The Christmas Wars – at root a worldview conflict between those who want to celebrate Christmas as a Christian holiday and those who want to secularize or ignore it – continued this year with questions such as:
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, or Seasons Greetings?
Manger scenes, Santa's sleigh, or the Grinch?
Silent Night, Home for the Holidays, or Santa Baby?
As the dust of Christmas 2023 settles, who won the latest skirmish? On the surface, the tide seems to be shifting slightly in favor of Christmas.
For 21 years, Liberty Counsel has published an annual "Naughty and Nice" list of major business chains based on how they treat Christmas. Whether they allow employees to say Merry Christmas to customers or whether they feature Christmas items are some examples of the list’s criteria. The 2023 Naughty list has not been expanded, and several businesses even moved from “naughty” to “nice.”
My own observations are that store clerks seem more willing to say Merry Christmas than in previous years, especially if I lead with a strong "Merry Christmas!" Polls continue to show that a strong majority of Americans (usually ranging between 65-70%) prefer Merry Christmas to Happy Holidays or other greetings. I'm not offended when someone wishes me a Happy Hanukkah. I'd rather allow diverse expressions of faith than none at all.
I've sometimes said that I hate Christmas music, but love Christmas carols. But it appears people sing the traditional Christmas carols far less frequently than in ages past. Secular Christmas music used to be at least wholesome, like "White Christmas" or "Winter Wonderland." But more recent secular Christmas songs have coarsened into the insipid "Rockin Around the Christmas Tree" or atrocities like (gagh!) "Santa Baby." From the courts of heaven down to the gutter!
Meanwhile, the Hallmark Channel features nonstop Christmas movies, mostly involving holiday romances, throughout December. They are mostly wholesome, but the Gospel message is almost always missing. In December, Hallmark gives us Christmas without Jesus, and in January, Winter without Christmas.
Christmas decorations have not diminished, either at homes or on city streets and parks. Inflatable Santas and snowmen are not my personal taste, but it seems more and more homes feature lighted crosses, manger scenes, and Christmas stars.
The Satanic Temple of Iowa gained national attention by placing an image of the Satanic figure Baphomet at the Iowa Statehouse this year. Is this protected First Amendment activity? The Framers of the First Amendment certainly intended to guarantee religious freedom to the various denominations of Christianity, to Judaism, and possibly to other religions as well.
But is Satanism a religion, or is it anti-religion? Many professing Satanists do not even believe in a literal Satan; they worship him only as a force of nature. The goal of many Satanists is not to place the image of Satan before the public, but rather to force Christians to withdraw their symbols of Christianity. If you were thinking, "Maybe we should just ban all religious symbols rather than allow something as terrible as Baphomet," you've fallen into their trap.
The fact is, in recent years the Supreme Court has taken significant steps to allow more religious symbols in public. Two examples include American Legion v. American Humanist Association (2019), which held that a 30-foot cross honoring World War I veterans did not violate the Establishment Clause, and Shurtleff v. City of Boston (2022), which held that if the City of Boston allows other organizations to fly their flags on the city flagpole while holding activities in a city park, they must allow a church to fly its flag featuring a cross on the same basis. We have greater freedom to display Christian symbols in public than we have had in a long time, but like muscles, rights atrophy when they go unexercised.
Take Dedham, Mass., for example. After public officials decided the public library would not display its Christmas tree last year, library supervisor Lisa Desmond went into action. Declaring that in her 28 years of library service no one had ever complained about the tree, she persuaded city officials to reverse their decision and allow the display after all. Desmond and others exercised their right to display Christmas symbols, and the right was restored.
But one critic complained about the decision to restore the Christmas tree, noting that Christmas is a pagan tradition. For a thorough refutation of the myth that Christians stole Dec. 25 from pagan celebrations, see my piece, "But Nobody Believes Jesus Was Born Dec 25 – Do They?"
No, Christians didn't steal Christmas from pagans. But today Christians are allowing pagans to steal Christmas and transform it into a pagan holiday. Why do we allow this?
Perhaps the reason is that we ourselves have lost the true meaning of Christmas. If we think Christmas is just a sweet story about a baby laid in a manger, then it is not worth fighting about.
But Christmas is so much more. Christmas marks the beginning of God's plan to redeem the world from the curse of sin by breaking into time and space and causing His Son to become the Word made flesh, to die on the Cross as our substitute to pay for our sins. Jesus is worth fighting for, because He is the one true hope for mankind, collectively and individually.
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." – John 3:16
Colonel Eidsmoe serves as Chairman of the Board of the Plymouth Rock Foundation (www.plymrock.org), as Professor of Constitutional Law for the Oak Brook College of Law & Government Policy (www.obcl.edu), and as Senior Counsel for the Foundation for Moral Law (www.morallaw.org). Those with constitutional concerns may contact the Foundation at (334) 262-1245. Eidsmoe may be contacted for speaking engagements at [email protected].
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to [email protected].
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