The real war on Christmas

The Thinker by Rodin

Always eager to draw attention to himself, our president elect has embraced the meme that there is a War on Christmas. Specifically, he hates “Seasons Greetings” and “Happy Holidays”. To fight back he is going with “Merry Christmas” and let the non-Christians and their stupid feelings be damned.

Non-Christians like, well, Donald Trump? This is a man who pretty much never goes to church. It’s clear he actually worships at the Church of Mammon. He’s got plenty of company there, including most Republicans. But maybe he has a point. What do we really mean when we say “Merry Christmas”? It suggests to me that we want people to be happy because it’s the Christmas season. That works pretty well. Most of us are merry when we are getting free stuff. That’s what Christmas is really about these days: a chance to maybe feel happy with a sudden influx of stuff, usually on Christmas Day. Sometimes it’s actually stuff we want! And if there is anything Donald Trump likes, it’s the accumulation of more stuff: money, property or the real thing he values most: attention and adulation.

Trump though can’t wait until Christmas for attention. He demands it all year round. If he feels he’s not getting enough of it he’ll post something outrageous on Twitter to make sure people are talking about him. What a blessing then to be POTUS come January 20, because people are always interested in what the president says. They have no choice. The attention cycle will be nonstop!

Of course a lot of it will be negative attention, something Trump will discover soon after getting into office. Like it or not the president is perceived responsible for everything. A good carnival barker like Donald Trump though will keep the public distracted by sideshows, which is a pretty good strategy as long as it works. At some point though too much real life will interfere and at that point being POTUS will cease to be fun.

Meanwhile, he’ll use memes like the War on Christmas to lead us around like circus animals under the big tent. It succeeds in not only drawing attention to himself, but also in getting his supporters enthused. This is important because he will soon be picking their pockets. With enough War on Christmas-like gimmicks they may not notice when their Obamacare or food stamp benefits go away. It’s clearly an effective strategy for now as it pushes just the right buttons that Republicans like to have pressed. Because you see they are so oppressed being Christians in their own country! And they’ve had being politically correct up to here.

In truth most Christians are not Christians. They are certainly not the sort of Christians that Jesus envisioned, you know the kind that live without possessions and give the shirt off their backs to strangers. The accepted alternative for first world Christians is to do token acts of charity around the holiday season. Mostly this involves writing checks to their churches or politically compatible charities. But sometimes it involves some actual in-person demonstrations of what Jesus might have done, such as serving meals in a soup kitchen to the homeless. It’s a faint echo of what Jesus had in mind for his church, but at least it’s an echo. Don’t expect to see Donald Trump in a soup kitchen. It’s not clear he knows how to use a ladle or clean a pot. No one ever taught him how these things are done.

Saying “Happy holidays!” is certainly not anti-Christian, as there are plenty of holidays this time of year. Only two are Christian: Christmas itself and the Epiphany, which literally is Christmas if you are Eastern Orthodox. There is also Thanksgiving and New Years, which are secular holidays and in Great Britain there is also Boxing Day. And, oh yes, there are those other you know second-class religious holidays that also happen this time of year, helpfully captured on Huffington Post. Hanukkah happens to fall Christmas week this year, which may be a reason for Trump to draw attention to it. (It doesn’t hurt to have a Jewish son-in-law.) But we also have Bodhi Day on December 8 (Buddhists), Mawlid an Nabi on December 18 (Muslims) and Winter Solstice on December 22 (Pagans).

If you say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays” what you are really saying is that Christian holidays matter and those others don’t. And the reason they don’t matter is because the Merry Christmas crowd doesn’t give a crap about the non-Christians among us. The president is (or should be) expected to speak for all Americans, not just the Christians among us. Also the president should not favor one religion over another, as our government is secular by design. What Trump supporters hear when Trump says, “Merry Christmas” is “White-Christian America matters, and those others don’t.”

So no wonder they are enthusiastic about promoting a War on Christmas. What they don’t see is that when elected officials keep the holiday generic is not a bad thing; it’s there by design. It’s a statement that government operates in a religiously neutral environment. And that’s what really gets their goat. They don’t want it to be that way. They want a government for White Christians only. And by refusing to be politically correct, this is what Trump is tacitly telling them he’s going to deliver.

Unsurprisingly, they love him for his clannish behavior. As for Jesus’ call to love all, including the non-Christians (see the Good Samaritan parable), well, clearly not so much.

Happy holidays, everyone.