I think it’s a sign of the cultural dominance of the Christmas holiday that a person such as myself can feel that my topics for blog posts are entirely limited to the various jolly festivities the season imposes upon us all. There are few other holidays in our society that bully everyone into paying homage to them the same way that Christmas does.
It’s for that reason that I’ve largely attempted to ignore Christmas the past few years. As I’ve remarked in a previous column, the celebration of Christmas in the United States gives the citizens here the closest personal look we’re ever going to want on how a one-party totalitarian state operates. Our one duty is to give honor to Christmas, and we have to be jolly about it. Of course, we don’t get shot for disobeying, so there’s a keen difference between American Christmas celebrations and general life in North Korea. Though we may not give our lives to express our dissent, we do often face a bit of social backlash all the same, often in the form of public shaming.
This is demonstrated most clearly with the various attempts from atheist and humanist organizations to display their own personalized holiday banners. They’re often some play on words, borrowed from more traditional Christmas fare, such as “Reason’s Greetings” or “Keep Saturn in Saturnalia,” for example.
And what happens to these messages of secular good tidings or tame tongue-in-cheek humor? At minimum, they’re responded to by people who are simply livid that such banners and billboards exist, though they’re often either vandalized or banned on top of that. Some recent examples of this multi-cultural tolerance have happened in Boston and Texas, the later of which even actually involved the state’s governor calling for the removal of a display honoring the country’s founding fathers and the Bill of Rights that they drafted because it was a parody of the birth of Jesus. I thought your average Christian would rather enjoy the comparison of the birth of their religion to the birth of this nation, since I’ve heard so many claim that the country was founded on Christianity. But apparently Governor Gregg Abbott thought the comparison was offensive and felt that it was an appropriate opportunity to supersede the powers of his office to remove the display from the Texas state capitol building, despite the fact that the Freedom From Religion Foundation went through all the proper channels to erect it next to the numerous other holiday displays from other organizations and churches.
If people want to respond with personal disdain, that’s fine. Hearts and minds have yet to be won over, but that’s a long, slow, somewhat tedious process. Vandalism and censorship, on the other hand, do not belong in a society that holds high the principles of freedom of speech and cultural plurality. After all, isn’t peace on Earth and good will toward men part of what the season is about? Maybe the messages on these banners, however benign, are considered an affront to your faith. Perhaps a better, and more Christian, response would be to simply forgive. Or even better, to offer the other cheek? After all, regardless of anybody’s personal thoughts on these secular displays, there’s no denying that by putting them up, these organizations are attempting to partake in this holiday in their own way.
And isn’t Christmas homogeneity what the totalitarian holiday powers-that-be are looking for?