Question: What's motivating these guys who go around claiming there's a "War On Christmas," besides self-promotion and political cynicism? Answer: Whiny 60's-style self-pity, and the notion that their feelings matter.
Word to these self-described Christians: Jesus didn't talk about your feelings. He talked about your deeds. History is filled with the example of Christians who sacrificed for their beliefs by suffering poverty, imprisonment, even torture and death.
(See Tom Fox for a recent example.)
Here's your idea of martyrdom: Some business people asked their staff to say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." You heard about it. And that made you feel bad.
As trials and tribulations go, it beats getting stoned to death like St. Stephen. These businesses are only trying to be considerate toward the feelings of others, but the airwaves are ringing with your howls of anguish.
The truth is you cynical hacks (yeah, you, O'Reilly and Gibson) are exploiting faith, getting political and financial mileage out of a faith you claim to follow. Yet I must admit you guys look genuinely aggrieved - even as your checks keep clearing the bank.
Lou Dobbs gets so worked up about a rabbi who sued over Christmas trees, you'd think he was at Esalen releasing his blocked emotions. Do I agree with the lawsuit? Not necessarily. Trees are a secular symbol by now. But I understand. The rabbi's upset because the last time a nation officially ostracized his people six million human beings died. The only thing upsetting Lou is his feelings.
Even rich ministers like Jerry Falwell , the kind who like to bellyache about secular self-indulgence, want the whole country to be organized around their emotional needs.
Tell me: How is this"Happy Holidays" business making you suffer, exactly? Do you depend on the greeters at Wal-Mart for your theological guidance? Does the absence of the Savior's name in the Sears catalog leave you spiritually adrift in a hostile cosmos?
Nah. You're just falling back on the worst kind of Me-Generation, touchy-feely, self-pitying behavior. You're complaining because it makes you uncomfortable. It's Christian Dominionism for the "feel good" crowd.
Whatever happened to good old-fashioned stoicism?
And let's see - what else has got you o'riled? What's the latest tragedy? Did some Town Council in Connecticut take the Nativity scene out of that folksy little gazebo in the plaza?
Let's all sing together: "Feelings/nothing more than feelings ..."
St. Peter was crucified upside down, and Polycarp was stabbed to death. You didn't hear them complaining. But you guys live in wealth and privilege under the most powerful nation in history, and yet with all your political influence you can't stop mewling like kittens.
I spent time in Poland, where forty years ago Christians had to hide in basements to pray. I visited Albania shortly after it opened to the West. Two months before I got there, a spoken prayer (or a sentence in conversational English) could mean a stiff jail sentence.
And you guys are bitching because the Christmas Tree some condo association put up doesn't have a cross on it this year. What a bunch of whiners.
Or is your faith in your own religion so weak that you think it will collapse if it doesn't have the official endorsement of the Pine Hill Homeowners Cooperative?
There are other reasons to push the "War On Christmas" beside the touchy-feeling ones, of course. First, there's the chance to scapegoat the "other" - the atheist, the Muslim, the Jew, the foreigner. That's always good for the demagoguery business. Embrace the stranger in our midst? Not the Fox News crowd.
Can you imagine St. Francis pleading for understanding and love on the Bill O'Reilly show? Bill would scream over every word the man said.
Then there's the all-important conservative cause. Conservatism is the Mammon of our time. It's the God that these guys really worship. After all: Push Conservatism, and you can promote the Republican Party - the party of the American Christianists (as opposed to Christians).
(And, yes, "Christianism" is the right term, rightwing bloggers notwithstanding. Christianists want their extremist interpretation of Christianity enforced by the government and by society at large. That's just what Islamists want for their interpretation of Islam.)
Have you guys ever read the "St. Francis Prayer"? Scholars now say it wasn't composed by St. Francis, but I still think it's one of the most beautiful prayers ever written. You ought to take a look at it sometime.
In the meantime, I've rewritten it just for you. Granted, it's not as good as the original, which others can read here. But it speaks in a language you'll understand a lot better.
The Fox News Anti-Prayer
Mr. Ailes, make me an instrument of thy political agenda;
where there is hatred, let me sow ratings;
where there is innocence, let me place blame;
where there is difference of belief, let me instill fear;
where there is despair, let me seek opportunity;
where there is unity, division;
where there is state, let there be church - my church;
where there is darkness, let the glow of television shine.
O Republican Paymasters,
grant that I may control, but not be controlled;
that I may be understood, but not understand;
that I may be heard, but shout so that I need not hear;
that I may be loved, without loving those who are different.
For it is in taking that we become wealthy,
it is by blaming that we avoid blame,
and it is by whining that we annul the Bill of Rights.
I guess these guys think griping is a form of religious celebration. As for the rest of us -- I would imagine that the Christian Peacekeepers are too gentle and loving to appreciate my tone in this piece, but please consider giving them a holiday contribution here anyway. And there's always God"s Love We Deliver.
Oh - and Happy Holidays.
For you East Coast drive-timers, I'll be co-hosting The Young Turks with Cenk Uyger on Air America this Thursday from 6-9 am.