“Hypocrites chasing windmills…”
It’s the Christmas season, and, predictably, the right-wing “war on Christmas” nonsense has begun. Former Wisconsin governor Scott Walker and other Republicans are having a major conniption because the present Wisconsin governor, Tony Evers, a former science teacher, set up a science-based “holiday tree” and invited school children to decorate the tree with science-based ornaments. Speaking for his Republican colleagues, Wisconsin State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald called Gov. Evers’ action “PC garbage.”
What Governor Evers did was not a radical act. He merely went back to what the tree has been called in Wisconsin for ages. It was not until 2011, during his first year as governor, that Walker changed the name from “holiday tree” to “Christmas tree.”
This right-wing nonsense has no theological foundation. “Holiday” derives from “holy day” and is not irreligious. And as noted below, the current “war on Christmas” trope is the latest incarnation of a longstanding anti-Semitic campaign.
The right-wing “war on Christmas” nonsense has a sordid history…
In the early 1900s, automaker Henry Ford published a set of anti-Semitic articles—“The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem”—that propounded the notion that Jews were waging a war against Christmas. Ford claimed that Jewish students could abolish the mention of Christmas (and Easter) in schools whose student body was overwhelmingly Christian. He also claimed that Jews made it difficult to find Christmas cards that commemorated the true story of Christmas, i.e., the birth of Jesus Christ.
Because of his writings, Ford was once regarded by Adolf Hitler as his “inspiration” and in 1938, Nazi Germany conferred on Ford the highest honor it could bestow on a foreigner—the Grand Cross of the German Eagle. And Ford is the only American mentioned by name in Hitler’s notorious memoir “Mein Kampf.”
In 1949, “The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem,” was published as a one-volume abridgement and was widely distributed. The treatise was edited by a British fascist journalist, George F. Green, and notably, was sold in the United States by the Christian Nationalist Crusade.
In 1959, the far-right John Birch Society published a pamphlet that “alerted” the nation to an “assault on Christmas” that was allegedly being perpetrated by “UN fanatics” out to persuade department stores throughout the U.S. to utilize UN symbols and emblems as Christmas decorations.
But Catherine Cangany, executive director of the Jewish Historical Society of Michigan, warns that “The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem” is not an historical artifact. She notes that it is still available in print and that the organizers of the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville in 2017 claim the publication motivated them.
Origins of the modern “war on Christmas” nonsense…
Today’s so-called “war on Christmas” ostensibly began in 2004, when disgraced former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly aired a segment focusing on “Christmas Under Siege.” In that segment O’Reilly asserted that the “war” was sparked by major corporations ordering their employees not to say ‘Merry Christmas.’ O’Reilly told a Jewish person who called in to his radio show that if he, the caller, had a problem with Christmas he should go to Israel. O’Reilly’s absurdity was picked up readily by his fellow travelers. A few days after the O’Reilly program, the conservative commentator Pat Buchanan declared that curbs on “Merry Christmas” amounted to hate crimes against Christianity. Televangelist Pat Robertson advised “opponents” of Christmas to go to Saudi Arabia or Pakistan and celebrate a Muslim holiday.
In 2005, John Gibson, then a Fox News host, wrote a book entitled “The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought” in which he urged Christians to reclaim their place in the public square.
Blogger Peter Brimelow—the founder of a conservative and frequently white nationalist blog called VDARE—disputes that O’Reilly started the push back campaign against the modern “war on Christmas.” Brimelow credits himself for coining the phrase “War on Christmas” in the late 1990s, before O’Reilly’s program, because he says he noticed that people were not saying “Merry Christmas” often enough.
As noted above, the right-wing “war on Christmas” nonsense has no theological basis. You will not find a single reference to “Merry Christmas” in the Gospels. Jesus Christ never uttered the phrase, nor did the Apostles. “Merry Christmas” is no different than the phrases Happy Halloween, Happy Thanksgiving, Happy New Year. It’s a formulaic phrase people say out of habit for two weeks or so every December.
Indeed, we should put Christ back into Christmas…
While Jesus Christ never uttered “Merry Christmas,” he did instruct his followers to do certain things, viz.: Feed the hungry … Welcome the unwanted … care for the ill … love your enemies …
As I have said in this space and elsewhere, if the right-wing zealots who wear their Christianity on their sleeves want to keep Christ in Christmas, they should promote—rather than demonize and work against—legislation and policies that feed the hungry…support workers and their families…welcome the stranger and the unwanted child…care for the ill, and other truly Christian precepts. After all, the Jesus they claim to believe in hung out with, and advocated for, the commoners, the poor, the abused and downtrodden.
Also, the right-wing zealots, if they took their Christian faith seriously, would promote rather than oppose legislation that punishes those who exploit working people and the poor. For, the Biblical Jesus didn’t traffic with the Wall Street crowd of his time. He threw the money changers who took advantage of the poor by charging usurious interest rates out of the temple, whereas today’s right-wingers cozy up to the bankers and others who make billions off the backs of the poor and the working class.
And under the guise of addressing immigration issues, the so-called Christian right-wingers have been waging a hate campaign against undocumented workers and their children, most of whom are of Mexican descent.
But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what the Gospels (e.g., Matthew 25: 34-40) say that Jesus said: the righteous shall be received into heaven because (paraphrasing) … When I was hungry, you gave me food. When I was thirsty, you gave me drink. When I was naked, you clothed me. When I was sick, you visited me, and when I was a stranger to your land, you took me in, for, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
One does not have to be a Christian or a believer in order to subscribe to and practice the precepts outlined by Jesus Christ. In fact, there are many non-believers, atheists even, who are more “Christian” in their actions than the pseudo-Christian right-wingers fighting the non-existent “war on Christmas.”
Rather than chase mythical windmills…
Even as the right wingers gird themselves to fight “holiday trees” and the like, Republicans are proposing rules that will take away food stamps from about 1 million households with children and will render about a half-million children no longer eligible for free school meals. These rule changes will literally take food out of the mouths of children.
The Republicans claim the food-stamp cuts will save about $1.1 billion a year. It should be noted, however, that the food stamp program (known as SNAP) boosts the economy rather than drains it. The financial research firm Moody’s Analytics estimates that $1 in SNAP benefits generates $1.70 in economic activity. By that metric, $1.1 billion would generate $1.87 billion in economic activity (actions that involve the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services at all levels within a society).
Republicans are also proposing changes to Social Security that could terminate disability payments to hundreds of thousands of people, particularly children and elderly Americans. Typically, the latter are 50 to 65 years of age, are in poor health, do not have much education or many job skills, and they often suffer from such things as debilitating back pain, depression, schizophrenia. Getting these benefits is not easy. It often takes years—applicants have to compile reams of documents and then state and restate their cases to hearing officers and judges.
Space limitations prohibit a full discussion of all similar issues, but the above make the point. These are the matters true Christians should fight against rather than chase the mythical windmills of “Merry Christmas” and “holiday trees.” c/s
Copyright 2019 by Salomon Baldenegro. All photos used inthis blog are in the public domain. To contact Sal write: firstname.lastname@example.org