I'm bringing the so-called "war on Christmas" home this year, by putting a permanent end to my stupid habit of calling my Holiday Cactus a "Christmas Cactus."
My Holiday Cactus, Formerly a "Christmas Cactus"
I've nurtured my Holiday Cactus for about 15 years now, carefully cleaning its leaves and carrying it to the back yard each summer so it can soak up extra sun and grow strong. And it's blooming right now, a few weeks before Christmas, I must point out, but right on time for one of my favorite holidays, the Solstice.
Since I've had my holiday cactus, I've watched Americans respect diversity with more honesty and integrity by trying to expunge the public square of religious favoritism, ridding courthouse lawns of baby Jesus and eliminating "Merry Christmas" banners from city halls. Victory is at hand, but the battle rages on.
But until this year, I never considered a name-change for my cactus. I've always called it a Christmas Cactus, as it's commonly called, without thinking about how offensive and confrontational it might be for some of my non-Christian friends, even beyond the Christmas season.
Plants represent a biological reality, an iconic evidence of evolution, a scientific purity that should be given space from religion.
I'm okay with a Christmas tree or a dressed-up reindeer getting pulled out of storage and displayed for a month or so.
But for my cactus, a year-round taxonomical identifier with religious connotations crosses the line.
Changing the name to Holiday Cactus is a rational and sensitive choice. It's the honest, respectful, inclusive, and politically correct thing to do. I don't think I'm being defensive and reactionary, even though I've been listening to too many talk-radio hosts who see a simple stand for nondenominational reason as a threat to their core beliefs.
Here's a sample of this kind of right-wing, proprietary thinking that gins up the "war on Christmas," courtesy of Fox News' Bill O'Reilly and right-winger Phyllis Schlafly:
Bill O'Reilly asked this question on his Fox News program last week: "Why do I have to be the leader defending Christmas against its attackers?" O'Reilly was criticizing Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee's renaming his state's Christmas tree a "holiday tree."
Good question. It's time for Christians to realize that their religion is under attack, and they had better start fighting to win the war for religious liberty in public opinion, in the courts and in the schools.
The war against Christianity has been waged by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Freedom From Religion Foundation and similar groups. Their tactics use the threat of litigation, with the hope that supremacist judges will accept their reinterpretation of the First Amendment, as Americans have understood it for over two centuries.
No, Ms. Schlafly and Mr. O'Reilly, there are other basic tactics as well. Like trying, in our daily lives, to respect each other's diverse religious beliefs.
One way is to not to give religious names to plants.