Well, it’s that time of year again. I hear that the Reindeer Queen herself is kind of sort of going on a book tour that she probably won’t even finish just like everything else she’s done in life. Her book is about a topic that is, well, pretty far from my heart and I’m sick of dealing with, but I write about it anyway because deep down I like arguing about stupid things. It’s the Internet, after all, so that’s what I’m up to.
There is this notion that there is a War on Christmas, and as someone who isn’t a Christian I feel like I need to point a few things out. I’m probably repeating myself, just like conservatives are repeating themselves by squawking about a “War on Christmas” every fucking year, but whatever. There’s just a handful of things that need to be pointed out from the other side of this ridiculous claptrap.
1. Christians are, by and large, not “oppressed” in the slightest, especially not in this country.
It’s true. If you’re a Christian, and you feel like you’re being oppressed for your religious beliefs, really take a look around, and maybe take a look at history books or, hell, even the Bible. Go ask the nearest African-American person and see if they can give you a little bit of perspective. Ask a Jewish person, too, if they’re more plentiful where you live. The Holocaust, hundreds of years of enslavement of Africans to work in the cotton fields of America and the sugarcane fields of the East Indies, and hundreds of years of enslavement of Jews by the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt, are real-world actual examples of oppression. If you’re one of these many Christians who can’t seem to understand anything except through the lens of Christianity itself, maybe you’d rather take a look at what ancient Romans were up to during the earliest days of Christianity. These are real examples of real oppression that really happened, and there are scores I could’ve mentioned in their place, and scores that have been forgotten in the distant mists of history.
So that’s what’s on the other side of the scales: actual genocide, kidnapping, slavery, splitting up families, forcing people to work without pay and without freedom, basically just some of the worst atrocities the world has ever known. You know what doesn’t belong on that list, like, at all? Someone saying “Happy Holidays!” to you when you enter a store rather than saying “Merry Christmas!” You know why? Because that’s just companies and stores making the decision that, since they want to attract more than just Christians to their stores and places of business during the (very profitable) holiday season, they need to ensure that people of all faiths feel welcome.
2. It’s not even that big of a deal anyway.
Let me be clear. I think it’s mostly just assholes who would genuinely be offended by hearing “Merry Christmas!” just exactly as I feel it’s mostly assholes who feel offended by “Happy Holidays!” I’m not gonna be giving cover to either of those groups here. If you’re out there correcting people when they hand you either one of those greetings, there’s just no two ways about it: you are kind of an asshole and you might have offended that person right back. Two offenses don’t make a greeting.
I’ll admit I’m the one who’s writing about this, so you might be tempted to think that someone saying “Merry Christmas!” at me offends me. It doesn’t, but at the same time the greeting really doesn’t apply to me. I’m glad you’re having a merry Christmas and I wish you all the best with that; I meanwhile will be kind of half-assing my way through a Hanukkah celebration with my cats. Whatever. That being said, I do appreciate it a little when someone has bothered to understand that there exist more than one religion in this country, and that the person they are talking to might subscribe to a different one than they, or no religion at all as the case may be, and there are a lot of holidays in the winter so just saying “Happy holidays!” is fine.
If I were to run a store where I wanted peoples' business with no regard whatsoever to their religious beliefs, why should I be bullied by religious zealots into greeting only the people who share the same beliefs as me?
3. Our first amendment assures us freedom from religion, too.
One of the things I find most offensive about what I’ve read about Mrs. Reindeer’s book is that she apparently decries the lack of religious display on public land, and this is a frequent enough meme in the “War on Christmas” talk that I felt it needs special attention here. This is a huge source of butt-hurt Christians' notions that there is somehow some plot by atheists, secularists (whatever that is) and humanists to forcibly remove Christianity from everything. Let’s take a moment here to just read the full text of the first amendment (emphasis mine):
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
That part I highlighted is usually referred to as the “establishment clause” of the First Amendment, and it is extremely important. It means that the Government here in the US cannot ever establish a state religion, and cannot show one religion favor over another. Let’s dive a little deeper into what that means.
In exactly the same way that it means your local courthouse can’t put a statue of the Ten Commandments on the lawn, it also means your local courthouse can’t treat you differently because of your religion. In just the same way that it means you can’t put a big nativity scene in the courtyard of your local government buildings, it also means that your government can’t pass a law requiring everybody to celebrate Purim (even though, as any Jewish folks will readily tell you, Purim is fucking awesome). In exactly the same way that I can’t get a law that outlaws Christmas trees or even a law that requires people to refer to them as “Holiday trees” (not that I’m the kind of Grinch who’d do that, mind you, but this is a hypothetical here), nobody can pass any laws that outlaw menorahs, or statues of the Buddha, or beautiful frescoes of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. That establishment clause is the thing that keeps the US from becoming some kind of Christian version of Iran. It means that I’m free to have my religious views, and you’re free to have yours, and the government that we form together does not have the ability to oppress us or to make us feel left out.
It’s ours, is why. Yeah this country was founded by some puritans and weirdos who were too uptight religiously to live anywhere else, but at the same time it was also founded by deists who were creeped out by religion and felt that it was wrong of King George I to force the Church of England on his subjects just because he wanted a divorce. It’s much easier our way: letting everybody do whatever it is they want as long as it doesn’t interfere with everybody else doing what they want. It’s a thing called Liberty, and though we didn’t invent it in this country, I feel like we were the first country to become really good at it. So while some may see crucifixes and nativity scenes removed from public lands and see oppression, I see liberty. I see the freedom to choose which religion you want to follow, in a country where “none” is the fastest-growing religion and where about one in five people say they never go to regular religious services (source: Gallup).
I’ll leave y'all, my faithful space cadets, with a quote from our own Thomas Jefferson, who for all the love conservatives shower upon him for his small government views, they forget he also wasn’t a fan of religion:
Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.