I don’t like the term “the war on Christmas” just like I don’t like the term “the war on women.” Both phrases simplistically sloganize what, I think, are legitimate and complex issues.
Interestingly enough, those statements arise from ideological adversaries:
Cultural / political / religious conservatives believe there’s a war on Christmas.
Cultural / political / religious progressives believe there’s a war on women.
In fact, the opposite is also true for both groups:
Cultural / political / religious conservatives DO NOT believe there’s a war on women.
Cultural / political / religious progressives DO NOT believe there’s a war on Christmas.
I realize these are generalizations and that the “war on anything” rhetoric is unfortunate and potentially misleading. It doesn’t represent the nuances within either group. Nevertheless, I am a religious / cultural / political conservative who, for the most part, fits within the parameters of these generalizations. Here’s where I differ: While I find the “war on Christmas” lingo unhelpful, I definitely believe Christmas, and in the broader respect Christianity, is under cultural attack. I am not offended if someone greets me with “Happy holidays” as opposed to “Merry Christmas.” In fact, I use the term “happy holidays” often myself. Now, if I was forced to say “Happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” as some employees apparently are, that’s another story. I wouldn’t go so far as say that Christians are being persecuted in America, like some “war on Christmas” proponents do. Nevertheless, I happen to believe that the mindset is in place for the progressive dismantling of religious freedoms which will eventually lead to genuine persecution of Christians in America. Which is why I don’t so easily dismiss the “war on Christmas” sentiment.
So there’s that.
Apparently, however, it is not enough to simply disagree about whether or not there actually is a “war on Christmas” or a war on Christianity. An entire industry has arisen around mocking those who dare suggest that the “war on Christmas” is part of a bigger war on Christianity. Comedians, pundits, and religious progressives have countered the “war on Christmas” with a war of their own — a war against the “war on Christmas.” Their ammunition is mostly snark, derision, and insult; their objective is to downplay conservatives’ fears, lecture us about “real persecution,” and portray “culture warriors” as the real enemy.
Ironically, those who oppose the “war on Christmas” rhetoric employ a similar rhetoric to further their own causes. Let me give you an example. Several weeks ago, this chart (below) arrived just in time for the holidays, courtesy of Rachel Held Evans. To the delight of combatants in the war against the “war on Christmas,” it made the internet rounds.This chart was linked, retweeted, and shared, often with “helpful” reminders of what “real persecution” is like and attributions of “martyr complex” upon its ideological enemies. Frankly, it was just another salvo in the war against the “war on Christmas.”
Interestingly enough, several weeks later Evans stirred up controversy on Twitter by calling attention to the dismal number of women speakers at The Nines, an annual online church leadership conference. The subsequent jousting led to lots of queries, like that of Jonathan Merritt who asked “Are Christians conferences sexist?”
While neither Merritt or Evans used the phrase “war on women” to my knowledge, they seem to invoke the same sentiment as those who do employ said rhetoric. In other words, they believe that patriarchal, sexist, evangelical culture has oppressed women, mangled the true Church, and tainted the truth about Christ and His liberating gospel. Whether or not they believe this amounts to the “persecution” of women,” I can’t say. They would agree, I think, that something bad is in the mix.
Which I find ironic. It’s silly to complain about a “war on Christmas” but quite noble to fuss about a “war on women.”
But really, these “culture warriors” are saying the same thing:
- War on Christmas proponent: “Secular culture is progressively undermining Christian ideals, oppressing believers, and stripping them of religious freedom.”
- War on women proponent: “Evangelical culture is progressively undermining feminist ideals, oppressing women, and stripping them of personal freedom.”
The only real difference between the two is not in their conception of a “war,” but in their view of the enemy.
Listen, if you want to criticize the “war and anything” mentality, fine. Just don’t employ the same rhetoric for your causes. If there can be a “war on women” then there can also be a “war on Christmas” and/or a “war on Christianity.” All kinds of ideas, systems, and forces (secular and spiritual) can be at work to drive us away from God’s ideals — whether those ideals involve Christianity or feminism.
As I said, both of these issues carry weight. But the war against the “war on Christmas” is not the answer. In fact, it’s the perpetuation of the problem.