Christmas 2009: Oh Come All Ye Faithless

Got an idealized notion of Christmas? A cherished memory, or a favorite carol or story? The simple smell of pine needles in your living room? Do you insist on celebrating the birth of the savior?

If so, you're at war, like it or not.

The main war on Christmas – we'll call it the conventional war – has been well-documented, and it goes on, with victories and defeats for both sides. In Loudoun County, Va. on Dec. 1, the Board of Supervisors reversed a ban on religious holiday displays on the courthouse lawn. (The one supervisor who voted “no” said, “I am concerned that this motion would turn the courthouse grounds into a public circus.”) Meanwhile, in Arizona, public school children remain unable to use Christmas themes when decorating ornaments for the Capitol Christmas tree.

There is plenty to report from the conventional front. But there are other fronts. There is the sexualization of the holiday, either in service to commercialism or out of the lefty arts community's desire to be “transgressive” (read, vile and offensive). And there are the attempts squash the mysteries and magic that accompany even a traditional secular Christmas.

So from “living” lingerie mannequins to Frosty's “porn collection,” and from the lies you tell about Santa to our president's “non-religious” observance, here are some dispatches from the war on Christman, 2009.

Jingle Bell Raunch

“Sex Sells.” Well, so does Christmas. But is it too much to ask that they do their selling separately? It is for women's clothing retailer XOXO. On Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, where tourists flock each December to take in fanciful, elaborate Christmas window displays,  the XOXO store treated New Amsterdam passers by to a little bit of Old Amsterdam.

In a window set done up to represent a young woman's apartment, two beautiful young “living mannequins” hung around, doing each other's nails, dressing and undressing and spending a good deal of time in nothing but underwear and lingerie. Creative director and designer Carol Powley who came up with the “window theater” concept, explained that “the display is geared toward gift-buying boyfriends.”

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) takes a back seat to no one in using sex to sell its messages. In the latest example of PETA's “Be An Angel For Animals” campaign, Playboy model Joanna Krupa was depicted naked holding a large “strategically placed holy cross,” as MRC's Tim Graham wrote.

Krupa sported a halo and wings, and hoverered inside what looks to be a gothic cathedral. Complaints from the Catholic League prompted the pinup's sanctimonious response: “I'm doing what the Catholic Church should be doing, working to stop senseless suffering of animals, the most defenseless of god's creation … In my heart I know that Jesus would never condone the suffering that results when dogs and cats are allowed to breed.”

CBS didn't have the luxury of self righteousness to defend itself over a raunchy marketing ploy. On its Web site, the network used a video titled “Frosty the Inappropriate Snowman” to market the sitcom, “How I Met your Mother.” In the video, scenes from the “Frosty the Snowman” animated holiday classic were overdubbed with Neil Patrick Harris's voice (in character from the sitcom "How I Met Your Mother"). Harris, as Frosty, talked to children about strip clubs, his “porn collection” and bull whips, and discusses his taste in “boobs.”

“The new, crude snowman also encouraged the white rabbit in the movie to have sexual fantasies,” CMI reported Dec. 7. “You should have hit that. Dude, your pants were already off. You had a classroom full of people to cheer you on. And you can't knock her up because it's a dream.”

Of course, meant for mass consumption, those ads are mild. For the really vile mutilation of Christmas, there's no place like the “arts community.” The Catholic League produced a useful roundup of lewd Christmas plays and pageants.

“ … many are gay-themed, most are confined to the east and west coasts, and all are loved by art critics,” wrote the Catholic League's Bill Donohue. (One also has to wonder how many of them are NEA-subsidized, or even made possible by “stimulus” money.) The titles include: “Naked Holidays NYC '09,” “How the Drag Queen Stole Christmas,” “Santa Claus is Coming Out,” “Hot Babes in Toyland,” and “The Gayest Christmas Pageant Ever!”

According to the Catholic League, these extravaganzas featured such Currier & Ives Christmas content as baby Jesus being electrocuted, “the Virgin Mary begging for sex,” “a discussion of Santa raping Vixen,” a “teeny-tiny Sequin Gay Men's Chorus” and “a Michael Jackson character who envies Santa's way with children.”

Season of Kill-Joys

In some people, Christmas evokes feelings of good will and generosity, memories of childhood and home. In others, it brings out the inner wet blanket. Whether they're reminding us not to eat too much or not to leave oily rags and gas cans too near our yule logs, or they're fact-checking treasured Christmas stories and traditions, the Kill-Joys get as busy as Santa's elves this time of year.

Over in England, nothing says Christmas like a big Astroturf cone in the middle of town. In Poole, Dorset, a 33ft cone “designed according to the principles of health and safety” is standing in as this year's Christmas tree. Richard Randall-Jones, the Poole town center manager told the Times of London, “We are a coastal town and so we have strict health-and-safety guidelines around making the Christmas tree safe due to the high winds we suffer. We have to have guy ropes and hoardings to stop it from falling over and hitting somebody. The public didn't like all the ropes and hoardings so we came up with the cone tree.”

“Thus it has no trunk so it won't blow over, no branches to break off and land on someone's head,” according to the Times, “no pine needles to poke a passer-by in the eye, no decorations for drunken teenagers to steal and no angel, presumably because it would need a dangerously long ladder to place it at the top.”

But the cone does have “built-in fairy lights and hidden speakers to play Christmas tunes that will put shoppers in the festive mood.” Shoppers, however, don't seem to be buying, and the Times listed reactions ranging from, “I prefer a Christmas tree, not a big wizard's hat or a lump of Astroturf” to “This is a total disgrace …”

England was also home to an unexpected Christmas kill-joy: A Church of England bishop who doesn't like some beloved religious Christmas carols. According to the Associated Press, “Bishop Nick Baines of Croydon said 'all sorts of fantasies have grown up around Christmas' that leave many people thinking of the celebration as 'nothing more than some sort of fairy story.'”

Baines “cites the line in 'Away in a Manger' that goes 'no crying He makes,' and wonders, 'How can any adult sing this without embarrassment?'”

Baines doesn't like “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” either and told the AP it should be called “O Come All Ye Faithless.” Apparently it's not class conscious and inclusive enough for him. “It was not the 'faithful' but the shepherds – 'the great unwashed,' as he described them – and the 'pagan' Wise Men who went to see the baby Jesus.”

“The bishop describes such Christmas fantasies as "nothing short of tragic, because nothing could be further from the truth," said the AP story. What's really tragic is that this narrow-minded, pedant should be entrusted with the spiritual care of major C of E diocese.

Baines has plenty of kill-joy company here in the States. Take for example, one David Kyle Johnson, an assistant professor of philosophy at King's College in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. Mr. Johnson is in high dudgeon about this whole Santa thing, and he said so in an oped for the Baltimore Sun on December 13.

“Parents should stop teaching their kids to believe in Santa Claus,” Johnson wrote. “ … tricking children into believing that an omniscient fat man, with a red suit and rosy cheeks, will slide down the chimney bestowing presents on Dec. 24 is just flat-out immoral.”

“First of all,” Johnson wrote, “it's lying.” And it's not “harmless.” Johnson has “amassed recollections of 'finding out the truth about Santa,' and many were stories of genuine embarrassment and resentment. The systematic deception makes children feel taken advantage of or like the butt of a joke.” Also, when you encourage belief in Santa, you “discourage children's efforts to think critically.”

Like Baines with his “great unwashed and pagan wisemen,” Johnson seems to have a Marxist critique at the heart of his argument. The Santa lie, he wrote, “was perpetuated by the New York elite most notably, Clement Clark Moore, author of 'A Visit From St. Nicholas' – in the early 1800s. It was an effort to domesticate Christmas, to change it from a holiday about giving to the poor to a holiday about giving to one's own children.”

So your Christmas traditions are turning your children into selfish resentful dolts. But don't worry, it's good preparation for becoming assistant professors of philosophy in Pennsylvania.

The Greatest Story Never Told

The conventional war on Christmas goes on, as secular forces led by the ACLU continue to try to rip the religious significance from Christmas or, better yet, submerge Christmas into some bland, meaningless winter holiday season.

As reported on Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, a Chelmsford, Mass., elementary school banned all signs and symbols of Christmas and Hanukkah from its “Holiday Gift Room.” That included candy canes, red and green wrapping paper, Santas and reindeer. At a school committee meeting filmed by Fox's Jesse Watters, Chelmsford School Committee Chair Angelo Taranto explained to angry parents that the committee and the school's principle were “following the law.” One of the few parents at the meeting who agreed with Taranto, said Watters, compared Santa to a swastika.

Massachusetts seems to be a particularly brutal battlefield in the war. In Taunton, a second grader was “sent home from school and required to undergo a psychological evaluation after drawing a stick-figure picture of Jesus on the cross,” according to the Taunton Daily Gazette. The boy's class had been asked to “sketch something that reminded them of Christmas,” according to his father. He drew a “crucified Jesus with Xs covering his eyes to signify that he died on the cross.”

“'I think what happened is that because he put Xs in the eyes of Jesus, the teacher was alarmed and they told the parents they thought it was violent,' said Toni Saunders, an educational consultant with the Associated Advocacy Center.”

Massachusetts is also home to a cowardly local government that, in a case of pre-emptive surrender, removed a nativity scene from the Manchester town square just because it might invite lawsuits.

In another pre-emptive surrender, Amelia, OH., the mayor's legal counsel told him to change the name of the annual village Christmas Parade to the Holiday Parade for fear of legal trouble. When church groups got upset with the change, Mayor Leroy Ellington called the whole thing off.

From the cowards to the belligerents. Bill O'Reilly reported on Dec. 4 that “The virulently anti-God group 'Freedom from Religion,' has launched a second front [in the war on Christmas]. It is celebrating Christmas in Las Vegas with ads that say, 'Yes, Virginia, there is no God.'”

Another group, the American Humanist Association, is renewing its Christmas campaign from last year with ads on buses that read, “No God? No Problem! Be Good for Goodness' Sake.”

The humanists would feel right at home in Copenhagen this week. The ongoing UN climate conference in the Danish capital is a Christmas-free zone, as CNSNews reported Dec. 7. The Danes explained that, when a venue hosts a UN conference, it “becomes UN territory, there can be no Christmas trees in the décor because the U.N. wishes to maintain neutrality.”

Besides, Christmas might get in the way of the motocross racing, fashion show, official Copenhagen cocktail and “gender studies,” that are part of the event, according to The Washington Times.

Finally, there's the President of the United States. Maybe he's just not that interested in religion. After all, it took him quite a while to replace Rev. Jeremiah Wright as his spiritual mentor. Either way, the White House let it slip that the First Family wanted a “non-religious Christmas” this year, and apparently couldn't decide whether to include the crèche in its traditional spot in the East Room of the White House.

Reporting on a luncheon Obama Social Secretary Desirée Rogers attended with some of her predecessors in the New York Times Dec. 4, Sheryl Gay Stolberg wrote, “The lunch conversation inevitably turned to whether the White House would display its crèche, customarily placed in a prominent spot in the East Room. Ms. Rogers, this participant said, replied that the Obamas did not intend to put the manger scene on display – a remark that drew an audible gasp from the tight-knit social secretary sisterhood. (A White House official confirmed that there had been internal discussions about making Christmas more inclusive and whether to display the crèche.)”

Strange that the conversation would “inevitably” turn to the crèche, as though it had been some embarrassingly tacky thorn in the side of White House social secretaries for years.

Apparently, the nativity scene is there, but the president's seeming indifference to the religious meaning of Christmas is troubling. Catholic League President Bill Donohue said in a statement that Obama “and his wife would like to neuter Christmas in the White House. That's their natural step – to ban the public display of Christian symbols. Have any doubts?

Last April, Georgetown University was ordered to put a drape over the name of Jesus as a condition of the president speaking there.”

Whatever the president's intent he cannot be oblivious to the ongoing war over Christmas, and he should understand that as head of state, the symbols he chooses to elevate or downplay matter.

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