If there's a cliché we might do better without, it could be the phrase "War on Christmas." As we head out of cultural Christmas and into the actual 12 days of the Christmas season, let's reflect on that just a bit.
Actually, The New York Times and I might agree about that cliche thing. Of course, the difference is that my opinion is expressed here as a blogger. The Times, on the other hand, puts its position forward in a news article. (And while I write this on the Third Day of Christmas, it's still worth looking back a bit, I believe, as we brace for next year.)
Such an adherence to Kellerism -- the journalism "doctrine" that editors at the Times know who is right and who is not on moral, cultural and religious issues -- isn't surprising. Coming a few days after top Times editor Dean Baquet admitted his reporters "don't get" issues of religion, however, it is a bit of a chin-scratch: Do editors over there, you know, talk to each other?
Here we go:
The idea of a “War on Christmas” has turned things like holiday greetings and decorations into potentially divisive political statements. People who believe Christmas is under attack point to inclusive phrases like “Happy Holidays” as (liberal) insults to Christianity.
For over a decade, these debates have taken place mainly on conservative talk radio and cable programs. But this year they also burst onto a much grander stage: the presidential election.
At a rally in Wisconsin last week, Donald J. Trump stood in front of a line of Christmas trees and repeated a campaign-trail staple.
(Along with the whole talking-to-each-other thing, I also wonder if it is now standard operating procedure for each and every Times article on controversial subjects to have a mandated reference to the soon-coming 45th President of the United States, one Donald J. Trump. If so, it's gonna be a long four years, I'm guessing.)
My dislike of the "War on Christmas" cliche is simple: While there has been a cultural shift to more inclusive holiday greetings and decorations, the notion of a "war" seems a bit extreme -- other than one or two actual church-state issues that seem to pop up in courts year after year.
That said, the question of how Christians might actually feel about the changes seems to be a valid one.
So, to get to the heart of the issue, a Times reporter goes to: (1) a poly sci professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University, (2) a Fox News talk radio host, (3) someone (OK, the big Kahuna) from Americans United, (4) an ACLU attorney and (5) the website of an evangelical lobbying group.
It seems fair to suggest that no actual evangelical Protestants were interviewed in the preparation of this article.
The FDU prof, Dan Cassino, happens to have a book coming out next year about how Fox News allegedly "shapes American politics and society," and also just happened to have blogged about Fox News and Christmas for the Harvard Business Review's website. So it turns out that Santa, or his subordinate Clauses at Times, dropped an early Christmas gift on the author of a forthcoming polemic.
While the Times does discuss the "naughty or nice" business list of the American Family Association, it appears all that was necessary for the reporter to consider his job done was to quote from the group's website. No mention is made of any effort to reach out to an actual AFA person. Nor does it appear any reaching out was done to any evangelical thinker or leader. Then again, over on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, there's this big ol' church -- St. Patrick's Cathedral, to be precise -- where one can find a whole bunch of "Merry Christmas" types, up to and including a certain Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who might be good for a word or two on the subject.
I can only surmise that the article's conclusion -- that "Jews, Muslims, and others" who aren't Christmas participants "often" say a "Merry Christmas" doesn't offend them -- settles the question is why the reporter didn't feel compelled to solicit such viewpoints.
If I were Santa, I'd certainly consider that scribe a candidate for the "naughty" list. Perhaps, instead, one of those Times editors could just pull him aside for a conversation on how to "get" religion, beginning with the practice of this basic journalism virtue -- try talking to real people when writing about their beliefs.