This time last year, I argued that the right wing’s annual announcement of a “War on Christmas,” in which we hear about the evils of saying “happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” betrays their own conception of the holiday, and the best part of the entire season, by instigating unnecessary conflict, rather than actually striving for “peace on earth.”
It’s much worse than that. The idea that all the world should celebrate Christmas, and that more generic and inclusive expressions of welcome (“happy holidays”) be expunged from discourse, is ultimately a desire to see one’s own beliefs trumpeted at every turn, and an insistence that other celebrations “know their place.”
This jealous demand that Christianity be at the fore of all of civilization is all too common throughout history — it’s the missionary instinct, and nothing less — but while it’s necessary for sustaining the church’s secular apparatus, it lies directly contrary to Jesus’ example. Unlike his later adherents, Jesus was not jealous in words or deeds. He didn’t claim or seek credit for miracles (Mark 1:40-45); and perhaps more on point, took no interest in punishing or even condemning blasphemy.
And why should it be otherwise? A private individual, possessing no agenda and secure in his faith, should have no reason to force the rest of the world to bend to his will. More importantly, someone actually striving for peace and understanding should gladly greet others according to their own tradition, rather than presuming or forcing one’s own faith upon them. In a pluralistic society, we can choose to exclude or include; to favor our own interests, or those of society as a whole. I choose the latter, and if we’re to follow the spirit of the holidays, rather than the reflection of our own political interests in them, I should hope we all would.