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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The War on Christmas Is a War of Attrition

Posted by on Wed, Dec 26, 2012 at 2:14 PM

So here's a little thought experiment inspired by the holiday season and yet another woefully lost War on Christmas: What if America really was founded as a "Christian nation" as some righties wrongly insist? What if the Constitution did proclaim Christianity as the official state religion, and what if it did permit religious tests as a qualification for holding office?

Most other nations at the time of the founding had official state religions, as did some of the 13 colonies. So it wouldn't have been surprising had the US proclaimed one too.

But if it had, would it make a difference? Just because we constitutionally could require prayer in public schools, would we today? Would we force non-Christian children to endure public religious education (or the scorn of their peers for opting out) simply because the Constitution didn't prohibit it? Would we force politicians and judges and civil servants to swear their belief in Christ as a qualification for holding public office?

Or, had Article VI, Paragraph 3 and the First Amendment failed to include these crucial clauses guaranteeing religious freedom, wouldn't we have eventually added these protections by amendment anyway, in the same way that we gradually expanded the franchise, eliminated slavery, and extended equal protection under the law to all our citizens? That's what other Christian nations did over the past couple hundred years. Wouldn't we have done the same too?

The ahistorical notion that the US was founded as a Christian nation is so obviously false, it's not even worth debating. But it's also moot. The religious sensibilities of 18th century America are no more relevant today than those of 17th century Massachusetts, where the Puritans actually outlawed Christmas as a pagan celebration with no basis in scripture.

But this is not the America of 1689 or 1789 or even 1889. Had the founders not embedded religious freedom within the Constitution, the long arc of American history suggests that these freedoms would have found their way in there eventually, consistent with the increasingly pluralistic nation that we are forever becoming.

So if there is a "War on Christmas," it is a war of attrition. And that is a war that history suggests Christmas can never win.


Comments (28) RSS

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eastcoastreader 2
those Puritans, no fun at all.
Posted by eastcoastreader on December 26, 2012 at 2:29 PM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 3
Nicely said.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on December 26, 2012 at 2:30 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 4
Watching Bill O'Reilly's face swell up and turn purple is a cherished holiday tradition. I don't ever want to lose that.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on December 26, 2012 at 2:34 PM · Report this
I question the premise that says development towards a more egalitarian, inclusive society was inevitable without the foundation of the 1st Amendment (to say nothing of the rest of the Bill of Rights) on which to build. At a minimum, we would have been expanding a very different franchise.
Posted by Proteus on December 26, 2012 at 2:39 PM · Report this
Your error is confusing the Separation of Church and State with the separation of Man and God.

What the Founding Fathers wanted to prevent was a single religion and its hierarchy from being a shadow government having undue influence such as the Anglican Church did in England.

But the thought of a Godless amoral individual would have been unthinkable!
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on December 26, 2012 at 2:46 PM · Report this
Cato the Younger Younger 7
I for one welcome the War on Christmas and we must do all we can to win against the evil-doers known as Christmas. After all, we can't allow the smoking gun to be a cloud of burnt frankincense and myrrh rising up over New York City!

And we know that Christmas is going to develop weapons of mass destruction. We can't allow that to happen and we certianly can't allow ourselves to "cut and run" away from Christmas. It must be destroyed..totally and completely.
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on December 26, 2012 at 2:48 PM · Report this
Goldy 8
@5 Other western nations followed that path towards more inclusive societies without such constitutional guarantees, so I see no reason why the US wouldn't have too. If anything, the existing religious pluralism within the US at the time of the founding made tolerance and inclusivity even more necessary.
Posted by Goldy on December 26, 2012 at 2:52 PM · Report this
The people who believe that the government is incompetent and ruins everything it gets involved with are the same people who want the government supporting Christianity.

Go figure.
Posted by midwaypete on December 26, 2012 at 3:08 PM · Report this
treacle 10
Christmas IS a pagan tradition that has no basis in scripture. The northern european holiday of "Yule" (aka the winter solstice), with it's red-green-white color scheme, burning of the Yule log, use of an evergreen tree, and giving of gifts -- was essentially hijacked by the invading Holy Roman Empire (where Christianity was then the state religion from early 300s AD, of course).

Mapping the Christian celebration of Christ's birth onto the existing pagan winter celebration was ostensibly done to not outrage and agitate the large Pagan populations in Europe.

So no, "Christmas" is not a Christian holiday. And for them to assert that it IS theirs, goes against tradition. The Puritans were right.

This "war on christmas" B.S. is just a fear tactic to scare Christians into an emotional fervor in order to have them back authoritarian policies -- against the enshrined pluralism of the Constitution.
Posted by treacle on December 26, 2012 at 3:11 PM · Report this
fletc3her 11
I celebrate Christmas in the most crass commercial way possible. I figure that does more to damage the religion than any amount of "Happy Holidays" ever could.
Posted by fletc3her on December 26, 2012 at 3:30 PM · Report this
@10: I thought Yule was all about cavorting in underground caverns with the giant worm zombies of your ancestors.
Posted by Joe Glibmoron on December 26, 2012 at 3:39 PM · Report this
Unfortunately, radical conservative christian extremists that now control a large chunk if not majority of the republican party have always been with us. In this generation they have are particularly noisy, obnoxious, radical and enjoy way too much media attention, but they've always been around and have always had power. Because they serve a purpose - ultimately the question about freedom of religion is not a question about religion or faith per se, but about power and control. And money. I don't think the country could have ever passed a religious freedom amendment if it hadn't been included in the original bill of rights. Look how difficult it was to abolish slavery. I don't think the right wingers of this country would have ever allowed, without a civil war far bloodier than the one over slavery, such a powerful tool to control people (i.e. state religion) to be taken from them, once they had wielded it in a 'United States.' No way.
Posted by screed on December 26, 2012 at 3:54 PM · Report this
#6 - "godless" does not equal "amoral".
Posted by catsnbanjos on December 26, 2012 at 4:17 PM · Report this
You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me 15
Every time they go on about the United States being a "Christian nation" these nut-bags need to be referred directly to the Treaty of Tripoli signed at Tripoli on November 4, 1796 and at Algiers (for a third-party witness) on January 3, 1797. It was submitted to the Senate by President John Adams, receiving ratification unanimously from the U.S. Senate on June 7, 1797 and signed by Adams, taking effect as the law of the land on June 10, 1797.

It reads in part:

“As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen,—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”

John Adams and the Senate of 1797 would certainly have known what the nation was founded upon… (Having, literally, been the founding fathers).
Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me on December 26, 2012 at 4:49 PM · Report this
Karlheinz Arschbomber 16
@15 Religion is by definition a catalog of assertions and institutions and rules meant to propagate and enforce them. Just because *your* reality says this about John Adams, *their* faith trumps any so-called "facts" you may wish to dredge up and parrot. When you can adhere to "because [my interpretation of] God says so" as your guiding principle, everything goes, and you can literally go to Hell.
Posted by Karlheinz Arschbomber on December 26, 2012 at 5:26 PM · Report this
Goldy, you rarely post something that makes no sense at all -- intellectually or semantically --but this was one of those rare occasions.
Posted by sarah70 on December 26, 2012 at 5:57 PM · Report this
I can't determine whether this post make you a Grinch or a Scrooge.
Posted by capicola on December 26, 2012 at 7:33 PM · Report this
I think Goldy totally makes sense here, I don't get the people who don't get it.
Posted by BallardBoy on December 26, 2012 at 7:50 PM · Report this
You're acting as if the Founders weren't Divinely inspired, and their view of things the best one from which we have degenerated---they were Men (and I do mean 'men') of Gold, whilst we shew ourselves in our general Natures and in our Particulares to be but of Bronze or of Tin at best.

(If they weren't Divinely inspired, then [for example] Ben Franklin's conception of the nature and origin of property might have been at variance with the Yahweh-endorsed [or 'Yahwendorsed'] fables of Mr Locke.)

So if they wanted a Christian Nation, we would have either stayed a Christian Nation or degenerated---and since they were Divinely inspired, they _must_ without exception have wanted a Christian Nation, and all evidence to the contrary are 'lying facts', just like those tree-rings and those fossils.

Posted by Gerald Fnord on December 26, 2012 at 8:18 PM · Report this
I thought the US of A was a Christian nation. Because Jesus was born in Bethlehem and Bethlehem is in Pennsylvania.
Posted by Juan Alfredo on December 26, 2012 at 9:31 PM · Report this
@19, I don't think Goldy's talking about the "it" you're claiming I (or others) don't get. He's claiming that eventually the US, even without the wall of separation (which very unfortunately doesn't exist), would have come to its senses because of the founders' nonreligiosity. But the US hasn't done so; it's a constant battle to get and keep Christian prayer out of the schools and Christian stuff out of public places. Also, the famous Massachusetts Puritans didn't want Christmas celebrated because they were Puritans (duh) and didn't celebrate anything However, they felt no compunction in trying to force Rhode Island, etc. to adhere to their religious fundamentalism.

The War on Christmas has taken hold because the fundamentalists have gained political power over the last 30 years. It didn't exist 40-50 years ago, when the country was LESS politically Christianized than it is today.
Posted by sarah70 on December 26, 2012 at 11:26 PM · Report this
Goldy 23
@22 I have no idea what you're talking about. And FYI, the "War on Christmas" dates back to the paranoid antisemitic ravings of Henry Ford.
Posted by Goldy on December 27, 2012 at 12:05 AM · Report this
Timmytee 24
@10: "The Festival" is one of my favorite Christmas horror stories, as well as one of my favorite Lovecraft tales! I never fail to read around this time of year!
Posted by Timmytee on December 27, 2012 at 5:50 AM · Report this
Timmytee 25
@24. Sorry, folks--I meant @12.
Posted by Timmytee on December 27, 2012 at 5:51 AM · Report this
treacle 26
@12 - We don't like to talk about that. It doesn't do much for our public image.

Also, Gary Gygax agrees that Xmas is a pagan affair...
Posted by treacle on December 27, 2012 at 9:02 AM · Report this
evilvolus 27
Yawn. I'm with Jon Stewart--this year, Christmas managed to eat up half of Thanksgiving. If there's a war with Christmas, Christmas is winning.
Posted by evilvolus on December 27, 2012 at 9:58 AM · Report this
@Goldy, yes, the antiSemitic Henry Ford claimed a bunch of stuff, including the dearth of Christmas cards. Other people claimed similar crap. However, that crap wasn't blasted from every radio program, TV program, newspaper article, and rightwing blog, nor was it taken up by every Christian fundamentalist politician, like the War on Christmas has been.
Posted by sarah70 on December 27, 2012 at 10:58 AM · Report this
dwightmoodyforgetsthings 29
@21- Bethlehem is in New York, actually. It's in the Albany area, which is why Joseph and Mary were going there to participate in the census as Albany is the capital of New York and has been since Roman times.
Posted by dwightmoodyforgetsthings on December 27, 2012 at 6:31 PM · Report this

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