas.
It also helps, of course, that the Hallmark Channel refuses to treat Christmas as something to be embarrassed by.
Even more nastiness was on display at Newsweek, which chose to observe Christmas Eve by running an article by Cristina Maza entitled How Trump and the Nazis Stole Christmas To Promote White Nationalism.
But critics counter that Trump is promoting a version of the holidays that excludes members of other religions, and that his crusade to bring back Christmas is part of a larger attempt by the president to define America as a country for white Christians alone.Emphasis added.
…. With this in mind, the fight to end the war on Christmas is exclusionary politics at its most flagrant.
One wonders what Maza [Email her] (and the “experts” she cites) would make of Cleveland councilman Zack Reed who made news when he objected to a contest launched by Cleveland Hopkins Airport to decorate the airport at Christmas. According to the Plain Dealer, the airport contest specified that “There should be no reference to any specific holiday whether secular or religious. Stay within the theme of Winter Wonderland.” Reed’s objections, as quoted by the paper, were succinct and cogent:
I want to see Merry Christmas. The vast majority of people in Cleveland say Merry Christmas. The vast majority of people in the country want to hear Merry Christmas. We're not trying to be insensitive—but you can't take away our right to say Merry Christmas.Reed’s comments could easily have been made by Donald Trump or anyone else objecting to the War on Christmas. But Reed didn’t say what he did to support Trump, much less “white nationalism.” Indeed, Reed is a Democrat, and black. Millions of Americans of all ethnicities and a wide spectrum of political beliefs object to the attempt to suppress Christmas.
Newsweek’s suggestion to the contrary—and its invocation of the Nazis, who in fact sought to suppress Christmas, as I pointed out in my first essay on the War on Christmas—is nothing more than an attempt to marginalize anyone who objects to attempts to diminish Christmas.
As bad as Newsweek’s Christmas Eve smear of defenders of Christmas was, even worse was The Washington Post’s Christmas Day claim that Jesus Christ never existed. It takes a special kind of malice to attack the basis of a religious festival on the very day it is being observed, but the Post chose to mark Christmas by tweeting a poorly-reasoned article that it ran in December 2014 by religious studies lecturer Raphael Lataster [Did historical Jesus really exist? The evidence just doesn't add up. , December 18, 2014]
Lataster [Email him] dismisses the Gospels on the grounds that they claim that Christ was the Son of God, a claim so obviously preposterous to Lataster that everything else in them must also be rejected. Lataster then contrives to dismiss the references to Jesus in Josephus and Tacitus, and never explains why Christians who were contemporaries of Christ were willing to die for someone they must have known never existed, much less why the ancient opponents of Christianity never attacked the new religion on the basis that its founder never even lived.
Very few, if any, reputable scholars doubt the existence of Jesus, but the Washington Post viewed Christmas Day as the perfect occasion to again advance Lataster’s kookery.
The malice of the opponents of Christmas is thus unmistakable. The good news is that the War on Christmas they had thought was won is far from over.
Indeed, given Trump’s assertive presence in the White House, they may even be losing it.