Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Real War on Christmas

Claims that there is a "War on Christmas" in America are as ridiculous as claims that George Bush is taking us on the road to fascism. Two years ago, Nina Shea wrote a great article pointing out what a real "War on Christmas" looks like. I linked it back then, but with many evangelical Christians so caught up in the notion that Christmas is under assault that they're willing to foist the fundamentalist version of Jimmy Carter on our country, it is more timely than ever:

Over Christmas 2000 in Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country and one traditionally renowned for its religious toleration, terrorists bombed churches in 18 cities, killing scores and wounding hundreds. At Wednesday's forum, Catholic Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver observed that "violence against the Christian minority has steadily continued over the past decade." As an example, he cited the beheadings of three Christian teenage girls in Sulawesi in late October. International Christian Concern's Jeff King brought photos of the incident; the girls' heads were left at a church, each with a note that vowed, "We will murder 100 more Christian teenagers and their heads will be presented as presents."

Last Christmas in Iraq, St. John's Church near Mosul was attacked. Assyrian cultural expert Eden Naby described the scene: "The Mass begins. It is cold inside the stone church. Suddenly you hear automatic fire. The doors fly open. The Christian guards are shot, and in march armed Kurdish Peshmarga who shoot up the church, beat up the priest and drive the parishioners cowering home." In prior months, other churches in southern Iraq had been bombed by Islamic militants, some during worship services. Though the terror came from two different sources, in each case the purpose was the same — to intimidate and force out the ancient Chaldo Assyrian Christian community.

In Saudi Arabia, Christians, a large percentage of the foreign workers making up a quarter of the population, will not be able to find any churches whatsoever to worship in this Christmas — churches are forbidden. Dozens of those who pray together in private houses were arrested and jailed earlier this year. This fanatically intolerant kingdom even forbids Muslims, under threat of death, to wish a Christian "Happy Holidays," much less "Merry Christmas."

Politically correct silliness like "holiday trees" or stores where the employees say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" may be annoying, but it does not come close to religious persecution.


Anonymous Frank said...

Amen, Brother....

11:31 AM  
Blogger Lenoxus said...

Phenomena like these can't be examined enough. Here's another jolly anecdote, inferred from this Wikipedia section: pretty much every time in history the holiday has been officially banned, the authorities responsible are -- not too surprisingly, when you think about it -- Christians themselves, generally Protestants of one sort or another concerned about excess festivity.

I have a theory that even if everyone in the US celebrated Christmas, we would still find ourselves saying "Season's Greetings" and the like... There's a sense in which the holiday has become little more than one darn obligation after another, centered around the vexing question of what to buy people who already care for nearly all their own needs and wants. (It even leads some people to the awkward point of telling each other what they want beforehand, akin to a gift registry). I for one find myself euphemising it even when speaking to people I know celebrate it, just because it's a bit less stressful to think of Christmas as being less of a Big Day than as just one part of a more amorphous "Yule" enjoyed in similar ways by fellow people all over the Northern hemisphere, singing nostalic, catchy carols and clutching hot wassail.

1:11 AM  

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