Like many, I celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the son of God, my Savior this month. I know what it's about. My family knows what it's about. I want to get out of work early and set up a crche. And I sure as heck don't want to have a political debate about it.
Perhaps you're of the exact same mind. Or maybe, say, you're Jewish and Hanukah falls around the same time. They're certainly not the same thing exactly, but at heart there are some shared values. You don't mind hearing "Merry Christmas" because majority rules. And I might say "Happy Holidays" just in case, with no intention whatsoever to water down what Dec. 25 commemorates for me and my fellow Christians.
But every year now it seems we find ourselves at the ridiculous same place.
Thanksgiving passes and it's "War on Christmas" time - what an awful concept and a waste of time. But I can't blame the Fox News Channel's John Gibson for titling his book (2005, Sentinel) that. In it, he's not randomly accusing liberals of hateful bahumbuggery. He chronicles, as he puts it in the forward of his new paperback edition, "a school board member, a city manager, a university dean, and a school superintendent, who found themselves in circumstances that led them to ban or remove from public view otherwise perfectly legal secular symbols of Christmas -- Christmas trees, the word 'Christmas,' and even the colors red and green."
Yes, seriously, red and green -- great threats to the Establishment Clause if caught anywhere near a public school, right? Gibson writes of his experience over the last year: "Many parents contacted me and said the story of Plano, Texas, where the school board wouldn't allow the colors red and green for the plates and cups and napkins at the kids 'winter' party, was actually quite common. I heard about one school where the principal went to each schoolroom before Thanksgiving and put all red and green construction paper under lock and key until after New Years. It is silly and paranoid actions like that which make people certain the war is real and not a figment of their imagination."
Chicago is currently at the center of a nationwide controversy surrounding Christmas and a supposed war on the Christian holiday. The whole thing is infuriating -- in large part because, quite frankly, there are much more important things I'd rather be thinking about.
In the first big blowup of Christmas 2006, the city of Chicago nixed New Line Cinema's sponsorship of the decade-plus old Christkindlmarket Christmas festival at Daley Plaza there. There's a crescent at the festival and a menorah. And of course there is a nativity. But of New Line Cinema's sponsorship -- the company has a "Nativity Story" movie out -- a city official declared that showing scenes from the film would actually be "insensitive to the many people of different faiths" who attend the festival.
Insensitive to people of different faiths? It's called CHRISTkindlmarket. Odds are if the whole Christmas thing on public property was going to send anyone running to the American Civil Liberties Union, a few scenes from a movie weren't going to be what pushed him over. Later in the week, the incident had gotten enough attention that it had to be rung up the flagpole at city hall. A mayor's spokeswoman wound up changing the story to say that, "This particular incident is about a movie studio aggressively marketing a movie and trying to sell tickets to that movie."
My Advent dream has been for Sen. Barack Obama, who is a liberal Democrat from Illinois -- and increasingly talked about as a presidential prospect -- to condemn the stupidity once and for all. To go on John Gibson's Fox News show and say, "I know where you're coming from, this is ludicrous and anti-American." And "The War on Christmas" will no longer be the right-wing Concerned Women for America (or whoever) vs. the left-wing ACLU (or whoever).
Then we can get back to our carols -- even Al Roker tree lightings - and most importantly and universally get back home for Christmas where we ought to be.