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“Christian Culture Cleansing Of The West”: Despising The Holidays; When Christians Led The ‘War On Christmas’

In the 1640s, during the years of the English civil wars, a popular broadsheet with the title The World Turned Upside Down became the equivalent of a blockbuster.

In the chaos of the era print was cheap and plentiful, and the collapse of the licensing laws insured a degree of free speech hitherto unknown in the British Isles. The World Turned Upside Down would prove so enduring that it has been an English folk ballad for more than 350 years.

The song’s opening verse, “Holy-dayes are despis’d, new fashions are devis’d. /Old Christmas is kicked out of Town” remains pertinent. It seems that a supposed “War on Christmas,” whether real or imagined, has been going on for a very long time.

One of this season’s silliest skirmishes is certainly the Starbucks Christmas Cup ‘Controversy’—as per The Atlantic.

Whereas in previous years the coffee behemoth had offered up small, grande, and venti cups with (obviously secular) images of snowflakes and reindeer, 2015’s version has replaced this festive decoration with a minimalist, crimson blood-red design.

Supposedly this has enraged a portion of the Christian right, who view this decision as a rejection of Christian values. This portion of conservative Christians – exactly how many remains vague in media coverage – apparently views the crimson cups as evidence of secular humanistic creep, and the replacement of Christianity with a pluralistic perspective that these individuals view as an affront to their religious liberties.

Joshua Feuerstein, the activist (and known oddball) whose Facebook post attacking the chain over the issue is what initially went viral, claims that the company “wanted to take Christ and Christmas off of their brand new cups. That’s why they’re just plain red.” Feuerstein has encouraged customers to pretend that their names are “Merry Christmas” to seemingly force anti-Christian baristas to haplessly write a godly message on the apostate drink-ware. (This rather than a boycott, apparently.)

The so-called “War on Christmas” has been a staple of right-wing culture warriors for generations now, seemingly so incensed over people saying “Happy Holidays” that they can’t help but resort to hyperbole so bizarre that you can’t tell if it’s parody or not.

It’s this perennially aggrieved attitude that allows a writer at Breitbart.com to claim that the decision of a massive privately-held corporation (normally the heroes in conservative morality-plays) indicates that “Starbucks Red Cups Are Emblematic Of The Christian Culture Cleansing Of The West.”

That at this very moment ISIS is trying to actually ethnically cleanse entire regions of Christians makes the faux-outrage over a cup that happens to not have Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer on it all the more obscene. That Mr. Feurstein and his supporters didn’t go a step further and claim that the Starbucks mermaid logo is actually the ancient Philistine deity Dagon is presumably a failure of creativity on their part.

The irony over the kabuki-play that is our annual ceremonial anger over perceived attacks on Christianity is that the only actual sustained “War on Christmas” in the West was promulgated by religious Christians.

The World Turned Upside Down was written in angry response to an actual attempt at banning (or at least heavily regulating) Christmas festivities under Oliver Cromwell’s Puritan government in Britain, and concurrently in the charter-colonies of New England. The Puritans saw Christmas as tainted by “popery,” (after all, the word ends with “Mass,” which had also been abolished) and identified its extra-biblical elements as dangerously pagan.

In England there was fierce resistance to this attempt to regulate Christmas, where, as scholars like Eamon Duffy have demonstrated, the Reformation was hardly as seamless or as popular as triumphalist Protestant historiography has often portrayed it.

During the thirteen years that Christmas was replaced with a day of fasting by Parliamentary order there was fierce resistance among the populace. Celebrations were restored in 1660 with the Stuart Restoration, but the animus towards the holiday remained in America, where New England Puritans disparaged the holiday (as Bruce Forbes describes here) as both a Catholic and pagan innovation—one which encouraged drunkenness and slothfulness.

In 1712 Cotton Mather railed against “the feast of Christ’s nativity… spent in reveling, dicing, carding, masking, and in all licentious liberty…by mad mirth, by long eating, by hard drinking, by lewd gaming, by rude reveling!” In 1659 – a year before Christmas would return to Britain with Charles II – countrymen across the Atlantic in Massachusetts and Connecticut made the celebration of Christmas punishable by a five shilling fine.

The contemporary Christian Right often claims that the New England Puritans are their intellectual ancestors, but this is willfully misreading the historical record as surely as creationists misread biological evidence. Contemporary American fundamentalism, from its pre-millennial dispensationalist eschatology to its free-market economic ideology is at odds with the actual ideology of American Puritanism. The reductionist ‘culture wars’ obscure the nuances of history and culture, while failing to recognize the full complexity of both secularism and religion.

This year’s tempest in a coffee cup has provided us all with an unintended lesson in semiotics.

That someone might see Christianity in reindeer and snow-flakes (neither of which are mentioned in scripture) but not in the color red (which could certainly be anything from Christ’s blood to Eucharistic wine) – speaks to the arbitrary nature of symbols. They can only be understood within cultural context, and culture warriors would do well to remember that no secular order in American history has ever successfully waged a “War on Christmas,”—but that a Christian theocracy once did.

 

By: Ed Simon, Religion Dispatches, December 21, 2015

December 25, 2015 Posted by | Christians, Christmas, Puritans, Religious Beliefs | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Yesterday’s Ideological Hero Is Suspect”: Remembering Paul Ryan Before He Became A RINO Squish

A lot of the conservative carping we are hearing about Paul Ryan as he ascends to the House Speakership is interesting, to say the least. As conservative commentator Matt Lewis notes at the Daily Beast today, a lot of the same people were praising him to high heaven when he emerged as the great crafter of right-wing budgets back in 2010 and again in 2012. Since most of the heresies people are now talking about occurred earlier in his congressional career, you have to figure the context has changed more than Ryan has.

Here’s Lewis’ guess:

Much of this boils down to Paul Ryan’s past support for immigration reform—and the fact that this has become the one and only litmus test for populist conservatives.

That could certainly help explain why everybody’s favorite nativist, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) has been making negative noises about Ryan’s accession to the Speakership.

As it happens, the day after Mitt Romney announced Ryan as his running-mate in 2012, I was in Waukee, Iowa, at the FAMiLY Leadership Summit, one of the nation’s biggest and most influential Christian Right clambakes. Steve King keynoted the event, and expressed satisfaction with Romney’s choice of Ryan–as did, it seems, the entire assemblage, which erupted in cheers at the first mention of Ryan’s name. But at that point in history, conservatives were most focused on the fact that Ryan was a down-the-line antichoicer who had shown his “guts” by crafting a budget document (actually two of them by then) that messed with Medicare and took a claw hammer to the federal programs benefitting those people.

Nowadays if you are guilty of having ever supported “amnesty” your other heresies will be uncovered, however old they are. The other way to look at it, of course, is that the GOP continues to drift to the Right, making yesterday’s ideological heroes suspect. The message to Paul Ryan is: keep up.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, Octoer 26, 2015

October 27, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, Paul Ryan, Speaker of The House of Representatives | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Jindal’s Trumpism-Without-Trump Tax Plan”: His Distinctive Tax “Idea” Is One Of The Dumbest In The Conservative Arsenal

With all the excitement going on this week, I totally missed the fact that my favorite Republican presidential candidate, the Gret Stet of Loosiana’s Bobby Jindal, released a tax plan, or at least a tax-based messaging document. WaPo’s Catherine Rampell informs us it’s everything you’d expect from the candidate who’s offering the GOP Trumpism Without Trump:

Jindal — who once declared that the Republican Party needed to stop being the “stupid party” — decided he, too, wanted to pander to stupidity.

That is, he decided to out-Trump Trump.

In a sprawling, largely detail-free plan released Wednesday, Jindal tried his hand at the tax-cut buzz saw. On a static basis, the Tax Foundation estimates, Jindal’s proposal would cut revenue by $11.3 trillion over the next decade.

That’s in the same ballpark as Trump. Yet rather than denying or trying to draw attention away from the gigantic hole he intends to blow in the budget (as Trump and Bush, respectively, have done), Jindal touts it with pride.

“Governor Jindal’s plan reduces the amount of money the federal government will be able to spend,” his Web site boasts, invoking long-ago disproven “starve the beast” rhetoric. The main effect of previous attempts to “starve the beast” through tax cuts, as Jindal surely knows, has not been spending decreases, but subsequently legislated tax increases.

But here’s the fun part:

Jindal’s plan is also, impressively, even more regressive than Trump’s. While Trump would raise the after-tax incomes of the top 1 percent by a mere fifth (21.6 percent), Jindal would increase their incomes by a full quarter (25 percent).

Then, in addition to lowering taxes on the rich, Jindal — but not Trump — would raise taxes on the poor.

Yes, you read that right. Jindal wants to engineer a reverse Robin Hood, taking money from the poor to give to the rich.

As Dylan Matthews explains at Vox, Jindal’s plan would eliminate the child tax credit, the standard deduction, the personal exemption, and the dependent exemption, with the very explicit goal of making everybody, even the poorest Americans, pay income taxes (hey, he does keep the EITC, but maybe that was an oversight!). So in effect his most distinctive tax “idea” is one of the dumbest in the conservative arsenal: going after the “lucky duckies,” the 47% who don’t pay income tax (though they do pay payroll taxes, state and local sales taxes, property taxes, etc. etc.).

At least Bobby’s being consistent: he spent years unsuccessfully trying to get Louisiana to shift from an income tax to a sales tax system for financing state government. Don’t want those job creators to have to pay taxes if they can instead be borne by those proles lucky enough to work for them, right?

Maybe the very conservative voters of Iowa, with whom Jindal is spending most of his time these days, like this approach; you should not underestimate the power of resentment of those people when two or more conservatives gather. But I dunno: as with his efforts to be Mr. Christian Right in a crowded presidential field, I suspect most voters otherwise attracted to Trumpism-Without-Trump would also prefer Jindalism-Without-Jindal.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 9, 2015

October 10, 2015 Posted by | Bobby Jindal, Donald Trump, Tax Policy | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Undercard”: What Will Be The Fate Of The GOP Candidates Who Didn’t Make The Cut?

So the hammer finally dropped on seven Republican presidential candidates who did not make Fox News’ top ten national polling threshold for the first official debate of the cycle: Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki and Jim Gilmore. They have been relegated to a 5:00 PM “forum” on Fox tomorrow that will last an hour; the top ten will rumble for two hours at 9:00 PM.

One of the story-lines for the next couple of weeks will be the fate of the candidates who didn’t make the cut. Will the media start treating them like the Walking Dead? Will donors and previously committed activists abandon them? Will any of them see the handwriting on the wall and just drop out? Or could this whole make-the-top-ten obsession of the last couple of months turn out to have been a chimera?

You’d have to figure that three of the leftover candidates have a survival advantage. Perry has gotten off to a good start substantively and in terms of early Iowa impressions. He also has a lifeline to Texas and Christian Right money. Fiorina remains a candidate other Republicans want to push in front of cameras to savage Hillary Clinton without the appearance of male pigginess. And Lindsey Graham is this cycle’s clown prince, beloved by media for his jokiness, his moderation on some domestic issues, and his mad bomber hawkiness on foreign policy, making him a nice matched set with Rand Paul.

As long as Rick Santorum has Foster Friess willing to finance his Super-PAC, however, he can probably stick around. And what else does Bobby Jindal have to do? Govern Louisiana? Hah!

In the wake of not making the Fox cut, Team Jindal has settled on an interesting reaction: predicting Bobby will overwhelm the field with his Big Brain (per Buzzfeed‘s Rosie Gray):

The Bobby Jindal campaign likewise responded with a certain level of disdain for its fellow undercard debaters.

“Unlike other candidates, Bobby has a tremendous bandwidth for information and policy,” said Jindal spokesperson Shannon Dirman. “He’s smart, has the backbone to do the right thing, and his experience has prepared him well for debates on any number of policy topics. If anyone thinks they can beat him in a debate I’d love to learn about it.”

Bobby used the term “bandwidth” himself a couple of times during Monday’s Voters First Forum in NH. It’s apparently the new term for “smartest guy in the room,” which will probably be etched on Jindal’s political tombstone. He’s got all the arrogance of Donald Trump, but without the poll numbers.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, August 5, 2015

August 5, 2015 Posted by | Fox News, GOP Presidential Candidates, GOP Primary Debates | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Huckabee And His Multiple Holocausts”: Pretending To Believe Your Political Opponents Are The Heirs Of Hitler

I’ve been observing for a good long while now that the sunny, optimistic Mike Huckabee of the 2008 presidential campaign cycle is way long gone, replaced by an angry and paranoid culture warrior who thinks of himself as leading a revolt of Real Americans against the decadent coasts–you know, the Sarah Palin lane over there on the far Right of the bowling alley.

But the dude’s really outdoing himself at the moment, making a complicated diplomatic initiative as simple as a gas chamber during an interview with the Breitbartians:

This president’s foreign policy is the most feckless in American history. It is so naive that he would trust the Iranians. By doing so, he will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven. This is the most idiotic thing, this Iran deal. It should be rejected by both Democrats and Republicans in Congress and by the American people. I read the whole deal. We gave away the whole store. It’s got to be stopped.

Whoa!

Huck’s very proud of his solidarity with Israel, a country he’s visited many times. But this time his zeal for the people destined to kick off the End of Times earned him a rebuke from the Anti-Defamation League, which polices inappropriate Holocaust analogies that cheapen memories of the real thing.

So why would he Go There?

Political analyst Barack Obama had this to say all the way over in Ethiopia (per ABC’s Arlette Saenz):

On his first day in Ethiopia, President Obama waded into the 2016 presidential campaign, criticizing Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee for suggesting the president is trying to push Israelis to the “door of the oven” with Iran nuclear deal.

“The particular comments of Mr. Huckabee are I think part of just a general pattern we’ve seen … that would be considered ridiculous if it weren’t so sad,” the president said in a news conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

“Maybe this is just an effort to push Mr. Trump out of the headlines but it’s not the kind of leadership that’s needed for America right now,” the president added.

Alternatively, shouting about ovens is the sort of thing you’d expect from a candidate nervous about making the Fox News debate 10-candidate cutoff, which will be executed a week from tomorrow. At the moment, though, Huck is in a comfortable 5th place in the RCP polling averages. Maybe Huckabee’s trying to drown out and help shove off the stage some more endangered rivals for the Christian Right vote like Bobby Jindal and Rick Perry.

Or just maybe Huckabee really is an example of why the ADL needs to keep up its thankless task of warning pols away from Holocaust analogies. After all, Huck is a veteran of the Legalized Abortion Is a Holocaust meme, repeated most notably during his David Lane-faciliated tour of Europe and the Holy Land last year, designed to train conservative pastors and pols in how to emulate Margaret Thatcher, Pope John Paul II and Ronald Reagan in fighting the infernal forces of secularism and defending Greater Israel:

If you felt something incredibly powerful at Auschwitz and Birkenau over the 11 million killed worldwide and the 1.5 million killed on those grounds, cannot we feel something extraordinary about 55 million murdered in our own country in the wombs of their mothers?

So Huck sees Holocausts in every direction, all facilitated by the same Secular Socialist Evil Ones. And it’s a bit hard to stay off the hate train when you believe–or just pretend to believe–your political opponents are the heirs of Hitler.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, July 27, 2015

July 28, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Holocaust, Mike Huckabee | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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