Wendy Robinson (most photographs)
Our transport picked up on some troubling radio messages from Bott Radio Network. The "Bible Answer Man" with Hank Hanegraaff, "Love Worth Finding" with Adrian Rogers, "Renewing Your Mind" with R.C. Sproul, "Eagle Forum Live" with Phyllis Schlafly, and many others. Among them was a concerted concern. You may have heard about it. We are in the midst of a mighty battle. Suppressing my cowardly inclination to flee, sometimes, I thought, academics are called forth to go above and beyond. Sometimes, academics are obliged to scholarly duties regardless of life and limb. Sometimes, the War on Christmas is best seen from the frontlines.
Starbucks had gotten to them. Our chai tea latte cups were certainly lacking in explicit holiday spirit, and more resembled a relic from Stalinist Russia. Mine even tasted faintly more quotidian than usual. Nevertheless, I caution readers here. Sometimes a cup is not just a cup.
Chick-fil-A-turners and Starbucks secularists aside, McDonald's has faired better thanks to boots-on-the-ground support from a local mission, The Messiah Project. It's been a long and triumphant struggle. In 1999, McDonald's restaurants in the Springfield, Missouri region "requested that the Messia [sic] Project provide Nativity Scenes" for their display, so that they might better reflect "the traditional values of the season." Some said that their bringing back the McRib was conservatively traditional enough, other were not so satiated. The area has been shelled with Biblical reminders of the "reason for the season" strategically placed underneath golden arches ever since.
scout elves" perched high on shelves and mantles across the country. Each night, when all are asleep, these inconspicuous scout elves fly back to the North Pole to alert Santa of any misgivings. With annual sales of $10 million and expanding, these elves on the shelves have a broad distribution and substantial networking. Now, even our children are caught in the political throes of the Christmas Wars.
So, liberals deny it. Conservatives decry it. Etc, etc. What's going on here? True, bellicose language and fret of "war" better binds those under "attack." True, evangelicals thrive on understanding themselves as beleaguered. What else? Is it now the case that to even utter the words "Merry Christmas," one not only assumes a political posture, but asserts a religious identity? It would seem so. In their militant efforts, evangelicals have not only politicized the debate, but they have appropriated a "tradition" and even a word. To say "Christmas" is to state one's faith. Now, any use of the phrase, "Happy Holidays," calls into question the state of one's soul. I'm reminded of Tracy Fessenden's work here, as I think what we are seeing is "the ability of a Protestantized conception of religion to control the meanings of both the religious and the secular." What we are seeing is a Protestantized conception of religion to control the meanings of both "Christmas" and "Holiday." Much like Catholic efforts to remove the King James Bible from Cincinnati schools in the 1840s and 1850s, what we are now seeing are charges of "secularization" in the midst of a move to more greatly appropriate a thing, be it a public school or Christmas. Like it or not, it's really quite an ingenious campaign.
Special thanks to Wendy Robinson and her camera work. Wendy teachers high school english at a local public school, where she is witness to monthly flag pole prayers.