The Future of ‘Merry Christmas’ in America
It's not all merry and bright
We’ll soon be able to say “Merry Federally Recognized Holiday of December 25th That Shall Be Nameless!” Strike that. I meant “Merry Christmas.”
The former was last year’s version, often found beside “Happy Holidays.” When my dad hears this bland salutation he always asks, “And what holidays are those?”
Anyway, “Happy Holidays” was last year. This year, now that America has been made great again (I jest), we can express something approaching the true meaning of the holy day.
But for how long?
It’s true that once United States was a majority Christian nation, and still is, in a sense. If asked, about seven out of ten admit membership in the Body of Christ.
Changing Face of Christianity
What it means to be Christian is not as clear as it once was, though. More than a few Christians have relegated Our Lord to being a nice fella who was nothing more than a charismatic community organizer who taught people the “miracle” of sharing. Many of these folks are only one yoga class short of joining the “Nones“. These so-called spiritual-but-not-religious “Nones” are already about one out of four Americans, and growing.
If trends continue, it won’t be long before the number of people willing to both admit and act on Christian beliefs will fall below a majority. Some say we have passed this point already. This doesn’t imply opposition to Christian principles will be everywhere and immediate. But it does mean Christian influence in politics and culture must decrease.
What does that mean for “Merry Christmas”?
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
There have been for many years anti-Christian agitators petitioning local, state, and federal governments to remove Christian symbols of Christmas, like créches. Trees, Santa, and encouragements of shopping are non-controversial. The argument is that Christian symbols like nativity scenes on government property represent official endorsement of Christianity.
They do, too.
You’re not supposed to admit this, because it’s granting a point to the agitators (who never accept their victories with good grace). Oh, there are all kind of fine legal distinctions about what “endorsement” and the like means, but posting these symbols on state property is certainly not a condemnation of Christianity, nor are they meant to show indifference. At the least it is the government acknowledging that, here, where the symbols are, live a majority, or an influential plurality, of Christians.
So skittish of any legal controversy have governments become, that the local Washington DC government refused advertisements on public transportation from its Catholic Archdiocese. The ads “depicted three shepherds, two animals and a star in a landscape scene” accompanied by the words “Find the Perfect Gift.” Cute, but tepid. (The Archdiocese is suing.)
Iconoclasts like to say removing Christian symbols is “inclusive.” But that’s just their inveterate habit of using opposite-speech. Like when abortionists call killing “reproductive health,” or when lawmakers say a favored program was “cut,” when in fact the rate of increase was reduced.
Removing Christian symbols excludes Christians, however much it may include non-Christians. And as (or if) Christianity wanes, the people in government will instead, as is natural, include symbols from whatever the predominant belief turns out to be. (Anybody want to make a guess?)
We’re also told that decorations, and even simple greetings, might “offend” someone.
This is true, too.
An atheist might indeed be offended by seeing the Star of Bethlehem on a bus, or in hearing “Merry Christmas.” But it is the height (or, rather, depth) of effeminacy to say that a thing shouldn’t be done because it might offend.
It is also a fallacy to say that Christian symbols should not be shown because they offend. Why? Because removing them offends Christians. If the state of being offended is the sole justification for an act, we are at an impasse. Whatever we do offends somebody; therefore, nothing can be done.
The True Meaning of True Meaning
Many marginal and non-Christians aren’t anxious to see Christmas disappear from public view, though. It’s a fun time. They just aren’t fond of the Christ part. Christmas is, after all, the high season for retailers, many of whom would suffer were the holiday to vanish. They’ll settle for expunging the holy part of holiday.
“Merry Christmas” won’t go away. But there will be a change in its meaning. Or, rather, a further weakening of its true import. Since Christmas is an official government holiday, to keep it, it has to be redefined. Watch for cloying, empty language about “togetherness” or “diversity.”
Late addition. On cue comes the New York Times article “Is Christmas a Religious Holiday? A Growing Number of Americans Say No“. Among other things they say “The most seismic change captured by the survey, from a theological standpoint, may be the declining number of people who said they believed the biblical story of Christmas accurately reflected historical events.”
In the end, and as was always clear, nothing can happen to Christmas. It will always be there and is the best present we could have ever received. No government can order its removal. Certainly no government can stop it from being celebrated, or from saying “Merry Christmas,” at least in the hearts of Christians.