Fighting the War on Christmas

The rhetoric is definitely less here in Canada than in the U.S., but I did see my first “Keep Christ in Christmas” bus stop ad on Sunday and then my first Facebook post lamenting the use if Xmas on Monday. The first one I can agree with the principle of (for Christians), although not how it is usually used (enforce Christian doctrines and practices on others). The latter is downright hilarious and also really depressing because the X in Xmas is actually the Greek letter Chi, the first letter of Christ, and it was Christians who started using that short form centuries ago. I can only assume that at some point saw it and wondered why, but instead of investigating just deciding it must have been those atheists out to get us. I seriously hope it was not intentionally made up. While I am glad it took this long to see these markers, my usual frustration kicked in realizing the War on Christmas is underway.

My completely serious question: is anybody fighting back against the Christians waging a war in Christmas?

Source: cuttlefish on Flickr

I say this because I have never met an atheist, an agnostic, a Hindu, a Jew, a Muslim, or subscriber to any other worldview who said “we must cross out Christ with a big X to make Christmas secular!” Aside from reading some of the New Atheists, I’ve never heard anybody suggest that religious freedom is a bad thing or that Christians shouldn’t celebrate Christmas as the Christ mass. The other 99.9% of the time I’ve heard this kind of rhetoric were from Christians putting words in the mouths of generic atheists. It’s never an actual quote, just a general “they think this so we better fight back!”

In other words, I’m not convinced there’s anybody on the other side of this supposed War on Christmas. But if some Christians are waging a war against a non-existent opponent, why? This is a genuine question; I’m not trying to be condescending. Let me posit a pair of things I’ve thought about to this question.

One motivation potential for such a War is that it offers unification potential of having an enemy. Arguably it is better than a real enemy because nobody is actually getting hurt on the other side, although that goes away if Christians start to take out their War on those atheists who really don’t care about our War. It is well-documented, though, that one of the most powerful tools for bringing a group together is having a common enemy. For most of Protestant history, that was Catholicism, but atheism/secularism has taken over that role in most of the Western world now. By being able to put down a “them,” we give much higher self-esteem to the “us”. There also is a lot less potential for challenging the control of the “us” because we do not want to hurt our War efforts, or worse, end up defecting to the other side. In a War you are either with us or with them and there should not be any attempt at understanding each other.

A second motivation is that it offers a persecution complex, something rampant in some parts of Western Christianity.  We know that we really are not persecuted in any meaningful way the vast majority of the time. But we also see Jesus’ words about picking up our cross and promises that we will be persecuted if we follow him. Instead of doing the things which he had promised would get us persecuted – loving enemies, extending radical grace, welcoming the outcast, etc – we declare that we’re persecuted simply by wanting to write out Christmas instead of shortening it to Xmas. This is the easiest way to solve the cognitive dissonance of Jesus’ words within our context without actually having to follow Jesus.

Ryan Robinson

It is easiest to identify Ryan as both theologian and tech guy. By day, Ryan is a Technical Consultant work with PeaceWorks Technology Solutions. There, he works on websites, CRMs, and SharePoint implementations. Along with blogging here, Ryan is a founding member of the MennoNerds blogging network and a contributor to the book A Living Alternative.

7 Responses

  1. Actually, there are a few blantant things going on out there by the New Atheists here in the US of A…

    But honestly, I’m not too worried about it… For that matter, I’m not sure if the atheist billboard came first… or if the hype about “We have to save Christmas!” came first. Doesn’t matter to me… I’m celebrating Christmas and I hope, as I do so, I point out the light in the process… jumping up and down and forcing others to practice something they don’t believe in… well… doesn’t seem like a “Jesus” thing to do, you know?

  2. I was just pondering something… something on the lines of “WWJD”, as trite as it may be… When people “warred” against Jesus with words and ideas, he didn’t shout them down, shout back at them, or anything… he listened… and then he asked questions, questions that exposed and revealed…

    It wasn’t a war by Jesus, but simply a surrender, a turning the other cheek, and letting the person speak… I wonder, perhaps, if the whole “War on Christmas” thing keeps blowing up every year is because it keeps on getting fought… what if, instead of trying to “fight back” against the unseen enemy, we do what Jesus did… simply surrender… let Christmas speak for itself through our words, our actions, our faith, our love, etc…

    • I was thinking along those lines for the last paragraph but decided to keep it short. Ironically, we are the ones who are most taking Christ out of Christmas. It’s hard to live in a way honoring the Prince of Peace when you’re worried about fighting the War, or how God incarnationally surrendered power by becoming a baby when you’re primarily worried about getting what your side wants.

      • I just find it… ironic… that the man who, when he was persecuted to the greatest extent, instead of fighting back, simply accepted it as inevitable is the man who people claim to be defending in their “War on Christmas”… Especially in light of this argument…

        Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

        *sigh* Ah, American Christianity… an oxymoron if I ever heard one…

  3. Wendalynn Donnan says:

    Thank you for writing this. I spoke to a person from my bible group who said he does not need Christmas decorations or banners to remind him what the holiday means. On a historical level, Jesus may have been born in the spring, so it should not matter when or how His birth is celebrated. For some reason a fir tree and holly make it more holy.

    A few athiest friends of mine are not against Christians celebrating the birth of Jesus, but the idea the holiday only belongs to us. Most of our modern celebratory things we do at Christmas come from pagan practices.

    I know who Jesus is and what He has done for me, for all of us, and that is what should matter.