Paul Greenberg

Some people have a funny idea of fun. Like the Rev. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas. This year he celebrated the holiday season by launching -- a website where people could report businesses they thought weren't doing enough to celebrate Christmas.

"Too many businesses have bowed down to political correctness," the reverend complained. "I thought this would be a fun way to call out businesses that are refusing to celebrate Christmas."

It doesn't sound like much fun to me, calling out folks. It sounds more like intimidation. ("Celebrate Christmas -- by name -- or we'll put you on our little list.") Let's just say it doesn't have quite the ring of peace on earth, good will toward men.

Some of the types who used to sell "protection" in Chicago had more finesse. My father, who tried to make a go of a little laundry there back during the Prohibition Era, told me they were always very polite, but there was no mistaking their meaning, or what would happen to his business if he didn't pay up. He didn't, and it did. But at least they didn't pretend to be doing it out of a sense of Christian duty.

On the other extreme, there are those who shy at any mention of the reason for the season, and prefer Winter Holiday to Christmas, as if its name needed to be disguised. Grinches seem to come in both persuasions.

It happens every year: Some folks insist on making a political cause of Christmas, while others want to ban any mention of it from the public square. I'm not sure which is sadder. Both show an edgy intolerance for the variations in human preferences, and a failure to appreciate the power of good will to let us live with them, and with each other. Not just in peace but harmony.

Toward the end of the Christmas season, I just wished both sides of this tug-of-war would leave the rest of us out of it, and let us celebrate in our own way, or even not celebrate. Why match the Thought Police on the left with a Christmas Police on the right? For just one blessed day of the year, could we stop the squabbling? And just let the light shine?

Christmas itself knows no boundaries. There is something joyful in the air this time of year, no matter what you prefer to call it, something that ought to unite folks, not divide us. It may be intangible, but who hasn't felt it? So could we please declare a Christmas truce on politicizing everything, including Christmas?

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.