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The Christmas Wars / Christmas Dilemma

Events during 2010. 

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Overview (repeated):

The conflict over Christmas in 2010 seems to be much more muted than in previous years.

The fundamental question is whether stores, public schools, municipal displays should:

bulletRecognize Christmas as the sole "reason for the season" -- the only acknowledged festival in late December. i.e. people should wish each other "Merry Christmas.", or
 
bulletRecognize the many religious and secular observances at this time of year of which Christmas is by far the most popular one. If so, then people should wish each other "Happy Holidays" or "Seasons Greetings" unless perhaps the other person would obviously be celebrating a specific observance.

That is: whether everyone should follow the traditional status of Christianity in the U.S., or follow the emerging multi-faith and secularist reality. The choice is exclusivism or inclusivism, and is in response to America's increasing religious and spiritual diversity and the gradual loss of "market share" by the Christian religion.

A OneNewsNow.com poll was conducted in late 2008 to find out how retail store employees are greeting customers. Results were:

bulletMerry Christmas 47.7%
bulletHappy Holidays 44.7%
bulletHappy Kwanzaa: 0.12%
bulletHappy Hanukkah: 0.02%

"Seasons Greetings" probably formed a large portion of the 7.5% "other" category. 1

Are the "Christmas wars" winding down?

We performed a crude analysis of the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) website by using their internal search function to find articles in their website containing the word "Christmas." 2 We chose the ADF because they are a religiously conservative legal defense group and seem to take the Christmas Wars very seriously. They have regularly marshaled "More than 800 attorneys nationwide ready to combat attempts to censor Christmas."

We scanned the search results, counting only those whose theme involved Christmas. The number of results, sorted by year were:

Year Number of hits
2002 2
2003 9
2004 39
2005 23
2006 13
2007 11
2008 3
2009 5*

* Up to 2010-DEC-14

The "Christmas Wars" seem to have reached a peak in 2004 and has experienced a major decline since.

We were unable to compute a completed value for 2009, and a partial value for 2010, because the ADF appears to no longer have year information on their press releases.

The website www.SayChristmas.org, whose domain name is owned by the ADF, is no longer functioning.

2010-OCT: Virginia: Holiday Parade:

The city of Richmond, VA decided to rename its Christmas Parade as a "Holiday Parade' presumably as an acknowledgment of religious diversity in the city. The event is sponsored by Dominion, an electricity supplier. Randy Sharp of the American Family Association -- a fundamentalist Christian advocacy group -- alerted its supporters in the ten states served by Dominion. They flooded Dominion and the parade organizers with complaints. Within 24 hours, the event was changed back to a Christmas parade. 3

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2010-DEC-03: USA: Wachovia Bank policy on Christmas decoration:

During an interview on Fox News, a spokesperson for Wachovia said: "At Wachovia, we respect the diversity of our customers and team members. Therefore we are decorating our stores with poinsettia plants so that everyone can be included." Liberty Counsel has added the bank to their annual "Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign, as a foe." Companies that recognize only Christmas are on the Friend/nice list; those that recognize the full diversity of holidays at this time of year are on the Foe/naughty list. 5

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2010-DEC-04: USA: J.P. Morgan Chase bank policy on Christmas decorations:

The American Family Association issued an action alert reporting that J.P. Morgan Chase has instructed its banks to only use seasonal decorations supplied by the bank's head office. An internal Chase document allegedly states that the bank does not "... want to lose somebody's business because of seasonal decorations." They hope that their customers are made to feel "... completely welcome and comfortable" in the branches. Unlike previous similar ocurrances, the AFA is not recommending a boycott of the bank. 4

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2010-DEC: Texas Grinch Alert:

Rev. Robert Jeffress is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, a 13,000 member mega-church. The church has placed a naughty or nice list online 6 so that congregants can report stores that use the inclusive "Happy Holidays" greeting or that directly acknowledge only Christmas with a "Merry Christmas."

Jeffress said:

"Too many businesses have bowed down to political correctness. I thought this would be a fun way to call out businesses that are refusing to celebrate Christmas." 7

Wishing customers "Happy Holidays" is inclusive of Christmas. It indicates that the store recognizes the Christians' Christmas, the African Americans' Kwanzaa, the Jewish Hanukkah, the Neopagan & Atheist Winter Solstice, and many other cultural and religious observations. But Rev. Jeffress wants only Christmas to be acknowledged, and the others ignored. This puts storeowners in a difficult lose-lose position. No matter what policy they adopt, they are bound to lose some customers.

As of DEC-12, the Naughty list had 20 entries; the Nice list had 96.

Reporter David Gibson of Politics Daily wrote:

"To be sure, it's a novel tactic in the annual 'War on Christmas' that is fought every December. But whether 'fun' accurately describes the campaign may depend on whether your store makes the 'naughty' list or the 'nice' list, or whether you are a Christian who thinks commercialism -- or Christ -- should be the focus of Christmas."

"Indeed, the website Jeffress set up is called GrinchAlert.com, after the beloved Dr. Seuss book, 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas!' But the point of that tale -- spoiler alert! -- is that the Grinch couldn't steal Christmas by making off with all the presents because Christmas was about the spirit of the season, rather than the material things associated with it. ..."

" Dallas is increasingly diverse, ethnically and religiously, and insisting that stores -- even those that may be operated by non-Christians -- maintain a 'Christmas-only' greeting policy could be bad for business as well as not terribly neighborly, or reflective of the various religious celebrations during December. ..."

" 'We're simply providing a forum,' Pastor Jeffress said in justifying the Grinch Alert. 'People may post whether they believe a business or organization ought to be on the naughty or nice list. We're not making that determination." 7

William Lawrence, dean of the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University, said:

"The appropriate thing for Christians to do at this time of year is to find new and more effective ways to extend the love and peace of the season to others, not to insist that such enterprises as commercial businesses put up Christmas trees."

Kelly Shackelford, head of the conservative Liberty Institute in suburban Plano, TX said:"This is about freedom, free speech and voting with your pocketbooks." 7

Rabbi Geoffrey Dennis of Congregation Kol Ami in Flower Mound, TX -- a suburb of Dallas -- said:

"Rather than honoring Christmas, this kind of campaign feels meant to remind me and people like me we are second-best members of this society. Christmas currently has, and will continue to have, virtual hegemony over the cultural, religious and economic life of Americans at this time of year. I realize every movement needs an issue to rally around. How about 'Love your neighbor as yourself?' " 8

Zachary Moore, executive director of the Fellowship of Freethought Dallas, said:

"I would say that it's unfortunate that some Christians are trying to resort to economic terrorism during a season in which their own Scriptures exhort 'goodwill towards men.' It's also a crass intersection of commercialism and religion. Why should local businesses have to bow and scrape to Christianity, or indeed any religion?" 8

2010-NOV-09: American Humanist Association (AHA) launched "Consider Humanism" campaign at Christmas time:

Humanists generally take a skeptical view towards the existence of deties, and towards various organized religions. They derive secular moral codes using logic and reason. They tend to be very concerned about human rights and equal treatment for all people.

Last year they launched an advertising campaign promoting the slogan: "Be Good for Goodness' Sake." This year, they are undertaking what they claim is "the largest nontheistic advertising campaign in history." It is titled: "Consider Humanism." It is aimed at overcoming the widespread belief among many Christians, Jews, Muslims, and other theists that Atheist and Agnostic Humanists cannot lead a moral life without a system of morality derived from the Bible. That is: the AHA is challenging the belief that people need God and religion in order to behave decently.

A typical ad is shown below. It mentions a common belief by Humanists that God did not create the human race; rather humans created god and goddesses in their own image:

Typical "Consider Humanism" ad 9,10

In the above example, they show on a black background the passage Hosea 13:16 from from the New International Verson of the Bible. It describes a punishment that God was about to enforce on the people of Samaria. God planned to murder the pregnant women, children, and fetuses that the women were carrying because of the actions of the male priests and other adult males in the country. This transfer of guilt and punishment from the guilty to the innocent is a theme found throughout the Bible. The passage states that Samaritans must: "... bear their guilt, because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open."

The ad contrasts this biblical quotation with an excerpt from a letter by Albert Einstein in 1930 to the New York Times. It contains a belief that most Humanists probably agree with: "I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the object of his creation, whose purposes are modelled after our own -- a God, in short who is but a reflecton of human frailty."

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. OneNewsNow.com Poll, 2008, at: http://www.onenewsnow.com/
  2. The ADF website is at: http://www.alliancedefensefund.org
  3. "Richmond Christmas parade saved, Home Depot holds fast to gay support," OneNewsNow,com, undated, at: http://www.onenewsnow.com
  4. Chris Woodward, "Banks chase away Christmas decor; AFA takes action," One News Now, 2010-DEC-04, at: http://www.onenewsnow.com/
  5. "Wachovia Bank Bans Christmas Tree Displays From Its Branches," Liberty Counsel, 2010-DEC-03, at: http://www.lc.org/
  6. "Grinch Alert! Helpus keep Christmas EVERYWHERE," at: http://www.grinchalert.com/
  7. David Gibson, "Dallas Church Rats Out Stores That Say 'Happy Holidays.' But Who's the Real Grinch?," Politics Daily, 2010-DEC-10, at: http://www.politicsdaily.com/
  8. Sam Hodges, "Dallas church launches website to report business Grinches," Kansas City Star, 2010-DEC-07, at: http://www.kansascity.com/
  9. "Consider Humanism: Exposing fundamentalism and considering the Humanism alternative," American Humanist Association, 2010-NOV, at: http://www.considerhumanism.org/
  10. "Consider Humanism" printable ads, American Humanist Association, at: http://www.considerhumanism.org/

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Home > Religious information > Christmas > Conflict > here

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Copyright © 2010 & 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2010-DEC-12
Latest update: 2011-NOV-29
Author: B.A. Robinson

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