It’s official. After six years of what has been called a “war on Christmas,” Merry Christmas is coming back. Much of corporate America has conceded defeat on the issue. What most people do not realize is that a conservative cultural victory slipped quietly under the radar and the rumblings of that battle do not bode well for the left.
War on Christmas
While liberals claim the “war on Christmas” is a fabrication of the religious right, the fact is that, for years, many Americans have been taking a lot of fire from those who would create silence around Christmas.
Call it what you will, no one can deny that a sterile “Happy Holidays” was the officially-imposed greeting that grated the ears of so many shoppers as they saw their Christmas trees renamed “holiday” trees. Nativity scenes were banned from city halls and shopping malls while menorahs and other religious symbols were permitted. Parents and students saw schools quietly expunge Christmas programs and carols from their winter schedules.
With grinch-like intransigence, a liberal establishment seemed intent upon ignominiously expelling from the public square that same Christ Child who could find no place in the public inn.
The gradual yet unpopular transition from Merry Christmas to Happy Holidays suffered a surprising reversal this Christmas season.
On November 9, two days after the elections, Wal-Mart announced it is officially endorsing Christmas for the 2006 season in its store, print, radio and television advertising. Children playing near a Nativity scene and Christmas tree can be found in its advertising campaign. Its “Holiday shop” is now a “Christmas shop.” A spokeswoman for Wal-Mart said “We learned our lesson from last year, we are using Christmas this year at Wal-Mart. We’ll use it early and we’ll use it often!”
If there is no “war on Christmas” as liberals claim, someone should have at least told Wal-Mart. The huge retailer’s move is a pretty frank acknowledgment that a “war on Christmas” has existed. Moreover, Wal-Mart is joined by other major retailers such as Dillards, JC Penny, L.L. Bean, Linens ’n Things, Target, Kohl’s, Sears, Kmart and Macy’s who have plainly and clearly put Christmas back in their message to consumers. While not all retailers have jumped on the bandwagon, the message is clear: Merry Christmas is back in the malls.
Some might say that such positioning is merely a move to gain more sales from Christmas shoppers. The move was all about dollars and hardly a victory in the Cultural War.
No doubt, retailers will profit from their moves toward pleasing consumers – definitely a marketing tactic. However, the change came because a groundswell of angry Americans rose up to oppose the silence around Christmas – and that is a cultural event.
Religious groups such as the American Family Association and others boycotted retailers last holiday season for excluding the word “Christmas” from products sold in stores. Retailers felt the full strength of their wrath which indicates a cultural shift not to be taken lightly.
In fact, bringing Christmas back was not a token bone thrown to consumers in the hope of satisfying them long enough to take their dollars. Wal-Mart’s move was a complete and passionate about-face that extended even to management. Indeed, when Wal-Mart announced its unabashed commitment to using the word Christmas to nearly 7,000 of its store managers this fall, the company reported that “the move was met with rapturous applause.”
Highlighting this same undercurrent are others who have taken the offensive by defending the right of celebrating Christmas in the public square. The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) announced on November 15, that it has more than 950 attorneys available nationwide to combat any improper attempts to censor the celebration of Christmas in schools and on public property.
The legal foundation is putting its legal muscle to work to clear up misconceptions about seasonal religious expression on public property. It points out, for example that the U.S. Supreme Court has never ruled that public schools must ban the singing of religious Christmas carols or prohibit Christmas cards. Not even government-sponsored Christmas displays are banned as some people believe. The foundation’s portfolio of past cases indicates that the “war on Christmas” is far from an imagined threat.
Some might admit that the return of Merry Christmas is indeed a cultural development but hardly a conservative victory. After all, 95 percent of Americans, liberal and conservative alike, celebrate Christmas. The majority of Americans favor “Merry Christmas” over “Happy Holidays.” Calling it a conservative victory only politicizes an already over-commercialized holiday.
However, the whole controversy around silencing Christmas treads on one of those sensitive religious issues that strikes a deep chord in most Americans.
All media grudgingly admit that America is a deeply religious nation. That is not to say Americans are paladins of virtue, or are even familiar with all its tenets. It only means that the overwhelming majority of the American people harbor religious sentiments. Moreover, the mere acknowledgment of a God admits a higher authority above men that gives these same Americans a vague idea of the existence of a moral law.
Thus, the controversy must be seen from a broader perspective. When radical liberals call for the silencing of Christmas, they also hope to suppress those nettlesome moral issues that gave origin to the Cultural War.
Cultural War Victory
In this sense, the return of Merry Christmas represented a victory in the Cultural War. By putting God back in the public square, it also brings back the notions of morality in society.
The fact that Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest corporation, admitted its error and changed its tune to please disgruntled Christians highlights how these basic issues, tragically absent from most campaign rhetoric, touch high tension wires that force the left to retreat.
In fact, the left is hard pressed to replicate such victories with its own issues. Much to the liberals’ chagrin, Wal-Mart, the whipping boy of the left, has largely ignored their clamor.
Indeed, when Wal-Mart did make a small concession by joining the Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and donating to a pro-homosexual cause, the same Christian grassroots that rallied around Christmas raised such an uproar that the giant retailer beat an embarrassing retreat.
While these Christians still remain skeptical, Wal-Mart now says it will “no longer make corporate contributions to support or oppose controversial issues unless they directly relate to their ability to serve their customers.” To dispel unrest over its political leanings, the retailer stated that “Wal-Mart does not have a position on same-sex marriage, and we do not give preference to gay or lesbian suppliers.”
While the return of Merry Christmas to the malls is a welcome respite, the “war on Christmas” is far from over. The attacks still continue in other areas. However, the victory should serve as an encouragement for all those who oppose removing God from the public square and morality from law.
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In the meantime, all should take heart and shout “Merry Christmas!” “For unto us, a Child is born, and a Son is given to us, and the government is upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace” (Isaias 9:6)