In mounting their defense in the imagined "war on Christmas," these religio-political conservatives defy both the spirit of the season and the faith they claim to espouse.
Many have written about their intent to boycott vendors who display "Season's Greetings" or "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas."
The faithful are not saying, "Come share with us the joy and warmth as we celebrate the birth of our Savior." Instead, their defensive fervor spreads their actual message: "Your holidays do not matter to us. In fact, they do not matter."
"Season's greetings" is entirely appropriate, as the season is in fact fall, not Christmas. During this time of year, the Jews observe Hannukah. Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr as Ramadan ends. Buddhists observe Bodhi Day on Dec. 8, celebrating the anniversary of Buddha's enlightenment. The Hindu festival season ramps up in August and winds down in November. And religions that date back to the dawn of man have observed the the solstice, the longest night of the year, as a celebration of the rebirth of the light and all it represents.
Does anyone else remember 10 or 15 years ago when the conservative Christians, then in the oxymoronically named "Moral Majority," were trying to drive out of the Christmas celebration the very holiday symbols these people are now fighting to preserve?
Amid all the flap over the Auburn "holiday tree lighting" and the return of the "Christmas tree" at the White House, have any of these people asked themselves why? There were no decorated pine trees at the Nativity. The Christmas tree, like so many other symbols, is a secularized holiday tradition that most likely comes from another religion entirely.
By now fighting for the Christmas tree, religious conservatives know what they are doing. They are trying to frame the terms of the debate, position themselves, as they have tried to do with the definition of "family" and "marriage," as they only ones who truly have a winter "holiday." Since they were unable to drive the secular symbols from their holiday celebrations, they will now claim them as their own and vehemently attack anyone who does not observe the holiday in their approved way.
The sad thing is, this works. The church has used it to great success down through the ages. When Christianity began to expand, the church fathers located their houses of worship on the site of the old temples. When they began celebrating holidays, originally of course "holy days," they placed them on the dates of previous observances.
It's the very reason Christmas is held in December — the seasonal transition from fall to winter. After Dec. 21 this year, the nights become shorter and the days grow longer. It is, as even ancient astronomers observed, the rebirth of the light. Many world religions have looked to this date as the birthday of their deities, including the Egyptian Osiris, the Greeks' Dionysus and the Persian Mithras.
If they were true fundamentalists, they'd get back to the basics of the story of the birth of Christ as found in the Bible. That God loves us enough to come to us in a form we could understand. It doesn't matter when Jesus was born, if he's a Capricorn or a Cancer. The Bible doesn't say, and it doesn't command Christians to observe the holiday. What matters is WHY he was born, and that he told us to love one another.