Drive down almost any street in America and you can see it’s that time of year again. Christmas trees strapped to cars or in the back of pickup trucks headed home. Glittering string-lights stretched across eaves and wrapped around shrubs. Colorful holiday displays in front yards. Church signs with messages of peace and the holy birth.
It should be clear to most people that Christmas is thriving in America today — unless your post box or e-mail account has been filled with paranoid messages from religious-right groups. This is prime fundraising season for the religious right, and the phony “War on Christmas” in America is a big moneymaker for those seeking to frighten people about a supposed anti-Christian conspiracy by “secular humanists,” atheists and assorted other demons.
An e-mail from the far-right group In God We Trust today illustrates our point:
The national advocacy group In God We Trust today condemned efforts of national atheist organizations and left-wing legal groups aimed at terrorizing Americans into not celebrating Christmas.
“Americans have become accustomed to the whining and calls for censorship of anti-religion activists during the Christmas season,” says In God We Trust’s Chairman Bishop Council Nedd. “However, this year opponents of the holiday are escalating their ‘War on Christmas’ to a whole new level. Their goal is harass, mock and scare people into censoring themselves and hiding their Christmas celebrations.”
“Americans are being terrorized into banishing Christmas from public life,” Nedd warns. “The hate and venom spewing from some of these anti-religious groups is so great that some jurisdictions are tearing down even secular Christmas displays as fast as they can.”
“Americans are being terrorized”? We wonder if that language is intended to conjure up visions of Osama Bin Laden racing across lawns in the middle of the night to kidnap the baby Jesus from manger displays and puncture Santa balloons. In any case, it’s not just a deeply cynical ploy. It’s also a disgusting metaphor in a country fighting a real war with real casualties.
But there is money to raise — lots of it, according to the folks at Right Wing Watch from People for the American Way. Right Wing Watch notes that one far-right group is peddling buttons proclaiming “It’s OK, Wish Me a Merry Christmas.” You can get 10 buttons for $25 — such a deal.
As we noted in September, the fundraising potential for an anti-“War on Christmas” campaign hasn’t escaped the attention of far-right groups in Texas. Those groups have even suggested that curriculum writers are promoting such a “war” in this state’s social studies classrooms. (That surely came as a surprise to the Christians serving on those curriculum writing teams.)
Of course, the “War on Christmas” claims surrounding the social studies curriculum were based on silly exaggerations bordering on outright lies. But smearing the teachers and academics on the curriculum teams to advance a political agenda — and raise money — was more important to them. That kind of cynicism is a far bigger threat to the spirit of Christmas than any imagined “war” on the holiday.
TFN will keep an eye on groups using “War on Christmas” lies to shake down frightened people for money. In the meantime, I have string-lights to untangle and a Christmas tree to decorate.