09012014Headline:

Christmas War?

Fox News, that bastion of calm, intelligent, considered, insightful, non-reactionary, middle-ground news presentation and analysis, has had Clayton Morris, one of its co-hosts, lambast the perceived “war on Christmas”. By this, I’m sure you are aware, he means the constant news stories that show Christian values being removed from Christian festivals. For instance, Christmas trees have been renamed ‘holiday trees’, nativity displays are being stopped at some schools and Christmas as a title is supposedly being rejected for ‘Winter Festival’ and other such PC names. Morris said that he was “so angry about this war” and was fed up with the perceived ‘silliness’ of atheists.

He was surprised that when his co-host Alisyn Camerota asked Father Jonathon Morris, the channel’s religion contributor, for his thoughts on the matter, he didn’t get the supportive harking of his herald.

“The reason I’m not angry is that — yes I think it’s silly, it’s out of place for people to dedicate so much energy to try to get rid of Christmas scenes like this — the good news is when Christianity has been persecuted, when it has been outlawed, when people have died for this faith, it hasn’t gone away,” said Father Morris, known for his conservative views. “And everybody has an opportunity to make sure that their faith does not go away in this Christmas season and to live that faith as a family, as a community.”

So the Morrises did agree but Father Morris was not going to embark on war because of his sado-masochistic view of Christians needing to undergo persecution in order to live by their faith. Whether the removal of Christian values in secular environments counts as persecution, I’m not sure, but it’s nice to see him not being angry because Jesus spoke of love, not anger (though he did have that strop in a temple).

Indeed, it’s easy to agree with Father Morris that the attempts to undermine the Christian undertones to this Christian festival are a bit silly. Sure the festival itself does predate Christianity as it was initially a pagan celebration of the winter (thus the date of Christ’s birth supposedly being shifted 4 months earlier  and the use of various pagan symbols in the Christian celebrations, such as the Christmas tree (or should that be ‘holiday tree’)). But the festival’s relevance, as we celebrate it today, is rooted in Christianity, so to remove the historical element of this festival does seem to cut ties with the past, in the same way as cutting the pagan notion of winter from the festival would.

In America of all places this hardly seems a problem. A very “small percentage of people who are working to try to get rid of these public expressions” was not worth “losing the peace” over, according to Father Morris. In a country where Christianity is still dominant, the Christian message of Christmas is not going to be seriously undermined for people who celebrate it as a Christian festival, even if the Christian element is moved further into the home and church and away from the school room – probably not a bad thing in most people’s views.

At the same time, the popular celebration of Christmas has been at odds with the Christian message for a long time anyway. Santa, presents, gluttony and Home Alone (with sequels) were never particularly Christian concepts in the first place – this is the war that was more happily allowed to be won, rather than the titular grievances that presenter Morris is ridden by.

What has remained Christian about Christmas has been the remembering of Christ’s story, so the removal of this would be a loss for the Christian community (not that this is actually happening, despite Fox News’ usual reputation for sensible and reliable news information). But when considering the Christ story itself, then the elements of it that are of most important value to the Christian (or at least should be) are the love for your neighbour and the encouragement of this love to become enacted through the community that was depicted through Jesus’ teachings. This isn’t encouraged by the name of the irrelevant tree and the wrapped up presents underneath; it is instead through the love of the family (which can be represented by the thoughtful giving of gifts), the greater generosity to charity and the greater warmth felt towards the community as a whole that Christmas traditionally symbolizes and brings about.

These values are not monopolized by Christianity and indeed are common to the notion of good held by most Americans. So whether it is Christmas, Winter Festival or ‘Consumermas’, as long as these values are still the dominant ones of the December 25th festival, then the teachings of Jesus are being abided, and this is all that should matter.

“If our Christmas is going to be all about getting upset at people who are to trying do away our Christmas, isn’t that silly, too?” he asked the father to the presenter.

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