In an earlier post, I made my own dyspeptic attitude towards the alleged “war on Christmas” pretty clear, from a Christian point of view. But now this phony war is escalating into the halls of Congress and the strip-malls of America, with no end in sight other than Christmas Day itself.In one of its periodic exercises in pointless but divisive symbolism, the U.S. House of Representatives has duly passed a resolution defending Christmas from its shadowy detractors, sponsored by a Christian Right pol from my own state of Virginia. Opponents of the measure appropriately raised the rather stark contradiction between this bold stand for Christmas, and the budgetary measures recently passed by the House that defy pretty much everything we understand as the “spirit of Christmas.”But it gets worse: guerrilla bands of protesters in California are now harrassing shoppers at that archetypal red-state institution, Wal-Mart, thanks to the mega-chain’s decision to use “Happy Holidays” as its merchandizing slogan for the season. Cultural Warriors of the Right have already sought to organize boycotts of Sears, Wal-Mart and Target on the same grounds. The Sacramento protests represent a lurch into Direct Action.The AP story on this incident tells you a lot:
About 50 protesters took part in Saturday’s demonstration, organized by religious leaders. Dick Otterstad of the Church of the Divide donned a Santa Claus costume and greeted shoppers with the message: Don’t forget about the meaning of Christmas.”It is insulting that Wal-Mart has chosen to ignore the reason for the season,” Otterstad said. “Taking the word ‘Christmas’ out of the holiday implies there’s something sinful about it. … This is a part of our culture.”
But the protests aren’t much working, either:
[E]ven shoppers who agreed with the protesters weren’t willing to interrupt their quest for holiday deals.”I believe in Christ, and I don’t like the use of ‘xmas’ or the use of ‘happy holidays,”‘ said Steven Van Noy, 39, as he left the store loaded down with packages. “The bottom line is that they had what I needed at Wal-Mart, so I went to Wal-Mart to buy it.”
Now you do have to admire the truth-in-advertising honesty of a protest organizer who represents the “Church of the Divide.” But the shopper who shares the protest’s perspective yet ignores to join it is more representative of even conservative evangelical sentiment. I found it especially interesting that he objects to the use of “Xmas”–an objection I’ve been hearing literally for forty years, dating back to those simpler days when hardly anyone thought godless secular hordes controlled our culture.In fact, the substitution of “X” for Christ is an ancient Christian usage, reflecting the widespread adoption of the Greek letter “Chi” as a symbol for Christ (the “Chi-Rho,” which looks like “XP,” remains an abiding presence in priestly vestments and Christian art.)That significant numbers of conservative Christians don’t understand this simple fact reflects poorly on their leadership, and illustrates the contrived nature of the whole “war on Christmas” demonology.Christians should have better things to worry about during the Feast of the Nativity, also known as Xmas.