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American Apartheid

A shocking tale of the Jewish/secularist war on American Christians and the few brave Jews like Charles Krauthammer willing to stand against this outrage. New web piece by yours truly.

December 22, 2004 | Permalink

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» The Death of Christmas from Balloon Juice
I have to say I am with Matt on this whole 'death of Christmas' nonsense. Why all these 'free market'... [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 22, 2004 4:13:32 PM

Comments

BTW, if you want to buy a non-sectarian greeting card at the nearest Target store to me, you look in the "Christmas" section. You have to poke around a bit to find the "Happy Holidays" and "Seasons Greetings" among all the unapologetic Christmas cards.

I'm pretty sure that the vast majority of "Seasons Greetings" cards are bought in bulk by corporations. They send these not because they are bullied by anyone, but because they make a calculated decision not to offend potential clients. This is the free market in action. Greeting card stores obey a different imperative since in practice more individuals are celebrating Christmas than all the other seasonal holidays combined.

Posted by: Paul Callahan | Dec 22, 2004 3:00:39 PM

Nice job Matt. Your best column ever, in my opinion.

Posted by: Dan Kervick | Dec 22, 2004 3:10:19 PM

Good stuff, Matt. Good stuff.

Posted by: Jason Ligon | Dec 22, 2004 3:22:16 PM

Matt's article is funny, but maybe too heavy on irony to persuade anyone who wouldn't already agree with him. The best part in my opinion was catching Wooden's howler about "reverse" apartheid.

Of course, American apartheid (more politely called segregation) reversed the majority/minority roles, so the key distinction is probably empowered/disempowered rather than majority/minority. If the goal is to make clear why the would-be protectors of Christmas aren't actually oppressed--rather than just to write funny satire--then this is probably the area to explore more carefully.

Posted by: Paul Callahan | Dec 22, 2004 3:30:34 PM

Absolutely excellent, Matt. I can only hope the Democratic powers read it.

A couple things....except for a few isolated (and well known) social issues, George Bush is not particularly conservative in a religious sense.

And Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays is overplayed, self-centered and a bit silly! It's what's in the heart that counts. In my blog's readership, I count many both closet and openly liberal pastors. They all think it's much ado about nothing. There are so many issues of greater significance.

Thanks for a great essay. I may link my site to it, if that doesn't violate permissions policies.

Posted by: Deborah White | Dec 22, 2004 3:50:21 PM

Merry Christmas and Happy Holy Days

Posted by: Dan from Cos | Dec 22, 2004 4:06:47 PM

Good column, but its not going to seem so funny when it becomes a perennial Christmas chain email among the the irony-impaired.

Posted by: beowulf | Dec 22, 2004 4:12:03 PM

Good one Matt: I have seen this Krauthammer article reprinted in 2 local papers. I especially like the swipe at the fiction that the 10 Commandments form the basis for our jucicial system. He missed my favorite though: the 4th which tells us to keep the Sabbath holy by letting our slaves, guests, sons, daughters, ourselves, our cattle, and everyone and everything off on that day. Except of course for our wives. Hell, someone has to cook and clean for us!

Condoning slavery and subjugation of women in one Commandment, er, wait a minute, maybe the 10 Commandments are the foundation of our legal system.

Posted by: epistemology | Dec 22, 2004 4:24:41 PM

Umm, as I write this, it is snowing in Dallas. This is not an impossibly rare event, it snows once or twice a year sometimes, but for the event to occur so close to Christmas...

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Dec 22, 2004 4:39:39 PM

brave Jews like Charles Krauthammer willing to stand against this outrage

Wingnuts of the world, unite!

Posted by: abb1 | Dec 22, 2004 4:43:04 PM

I am a conservative and religious and even I thought the column was funny if a bit misguided. I think the much better commentary on this from a conservative angle is from James Lileks. This is not about persecution but about political correct silliness run amok. Of course some of that might have been a legitimate response to excesses in our culture that didn't sufficiently allow breathing room for those of different faiths.

But I must quibble...I am paid to do so for a living. Matt, I think you and so many on this board are too quick to lump all Christian conservatives together into one big messy stew. In doing this you also lose a grasp of the legitimate differences between what is permissible constitutionally and what is prudent or imprudent. Take something like school-prayer. You'd be hard pressed to make a real argument that the Constitution as drafted forbids mandated school prayer. (Oh sure you can make the argument and many do. Unfortunately, you run into text, structure and history. The Establishment clause was primarily a clause giving states room and freedom to establish state religion and ensuring that federal government did not foist its preference on all the states.) But as a matter of prudence and what is good for the nation, I think it extremely unwise and stupid to have mandated school prayer. Many religious conservatives would agree. But that distinction gets lost in the mess of labeling people as part of Jesus-land (I know you didn't do it here but you've employed the term before) and failing to see the argument that many conservatives are making about the limits of the judicial branch.

This also fails to see the difference between Souther Evangelicals and northern Catholics who are united in an uneasy alliance in the conservative camp. There's a tension there because of history and because of real anti-Catholicism that still lurks in Evangelical and Fundamentalist circles.

Then there is something like this line from your piece: "[J]ust two -- Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas -- regularly approve of efforts to codify theological norms as legal ones."

What are you talking about on this? Can you namee a real example? (The answer is no because there is none.) That each of these justices has a view of the First Amendment and the limits of the judge's role is clear. That this means that they will not strike down things that are distasteful to liberals but clearly not Constitutionally prohibited is what is at the root of the disdain with which they are held. But you hurt what is a witty piece with this line in my mind.

Are you right that the hysterics of the pastor are overblown? Of course. But the point that Krauthammer is making is not of the same kind.

His most pertinent points are:

"Yet more than 80 percent of Americans are Christian, and probably 95 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas. Christmas Day is an official federal holiday, the only day of the entire year when, for example, the Smithsonian museums are closed. Are we to pretend that Christmas is nothing but an orgy of commerce in celebration of . . . what? The winter solstice?"

And later he writes:

"Some Americans get angry at parents who want to ban carols because they tremble that their kids might feel "different" and "uncomfortable" should they, God forbid, hear Christian music sung at their school. I feel pity. What kind of fragile religious identity have they bequeathed their children that it should be threatened by exposure to carols?

I'm struck by the fact that you almost never find Orthodox Jews complaining about a Christmas creche in the public square. That is because their children, steeped in the richness of their own religious tradition, know who they are and are not threatened by Christians celebrating their religion in public. They are enlarged by it.

It is the more deracinated members of religious minorities, brought up largely ignorant of their own traditions, whose religious identity is so tenuous that they feel the need to be constantly on guard against displays of other religions -- and who think the solution to their predicament is to prevent the other guy from displaying his religion, rather than learning a bit about their own.

To insist that the overwhelming majority of this country stifle its religious impulses in public so that minorities can feel "comfortable" not only understandably enrages the majority but commits two sins. The first is profound ungenerosity toward a majority of fellow citizens who have shown such generosity of spirit toward minority religions."

Those are perfectly reasonable points that are not of the same kind as the pastor's. I remember when I was in college and the tree on the Green was called the "Holiday Tree," and Christmas songs with Christian references were forbidden at the tree lighting lest anyone be offended. I think what Krauthammer and others (who are not overblown) are getting at is that we debase ourselves by sinking to these levels of ridiculousness. And we certainly do not risk our tolerance and peace by calling it Christmas.

Posted by: Cheeky Lawyer | Dec 22, 2004 5:13:51 PM

I think what Krauthammer and others (who are not overblown) are getting at is that we debase ourselves by sinking to these levels of ridiculousness. And we certainly do not risk our tolerance and peace by calling it Christmas.

Well, yes, and we also risk losing something of the richness and beauty of our Western cultural heritage. I mean, Christianity isn't all bad, at least from an art history perspective. Think of a Bach mass or a religious sculpture by Michelangelo. Do folks really prefer the high secularist "holidays" in America where the main items on the menu are disputes about Christmas carols and hand-wringing over Wal-Mart's slumping sales?

The thing is, if you were to go to say, Italy (a country still very much steeped in traditonal, Mediterranean Catholicism) or England (where a particular Christian sect is the freakin' state religion, and whose head-of-state is also the head of the Church), you'd find, I think, a much more relaxed and easy celebration of Christmas, replete with things like creches, and overtly religious Christmas carols, and institutions and businesses that actually wish one a "Merry Christmas" instead of the stale happy holidays.

The point is, places such as these retain more of the aesthetic beauty of traditional Christmas. Americans are culturally poorer as a result of relinquishing such tradition in favor of a sort of nervous, walking on eggshells, ersatz, secular Christmas called "The Holidays".

And the ironic part is, it is the counrty that is so punctilious about keeping the observance of Christmas so conspicuously PC and secular that is the one where you might have trouble getting your kids taught about Darwin. You'll not have such problems in those intolerant hotbeds of Christian officialism like Britain or Italy (gee, I wonder if there's a connection there?).

Posted by: P.B. Almeida | Dec 22, 2004 5:39:52 PM

closing italics (I hope)

Posted by: Paul Callahan | Dec 22, 2004 5:48:18 PM

does this work? If not, can somebody turn off the italics?

Posted by: Paul Callahan | Dec 22, 2004 5:49:47 PM

I wish people would learn to close italics.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Dec 22, 2004 5:50:38 PM

again again

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Dec 22, 2004 5:51:30 PM

I always preview, so, don't blame me. My italics (I'm pretty sure) were closed. If I'm wrong I apologize.

Posted by: P.B. Almeida | Dec 22, 2004 6:00:01 PM

Yup. The problem's on Matt's end.

Posted by: P.B. Almeida | Dec 22, 2004 6:00:23 PM

"Americans are culturally poorer as a result of relinquishing such tradition in favor of a sort of nervous, walking on eggshells, ersatz, secular Christmas called "The Holidays"."

America isn't Europe. As I commented in the last thread, I enjoy the fact that the US puts a particularly American stamp on the holidays--and you can't be American without some ersatz, some kitsch, and some worries about how all the diverse members of our society will react to it. Decades of Americans have become totally comfortable with a holiday mishmash of Christmas-Chanukah-Kwanzaa. This is our holiday. If you don't want to celebrate it, then go to England or wherever you think they do a real "Christmas."

None of it has stopped anyone from actually celebrating Christmas that I noticed. There is clearly no new assault on Christmas. I've been hearing this argument every year since I can remember, and if anything people are probably less worried about saying "Merry Christmas" than they might have been 25 years ago.

I for one am sick of being told of the cultural poverty of the US as compared to Europe (and I doubt you will sell a lot of "red staters" on this viewpoint either). If our culture is so terrible, then why is it one of our biggest exports? "Elmo's World: Happy Holidays" http://www.kcts.org/seriesdetail.asp?N1=EWHH may not be art on the level of Handel's Messiah, but it is a better representation of what America stands for.

Posted by: Paul Callahan | Dec 22, 2004 6:12:01 PM

I have no problem with Christmas and Christians complaining about the secularism of the holiday. But to say that Christians experience Aparteid because of the way it is portrayed in the marketplace cheapens the argument and ignores the truth behind Aparteid.

All those commercials on television aren't for atheists! Christians are the only ones to put Christ back into Christmas, not the secularists, Jews, and other non-believers.

Posted by: EG | Dec 22, 2004 6:20:58 PM

Trying the italic closing one more time (Seems to be due to a tag preceding Krauthammer quote, which I am looking at in the source right now.)

Posted by: Paul Callahan | Dec 22, 2004 6:27:28 PM

..."you can't be American without some ersatz, some kitsch, and some worries about how all the diverse members of our society will react to it".

Sure you can. People aren't automatons programmed by Wal-Mart's board of directors (or the ACLU's, for that matter). You can strive, if you wish, to enjoy a quieter, less materialistic, more traditional, more aesthetically pleasing Christmas. The kind that not too many years ago wasn't the preserve soley of non-Americans, and that increasingly won't be as more Americans decide enough is enough. Heck, you can even do so without "worrying" about how your "diverse" neighbors might "react". (I dare say they probably don't care much either way, and no doubt welcome the day off). You can have your kitschy "holidays", Paul. But, I, and millions more like me, are consciously and unapologetically opting for a traditional, beautiful, and merry, Christmas.

Posted by: P.B. Almeida | Dec 22, 2004 6:44:29 PM

But, I, and millions more like me, are consciously and unapologetically opting for a traditional, beautiful, and merry, Christmas.

Frankly, nobody is stopping you. My main gripe with opinion pieces such as Krauthammer's is that they seem to suggest there is some new move afoot to eliminate Christmas when in fact, there has been little significant change to the American celebration of this holiday for decades, no great difficulty finding nativity scenes on churches and private lawns, and continued saturation of the more secular trappings of Christmas such as Christmas trees and Santa Claus. The Krauthammer/O'Reilly crisis is a manufactured one.

However, I also think that the peculiarly American ersatz holiday has a lot of real advantages. I think it's great when kids see videos of other little Benetton-colored kids celebrating a diverse mishmash of traditions. It's not traditional or stirring, but it is a uniquely American invention that Europe might do well to adopt, the kids enjoy it, and I think it is more likely to produce a new generation with some ability to get along with other than the best art in the Christian religious tradition.

Posted by: Paul Callahan | Dec 22, 2004 6:57:15 PM

My Boston family has the gall to hang Hanukkah bags alongside the Christmas tree. To think I should live in this world! And they even say Merry Christmas, right before the movies.

Posted by: John Isbell | Dec 22, 2004 7:00:50 PM

What, no mention of anal sex?! Al will be disappointed.

Posted by: ScrewyRabbit | Dec 22, 2004 7:07:09 PM

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