In a sense, of course, thereâ€™s no better time to be a Christian than the first 25 days of December. But this is also the season when American Christians can feel most embattled. Their piety is overshadowed by materialist ticky-tack. Their great feast is compromised by Christmukkwanzaa multiculturalism. And the once-a-year churchgoers crowding the pews beside them are a reminder of how many Americans regard religion as just another form of midwinter entertainment, wedged in between â€œThe Nutcrackerâ€ and â€œMiracle on 34th Street.â€
Oh, boo hoo. Listen, Christians, you can’t have it both ways — you can’t whine incessantly about your holy day being contaminated by consumerism and then insist that your holy day be celebrated by consumerism. You can’t complain that other traditions are horning in on the pristine observation of Christmas and then browbeat non-Christians into observing Christmas.
And the idea that “Christmukkwanzaa multiculturalism” is stopping Christians from observing Christmas any way they like makes as much sense as the argument that allowing gay people to marry will destroy the marriages of “straight” people.
This weekend on some panel discussion, Nina Totenberg said, â€œI was at — forgive the expression — a Christmas party.â€ Now, I don’t know why she said that, and I don’t much care. I assume that somebody with the name “Totenberg” is Jewish, and maybe she feels a little uncomfortable attending any social event with the label “Christmas.” But the way the right blogosphere reacted, you’d think Totenberg had admitted that she personally had crucified Jesus.
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These are not the complaints of an “embattled” people. These are the complaints of people who believe they are owed deference and aren’t getting it. It’s something like segregationist whites who expected people of color to step off the sidewalk as they approached.
I’ve said in the past that when people like Ann Coulter or Bill O’Reilly who can’t even fake religiosity well complain about others’ lack of faith, they’re really complaining about disrespect of tribal totems.
Nobody is stopping Christians from observing Christmas as a deeply holy day. They just have to do it. But they need to understand that they can’t expect everyone to take part in a big, gaudy, commercial pig-out festival and then complain if non-Christians observe the holiday solely as a big, gaudy, commercial pig-out festival.
If they want Christ put back into Christmas, then they should keep Christmas confined to Christianity.
The other solution is to completely divorce Christmas from the big, gaudy, commercial pig-out festival. Restore Christmas to what it was to Christians of centuries ago, with church services and a banquet, but no shopping, no presents, no Santa Claus.
And if you want to celebrate the big, splashy, commercial gift-giving festival, you can do that, too. Just don’t mix them up. We could even call the secular festival “Yule,” a name taken from a pagan winter celebration.