This month, as in every December since he took office, President Bush sent out cards with a generic end-of-the-year message, wishing 1.4 million of his close friends and supporters a happy “holiday season.”
Many people are thrilled to get a White House Christmas card, no matter what the greeting inside. But some conservative Christians are reacting as if Bush stuck coal in their stockings.
“This clearly demonstrates that the Bush administration has suffered a loss of will and that they have capitulated to the worst elements in our culture,” said William A. Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.
Bush “claims to be a born-again, evangelical Christian. But he sure doesn’t act like one,” said Joseph Farah, editor of the conservative Web site WorldNetDaily.com. “I threw out my White House card as soon as I got it.”
In other news, Robert George wonders if Bill O'Reilly will boycott Bush.
By the way, last night Bill was fulminating about a Los Angeles Times column which claimed that he was calling for a boycott of stores which use the "Happy holidays" greeting instead of "Merry Christmas." Oh no, of course he hasn't. He has merely written that if stores don't use the word "Christmas," "I'm shopping elsewhere." Oh, and his website has a helpful list of various companies' Christmas policies. So that viewers and readers can decide for themselves, you know.
That's right. No calls for a boycott at all.
Update: Here's Foamy the Squirrel on the Christmas controversy, weighing in on the O'Reilly/Gibson side, more or less. (Warning: language.) Yes, it's funny, but I think it misrepresents the issue. Right now, it's not the secularists with objections to Baby Jesus figurines who are whining, bitching and making a fuss over imagined slights; it's the Christmas warriors who somehow discern evil intent in the innocuous phrase "happy holidays."
I, too, laughed out loud when I saw that story.
Do these people have no sense of the ridiculous?
Man, with 1.4 people to send greetings to (hmmmm ... wonder what that costs us?), OF COURSE the White House Staff is going to send out a generic.
For pete's sake: Is it so hard to get that these cards are really just perfunctory nods to tradition and courtesy precisely because they're from the White House? Meaning, not President Bush himself? In the same way that every Christmas/Holiday or whatever card has been sent from the White House, not its current presider for yea, these many years?
I mean, it's not like it makes practical sense to do what ordinary, pragmatic people do. Who employ a variety of methods to deal with the issue, depending on their personal preferences.
(I, myself, for example, have been known to send a variety of cards, depending on the situation of the recipient(!), of all bizarre ideas. I've even been know to send out Thanksgiving or New Year's cards to Jewish friends who both eschew the secular notion of Christmas AND dislike the artificial elevation of Chanukah, but to whom I want to express my goodwill. Go figure.)
And DONOHUE. I don't mean to be disrespectful, but when either he or, on the other side of the so-called "religious wars," Pastor Barry Lind show up as a pundit on almost ANY issue, I don't know whether to run for the nearest prayer book or a copy of Fletcher's "Situational Ethics," or simply to go blind.
This whole issue is a tempest in a teapot.
As I very much appreciate your continuing to point out, and in a much more tempered way than my comment here.
I wonder how many people (myself included) saw the story and made some manner of the same O'Reilly joke...
It doesn't cost us anything, reader_iam. The Republican National Committee covers the costs.
I posted this very article today on a community website where I often visit and debate issues. The utter...silliness...of some people will never cease to amaze me. It'd be very amusing if it weren't part of a greater cultural debate.
By the way, Cathy. I'm a very big fan of yours. I've been linking to and posting your articles from Reason for years now. I love the blog here and read it every day. I'm sometimes a bit shy about posting at a new place, but I wanted to let you how much I admire your ideas, passion, and insight.
literatedog, many thanks!
I posted this on another blog that picked up this story, Cathy, but I thought I'd share it here too....
Here's an idea to counter the religious rights' protests of the "war on Christmas": someone should come up with a Christmas-themed print ad or commercial that uses a smiling Jesus to promote some commercial product.
How about Jesus drinking a coke with the polar bears? Jesus shaving off his beard with his new fancy razor? ("You know, secretly I always hated this thing! I'm finally glad to be getting rid of it.") Or Jesus chatting with an apostle via his new cell phone?
Jesus in a clothing ad, holding up the new khakis from Mary that he just unwrapped under the tree. The caption: "What would Jesus wear? These!"
Then watch the religious righties start fuming about using their sacred icon to sell stuff. But hey, it promotes *Christmas*!
I note that NRO protector-from-Star-Trek K. Lopez is on the President's Christmas card list, and she notes that her card contains a psalm:
"I have in my hands a White House Christmas card. I open the card. There is a presidential seal. Below the seal is Psalm 28:7
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
In him my heart trusts;
So I am helped, and my heart exults,
And with my song I give thanks to him
The card then says: "With best wishes for a holiday season of hope and happiness. 2005" And is signed by the president and first lady."
I started sending out Happy Holidays cards when I got tired of having to buy separate cards for my Jewish friends. Am I cheap or just lazy? Maybe I just capitulated to the worst elements of our culture without even knowing it.
BTW, I'm new to your blog Cathy and look forward to reading more. I am living in Ukraine now. Since you are from Moscow, do you post about this region and its history? Or am I being presumptious?
LOL, Adrienne! Excellent ideas.
eb -- I don't frequently write about Russia and the former Soviet Union these days, but I do sometimes. One of my recent columns, which you can find on my website, is about the rollback of democracy in Russia.
When I was growing up in slightly less PC times than these (the Reagan era), I remember "Happy Holidays" cards and gift stickers being used without a fuss. I always thought the phrase "Happy Holidays" primarily applied to Christmas and New Year's, since they happen so close together.
And heck, New Year's is a holiday that people certainly celebrate with no small bit of revelry! It's even a Federal Gov't holiday.
"Season's Greetings" I thought was along the same lines, but maybe with an even wider scope. I thought it included Thanksgiving and Hanukkah too.
What I think really gets to people, (at least this is what I think and it's human nature to project ;-) is that the problem is that Christmas is so secular to begin with. It's sort of like adding insult to injury to take a holiday that has overwhelming secular observation and claim offense that people observe it. It makes sense that few people got all het up about "Happy Holidays" or even "Season's Greetings" when people had "Christmas" vacation from school and "Christmas" parties at work even while everyone knew that for a great many people this was about Santa Claus. One of my Jewish friends tells me that her parents allowed a Christmas tree and presents... it just wasn't seen as religious enough by them to bother making a fuss over.
So when we take what is a secularized holiday *already* and claim that calling it "Christmas" is so very bad it does seem like those up in arms about changing it to a "Winter Festival" aren't reacting to the impossition of religion but really are waging an active war on the mere *taint* of Christianity.
I know Christians who do *not* exchange gifts, who do *not* put up a Christmas tree, though they decorate with Nativity scenes and church services and Christmas dinners. Losing the commercialization of the holiday is a good thing. Christians will make their observances in any case. But I don't think they are off their rockers to interpret the deliberate removal of the word "Christ" as anything other than hostile.
Christmas is so secular to begin with
It's a Christian holiday with many secular and cultural trappings. It never fails to amaze me how many people will hum along with carols with lyrics like "born the king of Israel" and put a star or angel on their tree, and then express shock, SHOCK! that anyone might spot a little Jesus in there.
synova: "Happy Holidays" greetings have been around for years. No one got upset about them, as far as I know, until a few people decided to be offended.
mythago: I agree that there is a lot of confusion resulting from the mix of secular and religious elements in Christmas celebrations.
A few years ago, I saw a review in the paper of some major city (I think it was the Dallas Morning News) of the Christmas show at the city's music hall. The reviewer complained that the last 20 minutes of the show was a representation, in dance I think, of the story of the Nativity and the visit from the Magi -- he felt that audience were basically lured into a secular show with Santas, reindeer, dancers in glittering snowflake suits, etc., and then suddenly beaten over the head with religious propaganda. Well, geez ... it is called a CHRISTMAS show!
Yes, how horrible that anyone was reminded of the ancient religious origins of Swag Day! *cough*
The day on which swag (loot, booty, goodies) is exchanged.
The day on which swag (loot, booty, goodies) is exchanged.
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