The Christofascist War on Christmas

Dec 02 2010 Published by under Featured News, Issues, Republican Party

The holiday season is upon us once more, a time of fellowship, peace and love…Oh, and the snarling Christofascstis are coming to the feast and they’re bringing lies, hatred, and intolerance while they’re looking for the usual bogeymen, those nasty liberals and progressives who want to throw them and their holiday to the lions.

Instead of carols they begin their long litany of abuses against them, wars on Christianity, wars on Christmas. It’s an old meme; a tiresome, sing-song lament that will likely never go away. They claim they are fighting for freedom of religion but they are really only fighting for the freedom of their religion to trump all other religions, and as any sane person knows, there is a world of difference between to two.

It has been widely recognized though not universally accepted that December 25 (in fact that whole stretch of days between the Winter Solstice and New Years Day) is Pagan in origin. The Christofascists don’t like that. In fact, they hate it. And it doesn’t matter how long the list of facts or citations or scholars you present: it just ain’t so, they say. It’s their holiday, and we (liberals, feminists, secularists, atheists, pagans, gays and lesbians, blacks) are stealing it.

Listen to that Catholic resident anti-Semite, ranter-in-chief and President of the Catholic League Bill Donohue:

  • “There is something sick about Friendship Trees, Winter Solstice Concerts, Holiday Parades and Holly Day Festivals. The neutering of Christmas extends to the banishment of Nativity Scenes from the public square, the expulsion of baby Jesus from crèches not otherwise forbidden, the banning of red and green at school functions, the censoring of “Silent Night” at municipal concerts, etc…. By celebrating Christmas we are celebrating diversity. Don’t let the cultural fascists get their way this year.”
  • Cultural fascists invoke ‘diversity’ every December as cover for neutering Christmas—they never choose some other month to practice their multicultural religion. And by the way, who are these people from other religions who hate Christmas? I never met one. It would be more accurate to say that it’s precisely the persons who make this charge who hate Christmas.”

But Christmas is not a celebration of diversity. Certainly a Catholic ought to know better than to say something this blatantly stupid. Christmas, for Christians, is a celebration of the birth of the son of their particular god (at the time the god of a tiny little sliver of humanity). That’s not diversity. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

And what’s this business about hating Christmas? I don’t hate Christmas. I’m a Heathen. We call it Jól (Yule) and it runs from the Winter Solstice to New Years – yep, twelve days, just like in the good old Heathen days of yore. Is there a problem with me having my holy days at the same time of year, Mr. Donohue? My folks were there first, you know. I mean, we have a prior claim on the time period in question. And we’re not alone. Any Pagan you care to name out of the Mediterranean and Europe has that same prior claim to the time period in question. By celebrating our holy days we are not hating yours.

We get it from the Tea Partiers too. This holiday season (yes, Bill, I said it – HOLIDAY SEASON) we have Jim Inhofe refusing to participate in Tulsa’s Holiday Parade of Lights until organizers put “Christ” back in the event’s title. Last year’s nugget was this:

“Bottom line is Christmas is about Christmas,” said Erin Ryan, president of the Redding Tea Party Patriots. “That’s why we have it. It’s not about winter solstice or Kwanzaa. It’s like, ‘wow you guys, it’s called Christmas for a reason.’ “[1]

Bonnie Ricks, of the Christian Post, offered these thoughts:

As we near the time of Christmas, we see the decorations going up. the people madly shopping for gifts. the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. Now is the time to stop and reflect just why we really celebrate this time. As Christians, we are the only ones who know the real meaning of Christmas and why it is a time of celebration and what that celebration means to all who will believe. If there were no Jesus, there would be no Christmas.[2]

And we can’t leave out Bill O’Reilly. As Jason Linkins of the Huffington Post wrote last year,

Bill O’Reilly has been, on a yearly basis, one of the most fervent and shrill public figures, wailing about the supposed War On Christmas, because he is precisely dumb enough to believe that Christianity, which has enjoyed an unprecedented run of absolute, total success in the United States – such that every single person who’s run the country has been a Christian (and such that it’s the only religious holiday in the world that’s allowed to put their decorations up TWO MONTHS IN ADVANCE) – is actually fundamentally threatened each time a shop clerk opts to say “Happy Holidays.” O’Reilly likes to cast himself as some sort of speaker of truth to power, but it’s really all about his pinheaded sense of victimhood.[3]

And that’s the problem with Christofascist logic – you folks claim, along with sole ownership of the divine, sole ownership of a calendar date – a date which moreover was not originally attached to your god at all. It was attached to Sol, Mithras, Attis and others. It was not attached to Jesus until 350 C.E., when Pope Julius I ordered Christmas to be celebrated on December 25. Christmas arrived on December 25th in Constantinople in 380 and it’s not until 386 that we find John Chrysostom, in Antioch, ordering Christmas to be celebrated by the Christian community there on December 25.

Despite the dates given above, many arguments have been raised by Christofascists with regards to proprietary ownership of Christmas, including the absurd charge that the Pagans stole Christmas from the Christians (!) but of course, as so often happens, conservatives (religious like political) tend to be bad with history, whether recorded, filmed, or, as in this case, written down, in this case the testimony of Dionysius Bar-Salibi, twelfth century bishop of Amida, who wrote:

The reason, then, why the fathers of the church moved the January 6th celebration [of Epiphany] to December 25th was this, they say: it was the custom of the pagans to celebrate on this same December 25th the birthday of he Sun, and they lit lights then to exalt the day, and invited and admitted the Christian to these rites. When, therefore, the teachers of the church saw that Christians inclined to this custom, figuring out a strategy, they set the celebration of the true Sunrise on this day, and ordered Epiphany to be celebrated on January 6th; and this usage they maintain to the present day along with the lighting of the lights.[4]

And we don’t have to rely on a 12th century bishop for this fact. We can go back further, to Epiphanius (ca 310-403), who tells us so (Pan. LI.22.3-7 and 29.4-7). And around 428 CE John Cassianus (Collationes X.2) reported that Epiphany in Egypt is ‘by ancient tradition’ believed to be the time for both the baptism and the birth of Jesus.” As it happens, January 6th is still Christmas Day in the Orthodox Church.

I don’t know where this leaves the alleged war on Christmas, but it doesn’t leave it on firm ground. Right now it’s a seasonal politico-religious hand-grenade ready to be tossed the way of liberals and progressives who dare stand up for the diversity of religious belief. Get ready to toss it back, and arm yourselves with the facts.

The real war on Christmas is being waged by the Christofascists themselves, by turning a season of love and joy into a time of lies and recrimination, replacing peace with contention and stoking at atmosphere of hate. If you want your holy day, celebrate your holy day. We will all be doing the same, and there is no reason on  Earth we can’t be all doing it at the same time, without rancor. So leave the sticks and stones at home and turn your thoughts, and your words, to what’s important to you.

Notes:

[1] Amanda Winters, “Redding woman’s Christmas carol initiative picks up allies,” December 8, 2009, Americans United for Separation of Church and State http://www.redding.com/news/2009/dec/08/redding-womans-christmas-carol-initiative-picks/

[2] The Christian Post, December 3, 2008, http://christianpost.com/article/20081203/the-reason-for-the-season.htm

[3] “O’Reilly’s War on Christmas Goes Retail,” November 6, 2008. The Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/11/06/oreillys-war-on-christmas_n_141896.html And as Linkins points out, this is a real insult to people who actually are experiencing persecution because of their religion (Hint: that would include us Pagans).

[4] Ramsay MacMullen, Christianity & Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries (Yale University Press, 1997), 155, quoting from the Latin of G.S. Assemani, Bibliotheca orientalis Clementino-Vaticanae 2 (Rome 1721), 164.

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