Holiday commercials are running on TV, Christmas tree lot signs are springing up around town, the retail stores are hanging festive decorations and your local soft rock radio station is threatening to begin looping “All I Want for Christmas” 24/7 a full 1 1/2 weeks before Thanksgiving.
Welcome to the Holiday Season, 2013 edition.
The modern American Christmas wouldn’t be complete without a very public debate over whether there’s a “War on Christmas” afoot. It’s one theater of the larger “culture war” that’s been waged in our country, in varying degrees of intensity, since the 1960’s. Amazingly, just to show you how contentious it can get, the combatants can’t even stipulate whether the “war” even exists or if it’s simply a figment of conservative talk show hosts’ very active imaginations. It’s certainly real enough to generate a healthy profit; Sarah Palin is helping stir the pot with her new book, Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas, which comes complete with a “Christmoose Chili” recipe. Yummy.
My take? Yes, Virginia, there is a sector of our society that is radically secular and would like to see all religion – but particularly Christianity – erased from the public square. I’d nevertheless like to clear up a few key misconceptions before the sugar plums and fairies get carried away and ruin another perfectly good season…
For the record, I acknowledge and understand that there isn’t a morning “let’s get Christmas” conference call conspiracy coordinated by President Obama. Agreed? Moving along…
What’s real: across the fruited plains, Christmas grinches populate public educational institutions, influential law firms, major media outlets and consequential judicial positions, and they never seem to appreciate the irony of an ideological class obsessed with “tolerance” going out of its way to prevent others from celebrating their religious traditions anywhere but in their basements. The second layer of irony, of course, pertains to the Judeo-Christian tradition’s role in providing a foundation for tolerance, civil disobedience, pluralism, and every other warm ‘n’ fuzzy concept liberals profess to love. But these are also the same people who still can’t admit that Obamacare was a giant lie… my expectations were depressingly low for the other 11 months of the year.
So yes, the “war” is real. That’s established. But what kind of war is it? And how do we win it? I’d argue that conservatives continue to misunderstand exactly what they’re up against and, in so doing, spend more time trying to prove the war is real and talking to each other (and slamming their collective heads against the wall) then winning converts for the Christmas cause.
There’s no denying the fact that we’re living in a secular age. That doesn’t mean we live in a heartless age; it simply means too many citizens are thinking with their hearts or not thinking at all.
The answers are right in front of us. One of the most grounded men to ever hold the presidency, Calvin Coolidge, was never one for rhetorical flourishes or abstract feel-gooderisms, but he once famously observed how “Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.”
Cool Cal hit the nail on the head, Save Jerseyans, both in terms of expressing the true reason for the season but also setting forth a practical conservative battle plan to defend it (a solid four decades before it came under full-scale attack).
The best defense is a good offense. We need to defend Christmas by living Christmas as it was intended. “Leading by example” is another way of saying the same thing. I’m not saying you shouldn’t raise hell when your town council attempts to ban Christmas carols from the holiday parade or in the event that your children’s school tries to rebrand its tannenbaum as a “winter solstice festival shrub.” What I AM saying is that you can attract more flies with honey through your many works of charity, fraternity and general yule tide spirit in your community.
You should take a page from the Obama playbook and personalize your Christmas story. The religious term is “testifying,” but in 2013, the best proselytizing tools are your Facebook or Twitter accounts. Post about what Christmas means to you and your family. Organize and execute charitable initiatives. Acts of kindness are a must (take a cue from Pope Francis there). Push the brand! Share a story of a time when the Christmas story really hit home for you, post an image or meme as your cover photo that expresses your religious convictions or, if you’re feeling bold, reach out to a grinchy friend directly and invite them to join you for a Christmas-related social gathering.
Remember: your online social network/web/reach is the 21st century version of the 1950’s neighborhood matrix of town clubs and block associations. Santa Claus wishes hitting all of those homes in one night was as easy as making a Facebook post go viral! Obama’s campaign people understood the political utility of this seismic cultural development in a way that Mitt Romney’s media apparatus simply didn’t and, consequently, the Dems used the techniques described above to win a relatively close 2012 election decided by only thousands of votes in several key states; why shouldn’t it work for Jesus’s birthday?
There are also less-than-shrill ways to communicate our beliefs than spamming neighbors with excited emails every time another “holiday tree” pops up on a state house lawn. At both Christmas and Thanksgiving, for example, I like to share good-humored historical examples of, for example, the perfect harmony between the holiday message and capitalism or the heroic application of democratic principles. Pilgrims get you past the front door in a conversation whereas a Palin book or quote is a non-starter for plenty of your friends and family members.
Taking it a step further, it’s entirely appropriate to discuss how many of our recent national tragedies have transpired in such a way that there isn’t a single policy, program or secular solution to the prevent the next one. Mike Huckabee pointed out after last year’s Sandy Hook/Newtown massacre modern Americans only seem to start looking for God after the worst has happened; perhaps it’s time to “let Him in on the front end”?
What I’m trying to say is don’t let the Left portray you as a humbug this Christmas, folks. Learn from what hasn’t worked for our movement and build on the methods which clearly move the ball down the field. Don’t lose sight of the need to appeal to both heads AND hearts. Wake up every day between now and the 25th of December and take it to the grinches with positive, articulate advocacy for Christmas and I guarantee that you’ll reap something far superior to another round of secularist coal in our stocking.