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December 09, 2005

The War on Christmas Has Its Subversive Element

I see nothing in this year's idiotic "War on Christmas" campaign that causes me to revise what I said on the subject last year. That said, but I will say that the news story about a bunch of "megachurches" being closed on Christmas day adds a certain zesty tang to the whole proceeding, doesn't it? If the mass retailers of Christ can't be bothered to do up Christmas right, why should the mass retailers of DVD players? Speaking of DVD players, here's how one megachurch plans to spread Christmas joy to its parishoners this year:

Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill., always a pacesetter among megachurches, is handing out a DVD it produced for the occasion that features a heartwarming contemporary Christmas tale.
"What we're encouraging people to do is take that DVD and in the comfort of their living room, with friends and family, pop it into the player and hopefully hear a different and more personal and maybe more intimate Christmas message, that God is with us wherever we are," said Cally Parkinson, communications director at Willow Creek, which draws 20,000 people on a typical Sunday.

And you know what's really cool about that DVD? If you put on the commentary track, you can actually hear how the DVD makes the baby Jesus cry.

This is definitely one of those "mote in the eye" moments for the Merry Christmas Militants. How can a certain breed of willfully excitable Christian tell the rest of the world that saying "Happy Holidays" is just like stabbing Jesus in the crotch, if some of their more casual Christ's Club, arena-filling brethren can't even bother to pop in at Mary and Joe's place on Christmas day, and give their greetings to the birthday boy? I mean, really, who's crotch-stabbing Jesus now?

Clearly these members of the flock have lost their way. Before these militant types bother others about how they choose to approach the holiday season, maybe they should go back to deal with these lackadaisical apostates. You know, get them all in lockstep so they can present a united front when they tell other people how they should think and behave, so as not to make the persecuted and politically weak Christian minority in this country feel set-upon with Satan's syllables, "Happy Holidays." Maybe they entice them to the chapel with something festive, like, oh, I don't know, a Herod-shaped pinata filled with Contemporary Christian Music CDs and candied eucharists. Because nothing would say "Christmas" better. Well, except maybe a DVD.

But you know what? I don't think that would work. Honestly, if one is going to make the previously innocuous and friendly phrases "Happy Holidays" and "Merry Christmas" tension-filled code words for political and religious orthodoxy, one damn well better be sure one's shock troops are all in a line. You don't do that by pummeling paper-mache Romans with sticks. You do it with fear. It's not Christmas unless every living Christian soul is in a pew, whether they want to be or not, and it's up to all those Merry Christmas Militants to make it so. Because, you know, there's nothing Christians like better than being told by other people how to practice their religion. That's why that whole Protestant Reformation thing never caught on. Martin Luther. What a silly man he was.

So, to arms, you Merry Christmas Militants! Those lazy no-church-on-Christmas-Sunday so-called "Christians" are making a mockery of your cause and values! Quell these vipers in your midst! I think Bill O'Reilly bludgeoning the pastors of these churches with a peppermint-striped truncheon live on Fox News would be a wholesome and instructive start. It would really show everyone the spirit of the season -- or at the very least, the spirit some folks would like to see applied to the season, and those people are really the only people who count. And they wouldn't want these other "Christians" to make them look bad.

Christmas: If you're not with us, you're against us. Especially if you're Christian. Yes, yes. That's what Jesus was all about.

Posted by john at December 9, 2005 09:07 AM

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Comments

Robert Daeley | December 9, 2005 11:11 AM

"Seasons Greetings!"

"What's that supposed to mean?!"

Season | December 9, 2005 11:33 AM

Whatever the greeter and the greetee individually want it to mean, of course.

Happy Solstice!

Stan Taylor | December 9, 2005 11:56 AM

We lazy, evil mainstream Christians (you know, the ones interested in inclusiveness, etc.)--United Methodist in my case--already skip church on Jesus' birthday, opting instead for Christmas Eve services. But then, according to many other 'Christians', we're already damned. Oh well.


Happy Holidays to all and Merry Christmas to those who care about it!
Stan

Patrick | December 9, 2005 12:02 PM

You might have a different perspective on this issue if you had to cope with it in the corporate world. The large corporation I worked for reprinted the company's annual Christmas card as a "Happy Holidays" card last year at great expense (we had to scrap about 1000 cards) because the champions of political correctness had declared that "Merry Christmas" might "offend" someone.

Although yes, you can trace back the roots of the word "holiday" and it means "holy day" we both know that "Happy Holidays" has become the latest chic PC codeword.

I personally am not a conventionally religious person. However, I prefer Merry Christmas to Happy Holidays for one reason: it defies the political correctness Gestapo.

Kevin Q | December 9, 2005 12:17 PM

Yes, but Patrick, in the war between religious zealots and political-correctness zealots, only one of those groups has never set people on fire. I'd be careful about which group I give too much power to.

Do you go around saying "Happy Birthday" to other people on your birthdate? Then why do you hope somebody has a merry holiday that they don't celebrate?

My favorite take on the issue this year has been this article:
http://www.iht.com/articles/2005/12/07/opinion/edcohen.php
highlighting that "traditionally," religious people tried to downplay or stamp out Christmas celebrations, either because it is too commercial (and this was 80 years ago), or because they were dismayed by its pagan roots and lack of actual connection with the birth of Christ.

K

Stephen H. Segal | December 9, 2005 12:21 PM

If Jesus ever met William Donohoe, he would chase him out of the temple right along with the money-lenders.

John Scalzi | December 9, 2005 12:22 PM

Patrick:

"we both know that 'Happy Holidays' has become the latest chic PC codeword."

No, actually, we both don't know that. People have been saying "Happy Holidays" and "Seasons Greetings" for as long as I can think back on it, generally interchangably with "Merry Christmas."

In a corporate sphere, saying "Happy Holidays" or "Seasons' Greeting" is polite acknowledgement that, in fact, not everyone is a Christian, and I don't necessarily see how acknowledgement of other people's faiths is politically correct more than it's just a nice thing to do.

I certainly see how "some people" may not want to receive cards that say "Merry Christmas" on them, and I might even agree those people are over-sensitive, but on the other hand, if a large company sent out cards that only said "Happy Hanukkah" or (God forbid) "Happy Pagan Solstice," a certain brand of Christian would absolutely hit the roof -- more or less the same brand as the one who is demanding "Merry Christmas" over "Happy Holidays." They're not less attempting their own brand of political correctness, and it's stupid to argue otherwise.

All the Merry Christmas Militants have done is take a generally pleasant and inclusive way to wish every one well and piss all over it because they need petty recognition that their religion is better than everyone else's. That's not fighting poltical correctness, that's just being an asshole. Say what you will about the "politically correct," but at least they were happy with a holiday statement that applies equally to everyone.

As it happens, I also say "Merry Christmas," because it's what I'm used to, not because I'm making a political statment. Making political statements when you should be wishing people well is a piss-poor way to go about things. If you're saying "Merry Christmas" just to fly a rhetorical flag, Patrick, I suggest you re-think saying it at all.

Ian Mathers | December 9, 2005 12:53 PM

I've always said "Happy Holidays" because, well, Christmas, Boxing Day, New Year's Eve. Holidays. It saves time. And it has the added bonus of acknowledging that some people celebrate different things.

I've never met a member of the PC Gestapo - maybe they don't make it up to Canada?

Patrick | December 9, 2005 12:54 PM

John writes: "People have been saying "Happy Holidays" and "Seasons Greetings" for as long as I can think back on it, generally interchangably with "Merry Christmas."

This is true. The problem is not saying Happy Holidays, but rather the notion that "Merry Christmas" has somehow become an evil word.

For years and years, the corporate realm used a variety of holiday greetings: Seasons Greetings, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, etc

As recently as the late 1990s, I saw both sets of expressions (the secular *and* the religious) used in the corporate world. Then suddenly, there was a liberal groupthink that decided, "hey, we can't say Merry Christmas *at all* anymore, because it might *offend someone*." (Perish forbid)

Then every corporation under the sun started reprinting its cards and redoing its holiday campaigns, all for the sake of political correctness.

I don't like the religious right any more than you do, John, but my distaste for PC runs even higher.

And for what its worth--I think it would be pretty cool if someone sent me a Happy Hannukah card, or a Happy Ramadan card, for that matter.

When did everyone become so %$$! sensitive?

Jim | December 9, 2005 01:02 PM

I have to agree with Patrick, that would be interesting. So for this holiday season I am sending out these.

Only to my friends however, I'm not brave enough to send them to my realatives.

John Scalzi | December 9, 2005 01:09 PM

Patrick:

"And for what its worth--I think it would be pretty cool if someone sent me a Happy Hannukah card, or a Happy Ramadan card, for that matter."

Well, and so would I. But then not everyone is as inclusive as we.

I'm no great fan of "political correctness" but I don't think the answer to political correctness is demonizing "happy holidays" or any other genially inclusive phrase. The people who want to say "Merry Christmas" should say it and the people who want to say "Happy Holidays" should say it, and the people on either end of the greeting should receive it in the manner in which it was given. Using either as an acid test for one's political positions is irritating.

M.A. | December 9, 2005 01:16 PM

How about "Have a wonderful whichever winter holiday you celebrate"? Doesn't scan real well, does it...

Karl | December 9, 2005 01:22 PM

Maybe they entice them to the chapel with something festive, like, oh, I don't know, a Herod-shaped pinata

Now, that would be cool!

I know that Christmas technically means Christ's mass (or something like that) but I don't see why we can't keep using the words in a less technical sense. Christmas is a holiday where people celebrate by giving each other presents and/or celebrate the birth of Jesus and/or have fun pretending about a generous guy in red suit and/or whatever. I prefer saying Merry Christmas because it's what I'm used to saying. I don't want that to be code words for saying that I believe in evangelical Christian dogma. I just want to have a good time with my family. However...

I might start saying Merry Solstace just to piss people off or get a laugh.

John Scalzi | December 9, 2005 01:23 PM

Well, M.A., a shorter version of what you suggest would simply be "Happy Holidays."

One point I meant to make but didn't earlier is this one, via Patrick:

"I don't like the religious right any more than you do, John, but my distaste for PC runs even higher."

The irony here is that the religious right has basically stolen the structural rhetoric of the PC movement and put it to use for itself, which is how a conservative Christians can front the idea that Christmas -- a holiday celebrated by 80% of Americans -- is somehow under "attack."

If you dislike PC and its rhetoric, than it difficult to see why you wouldn't like it in the hands of the religious right even less. The annoying PC whine was rooted in the idea of minority views being respected; the annoying religious right whine is rooted in the idea of shoving those minority views back into a hole. The former is a whiner, but the latter is a bully.

Brennan | December 9, 2005 01:26 PM

How is a dogmatic insistence on "Merry Christmas", or a hysterical opposition to "Happy Holidays", anything other than a different brand of political correctness?

Brennan | December 9, 2005 01:28 PM

I hate it when I make a post simultaneously with someone who says the same thing better. *sigh*

rayyy | December 9, 2005 01:37 PM

I think you should just call the person on the phone and say "hello". Still, if you really must send a card with a caption, how about "Peace"? No. Wait a moment. Makes you sound like a hippy. Dang!

Okay, how about "Love"? No. Could be taken c-o-m-p-l-e-t-e-l-y the wrong way!

Well try this then; how about "Understanding"? Since that's what all those twitchy folks need. On no - too many syllables.

All right, how about all three? You know, as in that Elvis Costello song: "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding". Nobody would know what to make of it, so no one would be offended.

Do I win? Do I win?

Andrew Wade | December 9, 2005 01:38 PM

When did everyone become so %$$! sensitive?

Sigh. I guess there is a culture war, and we're all expected to pick sides. I'm happy to fight culture wars and all, but the existance of God and the status of Yeshua son of Yosef just ain't my battle. Making room for people of all faiths is, but I don't see "Merry Christmas" as that big a deal on that score.

JohnL | December 9, 2005 01:55 PM

Hi John. Have you seen this site?

JC's GirlsGirlsGirls.

I have reviewed it and am fairly certain it's not a Landover-Baptist-style parody.

I see some growth potential here for a completely new genre of Contemporary Christian DVDs.

Cassie | December 9, 2005 01:58 PM

There seems to be some thought that pagan holidays were instituted in response to Christmas, not the other way around as is commonly thought.

http://www.worldmag.com/subscriber/displayarticle.cfm?id=11344

Cassie

Nat Lanza | December 9, 2005 01:58 PM

The term 'political correctness' really doesn't have any meaning anymore other than "argument about courtesy I don't agree with and therefore must trivialize".

If you like the argument that's being presented, then it's just good common sense, but if you don't like it, then it's hideous hidebound political correctness and probably the work of those durned libruls.

Sure, it's a bit picky to complain about the wording of a company's holiday greeting, but how on earth does it make sense for a company to intentionally pick wording that they know will offend people? That's just not smart business in any way.

Andrew Wade | December 9, 2005 02:11 PM

Sure, it's a bit picky to complain about the wording of a company's holiday greeting, but how on earth does it make sense for a company to intentionally pick wording that they know will offend people?

That's a lost cause. Even if a company manages to come up with a greeting that merely acknowledges that the recipient may not be a Christian (aside from wishing the recipient Happiness/Good Cheer/Whatever of course), that would be enough to offend some people. But at least the right people would be offended.

John H | December 9, 2005 03:18 PM

Ironically, JC may not have been born in December, and if Biblical accounts are to be believed then the year we attribute as 1AD would have been several years after his birth. So, Merry Christmas (whenever that really is)!

As a side note, I happen to live about five miles from the Willow Creek complex and even have a friend that attends services there every week. She has asked me a few times to go with her and I have politely refused. That's the last place I want to be associated with...

Bob | December 9, 2005 03:31 PM

That's not fighting poltical correctness, that's just being an asshole.

A good and important point.

Many years ago, before the phrase "political correctness" made the scene, people would say stupid or bigoted things, and the appropriate response would be "You're an asshole," or perhaps, "You're a bigoted asshole." Needless to say, this was displeasing to assholes everywhere, bigoted or otherwise.

The notion of political correctness was a godsend to these folks. Now they could respond to charges of assholery by saying, "You're just being politically correct." In other words, you are criticizing me for saying something you secretly believe, but lack the courage to say. This simple tactic has resurrected the asshole cause and given it strength.

It's time to fight back, I say. If someone falsely accuses you of being politically correct, say it loud and say it proud: "No, really, you're just being an asshole." The future of our country may depend on it.

jess | December 9, 2005 03:36 PM

As one of the people who supposedly is "killing Christmas with pc-ness" frankly I've gotten to a state of not caring if people wish me either "Merry Christmas" "Happy Holidays" or "Happy Hannukah" whatever they say the meaning is pretty much the same. I just wish this kind of spirit could be co-opted all year 'round and not just during December.

Patrick | December 9, 2005 03:36 PM

Being "anti-PC" is so irksome. Whenever anyone tries to be inclusive, tries to take into account the feelings or beliefs of others, they're labeled "PC" and thus, ineffectual hippy sissies. The rebound from this means that people get a free pass to say anything foul or offensive about a group of people and it's considered "edgy" or somehow more free.

josh | December 9, 2005 04:25 PM

There seems to be some thought that pagan holidays were instituted in response to Christmas, not the other way around as is commonly thought.

http://www.worldmag.com/subscriber/displayarticle.cfm?id=11344

Cassie

Um, don't you think a christian magazine claiming christians didn't try to subvert an existing holiday may be vaguely biased? Now granted, modern pagans for the most part have almost no similarities with the pagan religions of the time (Wiccans claiming to have the oldest religion apparently don't realize there were other religions 50 years ago too) and get their share of facts wrong (the salem witch trials, the burning times in europe, etc), but there is quite a bit of scholarly evidence that support them in their claim that Christmas happens to correspond to Yule for a very specific reason. When a Christian magazine says "nuh uh" I don't think you can rely on that particular source as being objective in their evaluation. Also, considering that there are a large percentage of U.S. Christians that fervently push the notion that the founding fathers were all christian despite conclusive evidence that most were not I don't think you can trust any version of history asserted by them (save for, ironically, the modern Catholic church who has been very truthful about what has happened in their history recently).

On the subject at hand I could really care less about anything the season is called. I was raised as a scientist and humanist, most of my friends are either agnostic, athiest, or pagan, but generally I refer to the day as Christmas anyway (well, when I am not cynically calling it consumerday. Festivus is pretty good too). Now granted, it may be my very lack or religious belief that causes me to accept just about any name for the day, since no name really contridicts a holy day I believe in. I work with an Isreali, hang out with a coven leader fairly often, and neither seems off put by the name Christmas, but I can see people who might.

Heck, how is being opposed to the name christmas because it doesn't recognize a particular belief any different from being opposed to the term happy holidays because it doesn't recognize a particular belief? It seems that everyone is just a tad too sensitive, that happy holidays is the best compromise for all religious beliefs, and, as Jon Stewart points out, many Christians also celebrate New Years, also a holiday this time of year, necessitating a plural use of the word when describing the season.

Scott | December 9, 2005 04:30 PM

The real war for Christmas has moved dramatically in my favor this year.

I saw no Xmas Decorations before Halloween. There, I'm satisfied. Things could be better, but seriously I only saw a minimal amount of Christmas stuff before Thanksgiving.

And Old Navy made an annoying though amusing commercial about holiday greetings. It seemed to make a huge splash on the pop-cultural awareness radar last year.

D.F. Manno | December 9, 2005 05:33 PM

One wingnut Christian finished his "war on Christmas screed with this:

Don’t bother writing me to tell me all about the Pagan origins of Christmas, Christmas trees, December 25, etc. I’ve heard it all before and I’m not interested. For the Christian, Christmas is about Jesus Christ and Christ alone.

In other words, don't confuse him with facts, because he'd rather be ignorant and wrong.

JonathanMoeller | December 9, 2005 05:34 PM

No worries. Few people actually celebrate Christmas, or a Holy-Day of any sort, but instead offer libations for the Festival of Mammon Triumphant.

But you can't go around saying "Yea, may you suckle long at the wealth-giving teat of Golden Mammon, he without charity or mercy or remorse". So "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" provide a socially acceptable alternative, just as "excuse me" is a polite way to say "move your arse".

handdrummer | December 9, 2005 06:48 PM

As a secular humanist, I celebrate Isaac Newton's birthday on Dec. 25. But I don't demand Newton's Mas cards from friends and family.

Nor am I offended when given a happyholidays/merrychristmas/happyhanukkah/seasonsgreetings/coolyule wish. I take the goodwill and run with it.

As should we all.

Anonymous | December 9, 2005 08:05 PM

To respond particularly to Patrick's feeling that corporations are being bullied into sending happy holidays cards:

As an atheist, etc., I am also not offended when people wish me a "Merry Christmas." My family (I was raised as an atheist) celebrates Christmas... or at least, we celebrate giving each other gifts and seeing family. I appreciate being given greetings acknowledging any of a variety of cultures or traditions - however, I think there may be a difference between being given a Christmas card by a friend, and, say, being given a Christmas card by the public school system which isn't supposed to endorse any particular religion. For a friend to give me a Christmas card is an acknowledgement of their particular way of celebrating, that's fine. But an institution, like the public school system, should acknowledge the diverse make-up of its students, and not try to impose an American-equals-Christian idea on them, I feel. Since most corporate communications are meant to represent an organization instead of an individual, I feel that they're also on shaky ground, although there are probably subtle lines here also - for instance, corporations that have a specifically Christian identity.

Rachel | December 9, 2005 08:05 PM

Oops. Didn't mean to post the last comment anonymously.

Patrick | December 9, 2005 09:02 PM

Rachel wrote:

"To respond particularly to Patrick's feeling that corporations are being bullied into sending happy holidays cards:

As an atheist, etc., I am also not offended when people wish me a "Merry Christmas." My family (I was raised as an atheist) celebrates Christmas..."
******
Exactly: Christmas is a holiday that long ago acquired a distinctly secular significance *in addition to* its religious meaning. Even Ayn Rand--a devoted atheist--wrote that it was fine for a self-respecting atheist to celebrate X-mas.

When I mentioned the corporate "Merry Christmas" cards which have now become verboten, I might have noted that I never saw one with a manger scene or any other explicit religious imagery. This was "the polite acknowledgement that, in fact, not everyone is a Christian" which John mentioned. But because a vocal minority chose to make an issue out of the word "Christmas", we now have one more area of life in which we must heighten our *sensitivity* yet another notch, and speak in PC-babble.

As I noted above, I wouldn't be offended by receiving a Happy Hannukah or a Happy Ramadan card. I was in Asia once with some people who happened to be Buddhist, and for reasons which are too lengthy to be detailed here, I ended up attending a Buddhist prayer service. It didn't kill me--and no one who is an atheist, Buddhist, Muslim, Jew, etc. is going to be harmed or legitimately offended by a "Merry Christmas" card, either.

As another person noted, the religious right has indeed borrowed political correctness tactics. I remember a situation a few years ago, when a lingerie show was going to be broadcast on CBS. The busybodies among the religious right framed their argument in much the same terms as the PC crowd: someone might choose to be offended, so therefore the world would end. (Note that, ironically, several feminist groups joined the protest--their shorts were equally in a bind over the underwear infomercial.)

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/news/archive/2002/11/19/financial1601EST0216.DTL

I guess my final point here is that if you really look hard enough, you can find endless ways to be offended about practically anything--and that is what political correctness movement is all about. If the religious right is adopting PC tactics, they are merely borrowing methods that have been quite successful in our society for the past decade and a half.


emeraldcite | December 9, 2005 09:43 PM

If there's one thing I've learned it is that you can't argue with faith because, by definition, faith is belief without the necessity of proof.

You just can't argue that even with solid logic. That's why some who have absolute "faith" can do hypocritical things. Pat Robertson is a case in point.

In the end, God is mysterious or it's in the bible (even when it clearly isn't). Or my personal favorite: my pastor said it's true...

No amount of logic or science can change that...but how can you argue when the bible is treated like a cherry tree?

Phillip J. Birmingham | December 9, 2005 10:31 PM

When I mentioned the corporate "Merry Christmas" cards which have now become verboten

Or, more accurately, "when I made up the bit about corporate 'Merry Christmas' cards becoming verboten."

The bullshit you're peddling would probably sell better during the growing season.

Patrick | December 9, 2005 11:06 PM

Phillip J. Birmingham wrote:

"When I mentioned the corporate "Merry Christmas" cards which have now become verboten.
Or, more accurately, "when I made up the bit about corporate 'Merry Christmas' cards becoming verboten."

I am guessing that you are either unemployed or too young to hold a job. (Your gratuitous insertion of the word "bullshit" leads me to conclude the latter.) The fact that corporations have done away with the word "Christmas" in recent years over the Happy Holidays flap is simply a fact.

John Scalzi | December 9, 2005 11:13 PM

Well, you're asserting it as fact. What proof do you offer? If you don't have actual proof, then it's an anecdotal assertion, which is an entirely different thing. This is, I suspect, the meat of Mr. Birmingham's complaint.

Nevertheless, as you've just asserted it as fact, I am personally interested in the proof. Can you show verifiable data the show "Christmas" has been made a forbidden word in persuasive manner? Isolated incidents of PC-freak-out probably shouldn't count; we're talking stated corporate policy here.

What would also be interesting to know (but which I doubt you would be able to find data for) is whether any corporate decisions to avoid the word "Christmas" for a more generic "Holiday" were made in an anti-Christian fashion, or were designed to just be generally more inclusive. After all, if one is to suggest a "war" is on, one needs to find an anti-Christian intent. Confusing a more inclusive word use with a slap against Christians in general is both almost certainly not accurate and also indicative of a persecuted mindset entirely removed from reality, and it asks the question of why the rest of us should suffer for a certain brand of Christian's paranoid delusions.

Patrick | December 9, 2005 11:37 PM

John:

"Well, you're asserting it as fact. What proof do you offer? If you don't have actual proof, then it's an anecdotal assertion, which is an entirely different thing. This is the, I suspect, the meat of Mr. Birmingham's complaint.


Here is one article:

http://www.jacksonvillepatriot.com/Pages/12-07-05/Some.htm

This is also official corporate policy for Proctor & Gamble. Last year Macy's had a "no Merry Christmas policy" as well.

There are indeed more..Most companies are simply changing the name of the former "Christmas party" to the "Holiday Party" and making changes in their corporate seasons greetings, as I noted above.

Since seasonal corporate correspondence and event planning is usually handled by a single department (external affairs, corporate planning, etc.) these changes are usually handled within those departments.

In other words, I am not suggesting that a new line is being added to the company handbook explicitly forbidding the word Christmas (except, perhaps, in the case of Walmart/Macy's etc.). However, the corporate elite are making these changes to put companies in line with the latest holiday PC. (Do you know anyone who works for a large corporation who isn't attending a "company holiday party" this year rather than a "company Christmas party"--which was the case just a few years ago.

Patrick | December 9, 2005 11:42 PM

John writes:

"What would also be interesting to know (but which I doubt you would be able to find data for) is whether any corporate decisions to avoid the word "Christmas" for a more generic "Holiday" were made in an anti-Christian fashion, or were designed to just be generally more inclusive. After all, if one is to suggest a "war" is on, one needs to find an anti-Christian intent."

I don't think that corporate leaders are making these changes due to any personal anti-Christian leanings. I think that this is done to head off charges of being "offensive"--which brings us back to the vocal PC minority that starts all this nonsense.

Companies lean PC because if you don't lean PC, the next thing you know, you have a throng of protestors threatening to boycott your products. Remember the recent silliness over Abercrombie and Fitch.

John Scalzi | December 9, 2005 11:46 PM

The article you just linked also has this relevant quote:

"Cunningham also pointed out that 'Happy Holidays' does not directly exclude Christmas, but refers to all holidays at the end of the year, including Thanksgiving and New Year’s."

Which goes to my point that being inclusive of other holidays does not mean being exclusive of Christmas, and that people who think that it does probably need to get a grip. And again, one wonders why the desire to be inclusive to toward all deserves to be derisively labelled "PC." You seem to think companies strive toward inclusiveness largely to avoid being seen as intolerant; I rather think they strive toward inclusiveness because being tolerant is good business in an increasingly diverse market, both with customers and in employees (The A&F reference, incidentally, is not a good one, as A&F goes out of its way to court controversy as cheap publicity; making fun of Asians doesn't hurt its core market of white frat rats).

That being said, calling Christmas trees "Holiday Trees" is pretty idiotic, so it's nice Lowe's has switched back to the more common referent.

Patrick | December 10, 2005 12:07 AM

"You seem to think companies strive toward inclusiveness largely to avoid being seen as intolerant; I rather think they strive toward inclusiveness because being tolerant is good business in an increasingly diverse market, both in customers and in employees."

John: I know from reading your background that you have been mostly self-employed in recent years. (And more power to you for this.) I have spent the past 15 years in large corporations, and I do have a different perspective:

The so-called "inclusiveness" has become a witch-hunt of sorts..In my industry, the switch from "Merry Christmas" to "Happy Holidays" was very sudden, and obviously motivated by a cynical attempt to appeal to political correctness.

As for A&F: I was referring to the recent shirts targeted at college-aged females.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/05340/617917.stm

Yes, the shirts were dumb, but hardly the end of Western Civilization. This was, incidently, another case in which the religious right and the PC left joined forces to make much too much ado over nothing.


John Scalzi | December 10, 2005 12:24 AM

I am self-employed, yes. However a significant chunk of my income is from consulting for large corporations, primarily in the Internet and financial services fields, so it would be inaccurate to say I'm not aware of business trends, particularly as they involve corporate messaging, since it is one of the things I consult on, on a regular basis (and quite profitably, I might add).

I don't doubt a switch from one sort of messaging to the next came quickly, but it doesn't mean that it was "cynical" -- rather a realization it was a sound business practice, and once a few vanguard corporations did it, others followed suit. Nothing necessarily sinister about it at all.

A good parallel example was the extension of spousal benefits to lifetime partners of gay and lesbian employees; there was a rash of companies suddenly offering spousal benefits, not simply because it was a "PC" thing to do but because it was good business (i.e., many excellent potential employees were gay or lesbian, and offering those spousal benefits gave companies a relative competitive advantage for their services). Of course (and not to suggest this of you, Patrick), many of the people who decry "Happy Holidays" also decry spousal benefits for gays and lesbians, and would be liable to declare such simply a PC cave-in as well.

Which is to say a number of good business decisions may also run parallel to what people perceive is "PC," but this isn't the same as saying that these business decisions are always made with "being PC" as a primary motivation.

Phillip J. Birmingham | December 10, 2005 12:29 AM

I am guessing that you are either unemployed or too young to hold a job. (Your gratuitous insertion of the word "bullshit" leads me to conclude the latter.)

Wait, wait -- the guy who has a beef with "political correctness" is bitching about my use of the word bullshit? Meet the new boss, same as the old boss, I guess.

Now, since you're obviously so familiar with the corporate world, you probably realize that most corporations aren't merely trying to avoid offending potential customers. No, they're trying to make potential customers feel welcome. That's a much higher bar to clear, and if the demographics were such that putting "Hail Satan" on Christmas cards seemed to be the best bet, I'll give you one guess as to what these cards would say. If they could, they'd send "Merry Christmas" to you, Bill O'Reilly and anybody else who really cares, "Happy Hannukah" to the customers who'd most appreciate that, "Hail Satan" to the Satan lovers, and a fat roll of Benjamins to me. They can't (hell, it might not even be legal to collect the data you'd need to do that) so they go with "Happy Holidays," which frankly is only offensive to people looking to be offended.

So, if you think that "political correctness" is behind the "Happy Holidays" cards that corporations seem to always send out, well, you don't really have any business accusing others of naivete concerning the corporate world.

And yeah, Mr. Scalzi, the meat of my complaint is that a lot of the "evidence" presented as part of the "War On Christmas" song and dance is anecdotal. The savory gravy atop this meat is that some of it is also inaccurate.

Last year, when the whine was just getting started, I read someone complaining about the Post Office's "Holiday Traditional" stamp, and how it was another blow against Christmas. Now, this is the stamp that featured a painting of the Madonna and Child, and the word "CHRISTMAS" in caps across the top. Not everybody who has a beef shows such poor attention to detail, obviously.

(BTW, I can't say I mind being called Mr. Birmingham, but I also don't mind being called Phillip.)

Andrew Wade | December 10, 2005 01:16 AM

I think that this is done to head off charges of being "offensive"--which brings us back to the vocal PC minority that starts all this nonsense.

Hi, I'm a member of of the PC minority, nice to meet you. No, I am serious; though I think that political correctness can sometimes get a bit silly, I definitely go along with the basic idea. And the basic idea is _not_ to avoid being offensive. Rather, the basic idea is that the words we choose can reinforce biases and prejudices that we may not even know we have. Such as "everyone's a Christian". Or "everyone's a man". Put that way, the biases sound silly, and they are. But, but, human minds are strange messy things that often have very little to do with rationality. Political correctness, to me[1], is a method for combatting some of these biases in myself and others through the use of language. Yes, that is rather Orwellian: thought control through the use of language. But what the critics of PC miss is that language will mold thought whether we design it to do so intentionally or not. Sure, the end result of PC tends to be inoffensive language, but that's because some of the biases and prejudices being combatted are offensive, not because inoffensiveness is the aim. Now for companies, you are probably correct that inoffensiveness is the aim (in which case PC would be merely a tool to that end). Still, whatever the motivation may be, I don't see the harm in companies using politically correct language.

[1] As the term "political correctness" started out as self-depreciating humor, and was then adopted to attack the movement, what it means is rather subject to interpretation.

On another note, it is not just lefties like myself who use language in this way. Ironically, "You're being politically correct" is a very newspeak/Orwellian thing to say, rolling easily off the tongue with no thought required. Almost the perfect example of ducktalking. Although the language is different from newspeak in other ways: In newspeak "politically correct" would be a neutral term, aquiring value from which "side" it was applied to. I think our language is actually better for supporting doublethink than newspeak: there's no indication in our language that Freedom Fighters are Terrorists. Or that business/citizen/whatever coalitions are "special interest groups" are lobby groups. Or that Guantanamo bay is, in fact, a concentration camp. (That last bit of doublethink is thankfully being challenged, though no-one seems to be using the c-word. However, the torture that the U.S. is employing is being called for what it is. There is hope.).

Eric Berlin | December 10, 2005 08:48 AM

Yikes! Maybe there really is a war on Christmas.

Karen | December 10, 2005 10:43 AM

I don't think "Happy Holidays" is merely the PC version of "Merry Christmas" - as The Daily Show pointed out recently it also pulls double duty by covering the "Happy New Year" base. (Have you ever heard "We wish you Happy Holidays and a happy new year"?)

I say "Happy Holidays" out of plain laziness: it can be said at any time to anyone and I don't have to pause and think, well, my boss may be ethnically Jewish but she isn't really religious, so maybe I shouldn't wish her a specific "Happy Hanukkah" if she does Christmas with her husband and kids.

DonBoy | December 10, 2005 11:41 AM

Patrick:

Companies lean PC because if you don't lean PC, the next thing you know, you have a throng of protestors threatening to boycott your products.

Note that the only actual boycotts in this area are being organized by people who are offended by the words "Happy Holidays"; I've never heard of even a threatened boycott of a store for saying "Merry Christmas".

Also, I'm confident that you, Patrick, don't feel this way, but there are plenty of people who would read your phrase "the vocal PC minority that starts all this nonsense", and know exactly which vocal minority is to blame for all of this -- you know, the ones who have that other holiday which (this year) also starts on Dec. 25th. From David Neiwert's blog:

And perhaps it's worth remembering, as well, that we've heard complaints similar to O'Reilly's current jihad about non-Christians wanting to "do away" with Christmas before. Long before. Why, back in the 1930s, none other than Henry Ford was making nearly identical complaints:

"And it has become pretty general. Last Christmas most people had a hard time finding Christmas cards that indicated in any way that Christmas commemorated Someone's Birth. Easter they will have the same difficulty in finding Easter cards that contain any suggestion that Easter commemorates a certain event. There will be rabbits and eggs and spring flowers, but a hint of the Resurrection will be hard to find. Now, all this begins with the designers of the cards."
Where was this text located? Why, in The International Jew, of course.
It is, as they say, the elephant in the living room in this controversy, which is why I'm furious at the people who've decided to make it a big deal -- they must know what buttons it pushes. From last year, here's one headlined The Jewish Grinch Who Stole Christmas, from a guy who proves that there are Jews willing to engage in straight-out antisemitism:
When it comes to pushing the multicultural, anti-Christian agenda, you find Jewish judges, Jewish journalists, and the American Civil Liberties Union, at the forefront.
(Hat tip to No More Mr. Nice Blog on that one.) Again, that isn't anyone in this particular discussion, but let's not lose sight of what's getting stirred up here.

mythago | December 10, 2005 03:53 PM

"Politically correct" is what you call somebody winning an argument with a conservative.

Anonymous | December 10, 2005 04:13 PM

But because a vocal minority chose to make an issue out of the word "Christmas"

The vocal minority making an issue out of the word "Christmas" are the people trying to force corporations to use it, and the ones decrying the illusory "war on Christmas." The rest of us have no problem with it.

When I was a paper boy sending out Christmas cards to my customers, I deliberately chose cards without religious themes. Since this was 1974, long before anybody had even heard of the term "political correctness," my chocie had nothing to do with PC and everything to do with wishing customers who might not be Christians a happy holiday.

ET | December 11, 2005 04:17 AM

I'll just wish you guys Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays and that the annoyance either way will not be on your mind when the holiday (whichever it is) does come.

I actually wish I'd get to see Christmas celebrated one day, in a country which celebrates it (like the US).

JC | December 11, 2005 12:32 PM

At the end of the day, what I find disturbing about the war on the so-called war on Christmas is that no one has explained exactly why "Happy Holidays" is so awful. At the end of the day, what is so bad about being inclusive and making as many people feel welcome as possible? (Also, aren't these the same people who decry the commercialization of Christmas?)

The only rationale that I can come up is somewhat offensive to those who insist on "Merry Christmas." It would require that they be terminally incapable of realizing or recognizing that there are other faiths with their own methods of worship and traditions. It would require that they think the world is composed solely of Christians and evildoers who would seek to ostracize Christmas and make it The Holiday Which Dares Not Speak Its Name.

On one hand, I'm not sure what level of megalomania you would need to think that there was some sort of global conspiracy to get rid the world of the word "Christmas." On the other hand, these may be the same people who abhor the abbreviation Xmas because they think "it takes the Christ out of Christmas" (never mind that the "X" is the Greek chi).

Hmm... maybe this is where I should have gone for the BHSFC issue rather than the time travel to meet Jesus story I did submit.

Jeff VanderMeer | December 11, 2005 12:48 PM

When I starting dating Ann, who is now my wife, I quickly learned that "Merry Christmas" can be extremely hurtful and annoying to Jews (Ann's Jewish). I changed over to "Happy Holidays" because it is more inclusive and because it was a politeness thing. I didn't do it to be politically correct but to show respect for the people I was talking to and interacting with. It was no big deal to me then and it's not a big deal to me now.

n fact, I'm adament about "Happy Holidays" because invariably when someone *does* say Merry Christmas to me these days it's a right wing fundamentalist nutjob who is going out of their way to say it as a kind of propaganda, proselytizing thing.

You know, it's such a small thing to say "Happy Holidays", but it can be a big sign of respect and politeness and of being able to be empathic to other people.

JeffV

Patrick | December 11, 2005 01:21 PM

Mythago writes:

"Politically correct" is what you call somebody winning an argument with a conservative.

No, "politically correct" is what I would call someone with a sheep herd mentality. I follow the posts on this site regularly, and it is amazing how often you all *independently* come up with the exact same conclusions.

(Note: I don't apply this John Scalzi himself--who I would label as a left-leaning centrist. But I have never seen Mythago respond with anything other than a knee-jerk liberal response.)

mythago | December 11, 2005 01:24 PM

No, "politically correct" is what I would call someone with a sheep herd mentality

As long as they are liberals, that is.

I am, as always, amused at being labeled a 'liberal'. I guess when you can only see black and white, blue and red look exactly the same.

Steve Chambers | December 11, 2005 01:33 PM

John,

As always, fun, enjoyable and funny. And I don't even have to pay for a paper (the book tax is gladly payed!)

But reading the latest and only a few of the comments makes me think that here at scalzi.com you might be (ahem) preaching to the choir.

It seems to me (uh oh, generalizing) that people inclined to reading the blog of an up and coming SF writer might (just MIGHT) be the kind with better critical thinking faculties and are easily able to call Bravo Sierra when rabid fundies, and other knee-jerkers start bitching about how their religion is being marginalized.

All I have to say is talk to a Jew on Christmas or any other non-christian religious denomination of your choice and see how they feel.

For me saying "Happy Holidays" is a heartfelt way of wishing someone a Good Day. Albiet one that lasts longer than a day. Without assuming any kind of religious belief.

I am not especially religious (runs in the family) but I do have Jewish friends who do grimace at Merry Christmas. So what is so damn wrong with attempting to be NICE when you are extending NICE wishes for a holiday season?

As usual (woo hoo, more generalization!) there seems to be a vocal minority who is complaining that the language and usage is changing.

Language changes.

Usage changes.

Deal with it and grow the *&%@@#! up!

Tina K. | December 11, 2005 01:37 PM

I'm late and the conversation has not gone this direction, but here I go. I didn't see any links addressing this, so maybe I'm wrong, but I submit that those who are boycotting and combatting the "war on Christmas" are not the same ones not having church on Christmas. I am employed by my church (American Baptist demonination). It qualifies as a "megachurch" (whatever this means) but we don't usually refer to ourselves this way. I have heard literally nothing from the leadership even mentioning the "Merry Christmas" vs "Happy Holidays" hubbub. It is a non-issue for us.


We are having church on Christmas, one service instead of three, but we're doing it. There was discussion about not doing it because, honestly, there won't be many people attending. Also, by the time Christmas arrives we will have had eight extra "special services" for Christmas including two on Christmas Eve. The pastors, musicians, nursery workers, volunteers will be just about spent and exhausted on Christmas morning. Our Christmas morning service will be a low-key, family service; but I can totally understand the churches that cancel services.


Anyway, I think the two segments: Christmas service cancellers and "Happy Holiday" boycotters are probably two different groups. At least that's my own personal experience.

John Scalzi | December 11, 2005 01:40 PM

Steve Chambers:

"But reading the latest and only a few of the comments makes me think that here at scalzi.com you might be (ahem) preaching to the choir."

Well, you know: I write what I want and people are free to agree or disagree as they will. I don't write her to pander to the audience; I write here to amuse myself and to say things that are on my mind. And not everyone in the "choir" is singing the same song.

John Scalzi | December 11, 2005 01:49 PM

Tina K.:

"Christmas service cancellers and 'Happy Holiday' boycotters are probably two different groups. At least that's my own personal experience."

Indeed, the entry to which this comment thread is attached is predicated on that very notion.

mythago | December 11, 2005 07:31 PM

Steve, you have SO not spent much time around SF fans...

Tina K. | December 12, 2005 12:10 AM

You're right, John. It makes more sense when I don't scroll down one paragraph to far...

My duh.

Phillip J. Birmingham | December 12, 2005 09:08 AM

it is amazing how often you all *independently* come up with the exact same conclusions.

Maybe it's because we're mindless sheep bleating the same tune. Maybe it's because the conclusions are obvious, and you're an idiot.

I can see evidence for both sides.

We, after all, don't argue among ourselves all that much, which is something of a herd-like behavior.

But you used the term "PC Gestapo" with a straight face, which is something only an idiot would do.

Who knows?

dichroic | December 12, 2005 01:56 PM

Happy New Year. Last I heard, that's something everyone celebrates (even those of us who *also* observe a different religious calendar).

The problem I have with the term "political correctness is that while many people use it to mean "you're being senstive to the point of silliness", quite a few hide behind their banner and use it to mean, "you're infringing on my right to be a bigoted ass". Given a choice, I'll risk being silly if it means avoiding the sorts of prejudice that can have really painful consequences for people unable to defend themselves.

DPWally | December 12, 2005 04:00 PM

How about a compromise law:

From December 23-25, "Merry Christmas" is a compulsory greeting. Every conversation must start with it, every storefront must be plastered with it, every corporate communication signed with it. Every song and every advertisement must be a Christmas carol or derivative.

Before December 23, that phrase and carol derivatives are forbidden.

I'd be willing to put up with 2 days of compulsory Christmas to get rid of the 3-month Christmas season.

Bob Smietana | December 12, 2005 05:29 PM

John

The churches that have cancelled Christmas services are not the kind to get into the 'war of Christmas' idiocy. Most of them are actually having large Christmas Eve services, when people--Christian and non Christian alike--are most likely to show up. The KC Star wrote a great editorial about Christians who are in such as rush to be "offended" that they forget the "peace of earth good will towards men (and women)" part of Christmas.

Megachurches aren't for me, but in this case, I think they're getting a bad wrap.

John Scalzi | December 12, 2005 05:33 PM

Bob Smietana:

"The churches that have cancelled Christmas services are not the kind to get into the 'war of Christmas' idiocy."

Once again: I know. The entry is predicated on that notion.

jghodd | December 13, 2005 05:35 PM

plainly the cancellation of xmas-day services and the "war on xmas" are 2 very different subjects. the former is for reasons of practicality, the latter of petty self-righteousness. i really don't think i can personally add much to the existent mix, but i would like to direct y'all to the blog entry of this lady, who i think is an excellent writer and who wrote a pretty decent entry on the subject of the war on xmas:

http://www.livejournal.com/users/leighdb/115603.html

enjoy, and merry solstice.

John Scalzi | December 13, 2005 07:48 PM

jghodd:

"plainly the cancellation of xmas-day services and the 'war on xmas' are 2 very different subjects."

Good frickin' lord, how many times in a row do I have to say I know this, and that the entry is predicated on that notion?!? Please at least the comments immediately preceding your own, people.

marty | December 14, 2005 01:01 AM

Some of this is funny stuff.
ehh.. i had more to say, but a lot is just repeated above anyway.
Oh, another datapoint of a sort... some current affairs program the other night has a "tomorrow.. the company where Christmas is banned!" as a leader for the next day. I haven't seen the follow up but I'm assuming it's more of the same -- a Company that assumes that someone, somewhere, will be offended by "Christmas".

ajay | December 14, 2005 07:59 AM

Christmas: If you're not with us, you're against us. Especially if you're Christian. Yes, yes. That's what Jesus was all about.

Yes, it was, actually. Matthew 12:30. "Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters." (New International Version) The identical remark is in Luke 11:23.

And it's quite appropriate for this topic as well: he goes on to say "And so I tell you, people will be forgiven every sin and blasphemy. But blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come...For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned."


John Scalzi | December 14, 2005 09:59 AM

However, Ajay, this does not suggest He would countenance the current "War Against Christmas" nonsense. Since we're quoting from Matthew, let us examine chapter six, verses five and six:

"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

There's something that warms the heart about the idea of Bill O'Reilly having received his reward in full, I'd say.

DPWally | December 14, 2005 12:25 PM

Activist Judge Cancel Christmas



http://www.theonion.com/content/node/43438

DPWally | December 14, 2005 12:28 PM

Typos and formatting errors. Let's try that again.


Activist Judge Cancels Christmas

http://www.theonion.com/content/node/43438

ajay | December 14, 2005 12:28 PM

Oh, I agree. The whole 'whited sepulchre', 'sounding brass and tinkling cymbal' thing is underemphasised by a lot of self-proclaimed Christians. "Be humble and quiet and do good stuff" is difficult for them to come to terms with.
Just wanted to point out that "either you're with us or against us" was originated neither by GWB nor by the scriptwriters of 'Magnum Force' but by the New Testament.

newscaper | December 17, 2005 02:16 PM

The whole megachurch thing is pretty grotesque anyway, and in this case wonderfully ironic.

I'm annoyed about the "Holiday" PC-blandness in place of Christmas (secular or religious version) in the same way that I am about Halloween becoming "Harvest Festival". In the latter case some of the bible thumpers are using the methods pioneered by leftist PC types to play their own game.

A pox on all of them. The loser in each case is the majority middle American popular culture.
Inclusiveness and even a dollop of "senitivity" are great for our society, but these days the majority is somehow guilty for simply existing. It's only a few Western countries that try to sweep their own predominant cultural traditions under the rug so thoroughly.

At the same time it is being whittled away, our elementary schools bend over backwards for things like the artificial Kwanzaa (which most *black* children don't even observe but for the schools indoctinating them). Or even trendier, getting deep into Islam through Ramadan, covering its religious beliefs in some depth while any discussion of Christmas is purely Santa Claus traditions. When studying all the different winter holidays celebrated, the simple objective factual statement that "in Christmas Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, whom they believe is the son of God" is pretty much verboten in public elemntary schools.
It's cultural suicide.
My wife teaches first grade.

DPWally | December 19, 2005 11:06 AM

newscaper:

There's a big difference between "in Christmas Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, whom they believe is the son of God"

and "in Christmas Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, the son of God"

or "in Christmas we celebrate the birth of our lord Jesus Christ"

The first is clearly permitted, unless the school board has its head up its collective butt. Unfortunately, before people started objecting, the other two were much more common.

Penne | January 2, 2006 07:31 PM

Happy New Year -- don't know how I managed to miss this entire discussion, but I made my mark on last year's (albeit belated.) Enjoyed the banter over the holiday hullabaloo -- both times. Learned a lot, believe it or not!

All the best to you & yours ~

Bruce | November 26, 2006 09:53 PM

I'm sorry it took me a year to respond, but I really had to think over the issue. Now that a year has past, most department stores have thrown in the towel and now wish customers a Merry Christmas.

I don't mean to get on the case of Best Buy, but I won't buy at Best Buy this Christmas. Instead, I'll say "Bye, bye!" and sing my new song, protesting their decision to ban Christmas greetings from their ad campaign:

Best Buy Inn
words and music by Dr. BLT (c) 2006
http://www.drblt.net/music/BestBI.mp3

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