Friday, December 08, 2006

The Death of Christmas??

There has been a lot of talk amongst those on the far-right that Christmas is being destroyed by some kind of 'liberal' conspiracy (yes, they love their conspiracy theories don't they?). Apparently, there is a 'war on Christmas'. Escaped my notice, I have to say. Everywhere I go, I see 'Merry Christmas' and all the associated Christmasy stuff.

Of course, this latest conspiracy originated in the US (like all good conspiracy theories) thanks to Bill 'smear the soldiers of Malmedy' O'Reilly and John Gibson. However, these claims by O'Reilly are (as always) easy to pick apart. Recently, O'Reilly claimed the following:

'Best Buy and Crate & Barrel are two that still are ordering their people not to say, "Merry Christmas," which is the worst kind of fascism you could possibly have.'

However, both companies have refuted this allegation. They claim that they have never ordered employees not to say 'Merry Christmas' and have no policy around the issue whatsoever.

Effectively, this is all part of a phoney war dreamt up by a few religious zealots and the far-right. It is an easy way of scoring cheap points by attacking Islam and claiming that it is going to take over while we erode our 'Christian ideology'. It is an attempt to create the view that our culture is being usurped by some other religion that will take over the world. It is, in short, nonsense. But them we have seen the religious right gradually try to assert their authority on our culture. They have increasingly used disturbing tactics to attack our way of life (like the anti-abortion lobby). Meanwhile the right-wing (a natural ally of the church), is covering it's base by attacking Islam with whatever means possible and allowing Christian groups to edge ever closer to their dream, the creation of a state where the divisions between church and state and eradicated.

Furthermore, by using this smokescreen of 'political correctness', they are avoiding attacking the corporations (another natural ally) who are clearly more interested in profits than adhering to some sense of Christian values. Essentially, the right is trying to play a delicate balancing game between it's two main bases. It wishes to please the religious extremists whilst not offending the capitalist system that they are so keen defend. Anyone who is outside of these two power groups is fair game as far as the far-right are concerned, hence the incessant attacks on Islam.

Luckily, there are some Christian groups who avoid the rhetoric perpetrated by the far-right, like the Christian Muslim Forum. Although keen to defend Christmas, they are also only too aware of the consequences of this 'phoney war'. They have recently written letters to all councils urging them not to abandon the real message behind Christmas, particularly as the effects could rebound on the Muslim population (which is, after all, what the far-right want). Luckily, their fears of a 'war on Christmas' have proved to be unfounded. In fact, they claim there is no such evidence of this 'phoney war'. The following is an extract from an article in The Guardian:

The Christian Muslim Forum's letter to councils did not provide any examples of the purported de-Christianisation of Christmas, and Julian Bond, the group's director of management and communication, seems equally reluctant to do so. "There have been incidents," he says. "I was looking them up on the internet the other day. There was one from a hospital in Scotland, where they'd received some CDs of Christmas carols, and some obviously mentioned the baby Jesus, and the hospital said it wasn't appropriate." But, he concedes, "it does all seem to have been more prevalent in previous years. It does seem to have disappeared this year." Does the forum plan to compile a list of examples of the war being waged on Christmas? "We haven't published anything like that," Bond says. "It's difficult to get hold of."

He goes on: "You know, we were in Birmingham for a meeting the other day, and there's a big Merry Christmas banner in the middle of New Street." So is anybody at all trying to abolish Christmas this year? "I haven't come across any examples of anyone doing it this year," he replies. "No". [emphasis mine]

There is no 'war on Christmas'. There is only a 'phoney war.'