So every year we have to listen to the debate about this alleged “War on Christmas” where conservative Christians get all riled up because the stores’ banners, government buildings, buses, television networks, etc. are saying “seasons greetings” or “happy holidays” and not “merry Christmas”. So I have a few conflicting thoughts on this:
1. Who cares? Why on earth are we outraged by this when there are so many bigger problems in our society? When world poverty, AIDS, famine, cancer, greed, persecution and war get solved, then maybe we turn to trivial issues of which greetings should or should not be used in public spaces.
2. Public spaces have no real reason to feel obligated to use Christmas the way the Christian community wants them to. We can’t tell a department store or municipal office that Happy Holidays is offensive. First of all because it isn’t offensive. Secondly, as a public space, the powers that be can use whatever language they chose. A shopkeep who is not a Christian should never be accosted for not wishing his customers a Merry Christmas. I have no right to demand that of others. While I wish more folks were saying Merry Christmas, I can’t expect them to.
3. While I won’t rage against those who refuse to use Merry Christmas, I will say it is also wrong to force the removal of Merry Christmas in favour of a more generic Happy Holidays. To remove the “religiousness” of Christmas is quite frankly stupid. Telling Jews that Happy Hanukkah is inappropriate is equally stupid. Removing all religious terminology is not religious tolerance. In fact it’s the opposite of tolerance. Canada calls itself multicultural and touts its “religious freedom”, but religious freedom does not mean removing religion from the public sphere. Removing religious expression in the name of tolerance is akin to settling disagreements between vegetarians and those who eat meat by saying no one gets any food. If Christmas offends you, sorry. The intolerance of secularism is equally offensive. It’s frightening to me how the Western world is moving towards an enforced secularism. Removing faith from the public arena in the name of equality makes no sense, and when done by “free” states, it is devastatingly hypocritical. Let’s call it what it is. If you want religious expression out of public, stop calling it a free country. And that goes for all faiths.
Of course, occasionally it a little more complex. Burka bans in the name of security is a minefield I won’t touch with a 39 and a half foot pole. And then of course there is statutory holiday issues (Jewish employees get Christmas but not Yom Kippor?). If we want to be a truly “free” and “tolerant” society, expressions of faith can’t be restricted, chided or socially oppressed. Inserting a generic winter festivity time with trees and presents and lights and turkey and holly, etc. without Jesus is not respecting religious differences, it’s repressing authentic faith. If you can’t stand seeing it or hearing about it, move to China, I doubt you’ll see any nativity scenes in a government office there.