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Monday, December 12, 2005

The War that Wasn't - and the One that Is.

Have you said "Happy Holidays!" to anyone this year? If so, you could be the anti-Christ. In an effort to stave off the rapture for at least two more weeks, the Committee to Save Christmas is desperately trying to get merchants to use "Merry Christmas" rather than the more inclusive "Happy Holidays".

It would be hilarious if it weren't so serious. But it would seem that some are a bit confused about what they are defending. Is it Santa Claus or the baby Jesus?

It's enough to get Bill O'Reilly up in arms.

I am not going to let oppressive, totalitarian, anti-Christian forces in this country diminish and denigrate the holiday and the celebration...There is no reason on this earth that all of us cannot celebrate a public holiday devoted to generosity, peace, and love together...And anyone who tries to stop us from doing it is gonna face me.


Yeah, Bill, great way to defend the promise of salvation - by threatening people.

But then, isn't it somewhat strange that the new front on religious expression is in consumer outlets? I mean, really, Target and Sears did not hire the wise men to bring gifts to the baby Jesus - and, come to think of it, even Santa doesn't shop there. So why is it such a big deal?

Is it simple supremacy efforts or chauvinism?

Well, when the atheists team up with the Pope to knock consumerism as the anti-Christian force to be wary of - you have to wonder what side the Christian Right is really playing for.

Let's not forget that the idea of a "Holiday Season" is actually a Christian heritage. How many of those protesting "Happy Holidays" ever approach Christmas night with the solemnity and humility demanded by a night meant to commemorate the Deity taking on flesh as a helpless child? How many consider the dual meaning of advent - not only the promise of salvation and sacrifice, but the promise of a return to judgment?

The "Holiday Season actually should begin with Halloween - which, if spelled properly, would be Hallowed Evening. Though built on pagan traditions, it was officially blessed by the Catholic Church (which was the ONLY church at the time) as a time to remember Christian Martyrs.

Then you have Thanksgiving. This is one day that no one can possibly say was not meant to have personal religious and spiritual meaning. Yet it typically means football, food, and rapacious shopping.

Of course, there are lesser known holidays - you could call them defunct. December 8, for example, is a celebration of the Immaculate Conception (though it would be either an extremely long or a very short preganancy if we cling to Dec. 25 as Jesus' birthday). Dec. 26 is the Feast of St. Stephen - the first Christian martyr. It is also known as "boxing day", when food left over from the feast of Christmas is boxed up and given to the poor.

Then there are the twelve days of Christmas - the time between Christmas and Epiphany. Advent is held to prepare man for the coming of God. Christmas is a celebration of that coming. The following twelve days were to bring man closer to God so that he might understand and accept the gift of salvation.

The focus on Christmas is a theological error. It relieves mankind of all acts of repentance or sacrifice. It is a Christianity without responsibility. It allows believers to focus on minutia while allowing greater sins to go unnoticed. It is catching the mote in your neighbor's eye while a plank lies in your own.

Happy holidays isn't just an inclusive greeting for Jews and Buddhists and Pagans and Muslims and Hindus and whoever else wants to be non-Christian. It is actually a reflection of a deeper Christian faith; one that calls for personal responsibility, social action, and eternal humility. That is the real attack on religious faith in America - that a shallow throw-off phrase is of such prominence that it can separate brother from brother, father from son, and red states from blue.

So, Mr. O'Reilly, Happy Holidays. I've answered to you. Now feel free to answer back.

Come, let us reason together.

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