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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

“Satan’s Office Party”: It’s Black Friday And The Religious Zealots Are Running Out Of Places To Shop

On this Black Friday, apparently members of the religious right are running into a problem. After having joined the bandwagon of turning Christmas into a commercialized shopping extravaganza, Linda Harvey says that they’re running out of places to spend their money that are content to discriminate against LGBT people.

Of course she warns people to stay away from the usual suspects like Macy’s for allowing a transexual to use a woman’s dressing room and Target for selling gay pride t-shirts. But oh my, she now has to add that conservative bastion known as Wal-Mart to the list for opposing “religious freedom” bills in Arkansas and Indiana.

But my very favorite is her problem with Mattel.

If you’re thinking toys, avoid Mattel. They just created “Moschino Barbie” with an ad featuring a tragically feminized little boy who plays with Barbies, a wicked accommodation to the current gender-destructive culture.

Little boys playing with Barbies? What is the world coming to? For our “gender-destructive culture,” Harvey has a totally hyperbolized name…”Satan’s Office Party.”

Here’s a thought. What if these religious zealots actually DID run out of places to shop and had to spend some time thinking about what the whole Christmas season was originally about?

Let me tell you something about the Jesus that I know.

He was a real man. Born in a poor region to working poor parents. He loved learning, he loved his mother and his father.

But he left them and spent his life with the poor, the outcast, the rejected, the defiled, the sick, the sinners, the bedraggled, the bereft, the self-hating, the lonely, the banished, the foul, the miserable, the desperate and finally, those sick with their own power.

He did this, not because of his ideology or his creed. He did this not because of his doctrine. He did this, quite simply, because he loved them. He preferred them.

Making up a fictionalized “war on Christmas” is a way to avoid the discomfort these folks would feel if they really did attempt to put Christ back in Christmas.

 

By: Nancy Letourneau, The Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, November 27, 2015

November 27, 2015 Posted by | Black Friday, Christian Right, Christmas | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Clothed In Righteousness”: Who Is Really Waging War On Christmas? Look In The Mirror, Right-Wing Scrooges

Spreading holiday cheer, a Western tradition for hundreds of years, no longer engages our so-called conservatives as the end of the year approaches. In fact, the innocent phrase “Happy Holidays” only serves to infuriate them.  The new Yuletide ritual that excites the right is the “War on Christmas” – an annual opportunity to spread religious discord and community conflict, brought to us by those wonderful folks at Fox News.

Once started, wars tend to escalate and intensify — and the War on Christmas is no exception. The same right-wing Christian ideologues enraged by any multicultural or ecumenical celebration of the season — the people trying to transform “Merry Christmas” from a kind greeting into a mantra of hate — are now merrily inflicting additional misery on the nation’s downtrodden.

Just in time for the birthday of baby Jesus, they are cutting food stamps and unemployment benefits. It’s all for the benefit of the poor.

Just ask John Tamny, the Forbes magazine columnist and Fox News personality. During a Dec. 17 appearance on The Daily Show, Tamny endorsed the congressional decision to cut $5 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by declaring, “If I were in control, I would abolish SNAP altogether. I think food stamps are cruel.” Looking very well fed himself, he explained that if people were “literally starving,” they would be saved by a ”massive outpouring of charity.” That will happen, said Tamny, when “people have literally distended bellies where they’re getting almost nothing.”

He sounded oddly let down when he added, “We don’t hear about the poor in this country starving on the streets.” That probably won’t happen immediately, even with the scheduled cuts, but maybe we can look forward to such Dickensian scenes by next Christmas if Tamny and the Republicans get their wish.

As for the unemployed, food stamps are not the only source of succor that will soon be snatched from them and their Tiny Tims. The Republicans have insisted on a budget that discontinues emergency unemployment benefits beyond 73 weeks, which means that millions of families will soon stop receiving the minuscule payments – usually a few hundred dollars a month – that kept them from destitution.

According to Republican theory, as articulated by Senator Rand Paul, helping jobless workers and their families for longer than the 26 weeks ordinarily provided by most states is just as “cruel” as giving them food stamps. “If you extend it beyond that, you do a disservice to these workers,” the Kentucky Republican said recently. “When you allow people to be on unemployment insurance for 99 weeks, you’re causing them to become part of this perpetual unemployed group in our economy.”

Actually, the absence of work is what causes long-term unemployment – not the presence of unemployment benefits. But in North Carolina, the right-wing state government has applied Paul’s theory by cutting benefits drastically. The result, as Bloomberg’s Evan Soltas has shown, has been to drive more people out of the state’s labor force, which has shrunk sharply, rather than somehow forcing people to find nonexistent jobs. To receive benefits, after all, it is necessary to prove that you’re seeking a job.

Facts are not about to deter statesmen like Paul or philosophers like Tamny. The spirit of this holiday is supposed to stimulate charitable concern for everyone, including the very least among us. What we are seeing instead is a real war on Christmas – not a silly struggle over greeting slogans or public displays, but an aggressive drive to deprive those who have almost nothing of the little we provide as a society.

The true enemies of Christmas – and of Christian hope, as articulated in this season by Pope Francis – are those who pretend to befriend the poor by taking bread from their children’s mouths. Both the mean old Grinch and Ebenezer Scrooge were saved from villainy before their stories ended. Our modern political misers, clothed in self-righteousness, have no such prospect of redemption.

 

By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, December 19, 2013

December 20, 2013 Posted by | Christmas, Right Wing | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Waging A Hopeless War Against Demographic Shifts”: Fox News Has Already Lost Its War On Christmas

Take down the Christmas tree Holiday Conifer and pack up the Nativity set Biblical-themed diorama: The War on Christmas is over, and the secularists have won.

While Fox News was busy insisting that Santa (and Jesus) are white, a couple of new polls pointed to something that the network has been warning about for years: Christmas has gradually become less of a religious holiday, and more of a cultural one.

First up, a Public Religion Research Institute survey released Tuesday found that almost half (49 percent) of Americans believe stores should use non-denominational greetings like “happy holidays.” That’s up slightly from three years ago, when 44 percent preferred a less-religious platitude to the traditional “Merry Christmas.”

At the same time, just under half of all Americans (49 percent) now believe the Biblical story of Christmas — virgin birth, angels, three wise man, and so on — is historically accurate. That’s a steep decline from a decade ago, when fully two-thirds of Americans believed the story was completely true.

So what happened to America? In a word: Aging.

Younger Americans are far less likely than older ones to view Christmas as a religious holiday. Much like how same-sex marriage, marijuana legalization, and other once-untouchable wedge issues have been blunted by the nation’s shifting demographics, the same phenomenon is evident in America’s changing views of Christmas.

A recent Pew poll bears out this point. In the survey, 51 percent of respondents say Christmas is “more of a religious holiday,” while 32 percent say it is more so a cultural one. But among adults ages 18-29, only a 39 percent minority say they celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday; among those 65 and up, 66 percent say the same.

Moreover, though seven in ten respondents in the survey say they typically went to religious Christmas services as children, only 54 percent say they plan to do the same this year.

The shift reflects America’s growing body of so-called “nones,” or the religiously unaffiliated, whose share of the population rose from 15 to 20 percent in the last five years alone. With that group on the rise, and with millennials beginning to skew the nation’s overall demographic makeup, an uptick in support for a more secular Christmas should be expected.

So Fox News is sort of right in saying that “Yes, Virginia, there really is a War on Christmas.” But the war isn’t one being waged by fanatical, intolerant liberals and foaming-at-the-mouth atheists. It’s one being waged by inexorable shifts in America’s demographics and beliefs.

 

By: Jon Terbush, The Week, December 18, 2013

December 19, 2013 Posted by | Christmas | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Bleeding-Heart Liberal”: Why Conservatives Should Hate Santa Claus

The war over the War on Christmas has flared up again. Slate’s Aisha Harris fired the latest salvo with her piece last week, “Santa Claus Should Not Be a White Man Anymore,” prompting a famously confused response from Fox News host Megyn Kelly that “Santa Claus just is white” and “Jesus was a white man, too. He was a historical figure, I mean, that’s verifiable fact—as is Santa.” Every single living being on the Internet weighed in. Kelly later defended herself in the usual manner of someone who regrets having said something: “Humor is a part of what we try to bring to this show, but sometimes that is lost on the humorless.”

She was not joking, of course. To conservatives—of which she is one—the War on Christmas is a very real and serious thing, and the holiday’s two most revered figures, Jesus and Santa, must be defended at all costs from liberals who would dare make the holiday more inclusive. What’s even weirder than the insistence that Santa is white, though, is that conservatives dare to defend him in the first place. He’s a conservative’s worst nightmare, actually.

Consider the lyrics to “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town”:

He’s making a list / Checking it twice / Gonna find out who’s naughty or nice / Santa Claus is coming to town

He sees you when you’re sleeping / He knows when you’re awake / He knows if you’ve been bad or good / So be good for goodness sake

That he’s “making a list” sounds more than vaguely McCarthyistic, I’ll admit, but this is 2013, not 1954. You know who makes lists these days? The National Security Agency—for the express purpose of finding out who has been, or may one day be, naughty. By monitoring your emails and cell phone metadata, the NSA also has a pretty good idea of when you’re sleeping or awake. (Another agency that likes lists: the Internal Revenue Service.)

Santa invades our privacy in more literal ways, too. He breaks into everyone’s homes in the middle of the night—a crime that no one of any political persuasion, except perhaps anarchists, should endorse—and once inside, what does he do? He leaves presents totaling hundreds or thousands of dollars under your tree. You know who else gives Americans free stuff simply for being alive, rather than making recipients work for it? The bloated federal government and its social safety net. Every day, millions of Americans open unearned gifts in the form of Medicaid, unemployment insurance, TANF, and food stamps.

Santa’s home address further complicates matters. Eventually the North Pole will become the equivalent of a Caribbean beach, converting Santa into the world’s most famous and influential climate-change activist—at which point the only coal being mined in America will end up in presents beneath conservatives’ Christmas trees.

And as longtime Santa actor Jonathan Meath points out, “Santa is really the only cultural icon we have who’s male, doesn’t carry a gun, and is all about peace, joy, giving, and caring for other people.” Sure sounds like a bleeding-heart liberal to me.

Note: Humor is a part of what we try to bring to this website, but sometimes that is lost on the humorless.

 

By: Ryan Kearney, The New Republic, December 16, 2013

December 17, 2013 Posted by | Conservatives | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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