You know, I’ve been thinking about this whole “war on Christmas” concept the Christian right has going, and I’m starting to figure out a little bit of the psychology behind it. Most people fully understand that America is a place of religious diversity, so Christmas, at least the religious holiday isn’t something all Americans are going to be in on. Of course, Christmas has become a whole lot more than a day of religious observance in our country, and really all of the western world. It’s become this whole one part family get together, one part consumerism shopping spree, one part fairy tales for kids (think Santa, Rudolph, Frosty, all that stuff), one part national vacation (schools and businesses sort of shut down), one part religious day all morphed into one big thing that defines culture, economics, media, education, basically everything for our winter season.
So, why exactly would all these people from the Christian right be so concerned with things like people saying happy holidays? (in part because Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s are considered the “holiday season” but also because things like Ramadan, Hanukah, and Kwanza fall in this late November, through early January phase of the year) Apparently it has to do with a very old mindset. The world used to run very much like it did in Biblical times (long before the time of the Bible stories and long after). It was always about competing “tribes” of people who of course all worshiped some kind of higher power all competing for the best land, resources, and power. Whenever one tribe was winning the other tribes were enslaved, killed, the women raped, etc, etc, and the “god” of the victors was seen as the “better god” who was “stronger,” and thus “his people” were worthy of “being in charge.” Basically, it was perpetual warfare, and winners of warfare had the “superior gods.” It’s the kind of story that goes way back to things like Greek mythology where various gods were aiding various Greek characters in battle. The concept actually probably long pre-dates written history, with tribes of people and gods they worshiped we’ll never hear of.
Anyways, even though the rest of the modern developed world now understands that we have free countries with democracy, most people get that old ethnic and racial lines have long been integrated, and religious barriers have long fallen. Most people still hang on to religion of some kind for philosophical comfort when looking for identity, morality, purpose, meaning, coping, control, and the likes. However, most people don’t hang onto the notion that their success or failure is tied to some kind of divine will in an earthly battleground of deities, where those with the “superior gods and culture” will be favored and “blessed” over others. That’s generally accepted in the modern world, except in America. Aside from the Middle East, the rest of the modern world is either totally in tune with reality, and is just using religion for comfort rather than “destiny” and nation building, or else, in places like northern Europe, Japan, and China, they don’t even believe in higher power at all anymore. People have become more sophisticated and moved on. Except in America. In America a good chunk of the nation still holds a very ancient, or I guess modern Middle Eastern view of religion. They think Israel is some land of chosen people, and America is the land of Christian chosen people that must protect those Israeli Jews and live as a good shining Christian nation in order to maintain favor and fulfill destiny. It’s really weird, I’m not going to lie, it’s really fucking weird, and archaic, and growing up in the suburbs of Chicago I totally didn’t get that this was the case, because if you are on the east coast, in California, or one of the few big metro areas in the Midwest like Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, Cleveland, etc, religion is already a partially outdated concept that those who are not atheist just hang onto for some comfort when people get sick or die, and a way to get together and let little kids sing in a choir on the weekends. I had no idea how incredibly, incredibly seriously, in a very 2000BC kind of way the rest of America views religion until very recently.
So, how exactly do they view it and how does this relate to the “war on Christmas?” Well, you see, they view American history as such. “Over in icky Europe good Christian people were being oppressed so they came here to be Christian and God provided them with this land, his new chosen people, just like the Jews were once promised Israel. Then we made a Christian nation, with Christian principles, under the direction of God, and we’ve built ourselves into the economic and military superpower of the world beating back Nazism, Communism, Muslim terrorists and everyone else because God loves us and protects us. We are a Christian nation, and now there are forces trying to oppress Christianity here just like the Jews were once persecuted in their homeland, and still are to this day. We must fight back against these inferior cultures with their inferior gods, or worship of themselves instead of gods, because if we are not on the side of the one true God we will be punished. This is a land for us, not them.”
Okay, so let’s start with the beginning. The British were colonizing as much of the world as they could, as were all big powerful European nations at the time, and the particular thing about European nations/kingdoms from back in the day was that there was often a “national religion.” In England they had the Church of England, which was, just so you know a Christian denomination, just not one that people of other Christian denominations over there were wanting to participate in, so it is true that many people came to the colonies in North America for religious freedom, but it was not Christians running away from non-Christian persecution, it was Christians running away from the eyes of a tyrannical king who was, amongst many other tyrannical things, trying to make them be a part of his particular Christian church. They weren’t running away from “pagans” or “Muslims” or “atheists” or anything like that. Just so we’re clear.
Now, the next thing is that no, I’m sorry, but this North American slab of land that has become America since we broke from England was not put here for us by some one true god who loves us more than other people. This was a slab of land occupied by tens of millions of people who had never heard of that god, who either got killed off by germs they didn’t have immunity to, or were slaughtered of systematically by white men with more advanced metal based weaponry like, you know, guns. Then we ran and grabbed a bunch of natives from another continent to build our country as slaves, and no they were not inferior culture slave workers that were gifts from this god, as the people of those pre-Civil War times kinda sorta felt. Basically, from there, as the rest of world way far away on the other side of the Atlantic bickered and dealt with fascism, communism, and played host to two world wars, we had this wonderfully built up (thanks African people) and wonderfully resource rich land with no one else in our way (thanks Native Americans). It was like a species moving into some dream land of plenty with no natural predators and another species there to build up the land for them for free, all while all the other species killed each other in some other far away land that was separated from you by a huge body of water. That’s how we built ourselves up to be the great military and economic power of the world, not because some god loves us more.
Now, next point here, we aren’t a Christian nation. We are a nation where, due to blind tradition where everyone just raises their kids to believe in the same higher powers they were once told to believe in, and most of the original white occupiers were Christian, most modern Americans consider themselves Christians. That’s all fine and well, but just to make things clear, this nation was built on the premise of religious freedom and separation of church and state. That means you can believe whatever the hell you want, including but not limited to Christianity, Judaism, Islam, nothing, that aliens rule us, or whatever the fuck else you can think of. It also means that our government cannot promote any specific religion or require to be of any specific religion or demonization within that religion like they used to in the old days. This is not a theocracy, and our laws, our culture, our educational system, our healthcare system, or whatever else you can think of is not required to be of any sort of religious preference, nor can anything or anyone be forced into one. For a long time that really meant nothing as everyone was just told to be like mommy and daddy and they were and that was that and everyone was Christian, more or less, and that was totally fine; again their choice.
Some things have begun to change that trend. Information accessibility and educational quality have increased with in more recent times with things like cars, planes, radio, school for all, TV, cell phones, computers, the internet, etc, etc. More recent generations have been exposed to far more information, far more quality education. They also have a far more diverse group of people around them and more diverse life experiences to consider as the immigration demographics have changed, and travel has increased. Furthermore, an overall improvement in the quality of life for the masses in the middle class, has given most people more time to stop worrying about day to day survival and thinking about things like philosophy and religion more in depth. All of it combines to result, in more people from more recent times in America becoming more religiously diverse, as more people have more time to think, more information to consider, more diverse experiences to take into account, and better technology to research it all. People aren’t always just Christian because mommy and daddy were. Sometimes they switch to another non Christian religion, or to no religion at all Again, it’s fine, their choice, that’s America freedom to believe what you want.
However, this really scares Christians because they still hold that very archaic notion that the world is all about getting favor from a deity to keep your nation superior. They think this nation was built as a Christian nation (it was not), by people who ran away from non-Christian persecutors (that’s not what they were running away from), that has been favored by God because everyone traditionally had been Christian (that’s just not true). They also think one more really important thing. They think that Christianity is superior in its toleration for “inferiors.” They are deathly afraid of non Christians (except maybe Jews) and especially afraid of atheists/agnostics. They view all other non Judeo-Christian groups as groups that want to “take over” for Christianity, “turning America” into a “non-Christian nation” and then subsequently persecuting Christians, because, you know how “inferior” people are, they wouldn’t be as tolerant as Christians now would they? They’d persecute us!! Gasp!!! The atheists and agnostics appear to them not as 21st century people who’ve kind of figured out how silly the idea of religion is, even if it is comforting to pretend in tough times. No, rather, they view these folks like the people who started “worshiping” Stalin or Hitler or Mao. They think, yea sure, other religions want to “persecute us” in the name of their god (outside of Muslim extremist nut jobs half a world away who want to do weird shit to everyone, not just the American Christian fanatics, that’s simply not true), but people who don’t “have a god” must think of themselves as gods, and they will end up worshiping some dictator that kills us all!!! AHHHH!!!!
So, when you view the world in these terms, it’s very, very important to make sure Christianity holds a special, special place in America. After all, if you think this way, you think the original Americans ran away from Christian persecutors, that America was founded as a Christian nation, that Christianity is the reason we are “favored” over everyone else, and if you end the Christian domination trend you just destroyed the founding principles of America, God will punish America, the people who founded America will have done it for nothing, and part of the punishment will be us falling victim to some secular worship of some evil dictator after “inferior religions” have spent all their time trying to take over, persecuting and holding down Christians. And of course, once that secular dictator takes over all the crosses will be burned, all the Christians enslaved, probably raped, tortured, and killed, but just stay strong, stay strong, this is God testing you, and you are still his chosen people, these evil pagan people are simply the evil in the world trying to keep the amazing, almighty, courageous power of God down. (I mean, duh, right?)
Basically, this whole “war on Christmas” thing is to American Christians some kind of “sign” that the “forces of evil” are slowly trying to creep in and take over this good Christian nation of favored chosen people, and if we let them have an inch now, they’ll be burning down our churches tomorrow. I know it all sounds ridiculous to normal people, but that’s how these fuckers think. They think the world works like Biblical times, and they think they are the footsoliders of all things good like some almighty deity, fighting for what is right in some wicked, wicked world. So, yea, things like more and more people not being Christian freaks them the fuck out. It also freaks them the fuck out that someone dare say something like Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas, because it’s all downhill to Stalinism and burning churches from there. It’s just impossible for them to perceive that better access to education and information just means now merely most, instead of all people grow up to blindly be a part of some archaic worship practice that no one is trying to persecute.