The “save Christmas” hysteria this year seems to be worse than ever (though that’s what I thought last year, too). I mean, okay, some of the ACLU-type handwringing over creches on public grounds gets ridiculous, but John Gibson carrying on about “the plot to ban the sacred Christian holiday”? Bill O’Reilly urging a boycott of stores that use “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” and pursuing investigative reports on various stores’ Christmas policies with a zeal he normally reserves for criminal-coddling judges? O’Reilly has become truly unhinged on the subject. One of his latest rants is analyzed by Michael Stickings at The Moderate Voice: O’Reilly carries on about a “very secret plan,” funded by his bogeyman George Soros, to “diminish Christian philosophy in the U.S.A.” by attacking Christmas. (Stickings also picks up on one of O’Reilly’s favorite rhetorical tricks: to get around that pesky “establishment of religion” problem, he’ll argue that things like Ten Commandment displays in government buildings are not about “religion” but about “Judeo-Christian philosophy.”)
Every company in America should be on its knees thanking Jesus for being born. Without Christmas, most American businesses would be far less profitable. More than enough reason for business to be screaming “Merry Christmas.”
Well, for one thing, this is pretty stupid. Without Christmas, we might all have been exchanging gifts for Solstice (in which, it’s widely agreed, modern-day Christmas celebrations are rooted; let’s not forget that until well into the 19th Century, Christian America frowned upon Christmas as a pagan-style holiday). But leaving that aside: here’s O’Reilly fulminating against the assault on religion and, in the same breath, peddling the most secular, commercial, materialistic view of Christmas imaginable. (I mean, from a truly Christian perspective, America’s business leaders should be thanking Jesus for being born because he offers them a chance at salvation and life everlasting, and his impact on profit margins should be a decidedly secondary matter.) The irony is dripping right off the TV screen.
Tonight, I tuned in to The O’Reilly Factor near the end to see an interview with the Rev. Tim Bumgardner, a pastor in Wellington, Florida, who is fighting to have a nativity scene included in his town’s holiday display (which currently has a Christmas tree and a menorah). Okay, I’m all for having the nativity scene in there, though my sympathy for Rev. Bumgardner waned quickly when he suggested that people who have issues with Christmas displays on government property are un-American. Luckily, I kept watching, because the segment had a truly jaw-dropping conclusion. When O’Reilly gave the Reverend the last word, the following exchange occurred (transcribed by yours truly from the taped rerun):
Rev. Tim Bumgardner: I think they should put a Nativity scene — be American! Hey, celebrate Christmas — people spend more money! Jesus makes people want to spend money!
O’Reilly: I agree. I’m with you.
So there’s the Christmas spirit according to O’Reilly and his guest: shopping for Jesus.
As a non-Christian, I don’t presume to tell Christians how they ought to feel, but really … shouldn’t this be a lot more offensive to Christians than a “Happy Holidays” sign at Macy’s?
Update: This is hilarious. On November 30, Media Matters reported that in apparent defiance of the O’Reilly/Gibson anti-“Happy Holidays” crusade, the Fox News online store was using the phrases “holiday ornaments” and “holiday tree.” One day later, the Fox website changed “holiday” to “Christmas.” See the “before” and “after” pictures here.