Friday, December 02, 2005

Whipping up a new war

No, not a war on Arabs, Persians, Muslims, or Buddhists, instead we now have a manufactured "War on Christmas" thanks to Bill O'Reilly, Jerry Falwell and the like. The right has now launched a multi-pronged attack on multiple groups accused of attacking Christmas. So far we have:

  • Target is under threat of boycott by several religious right organizations for its use of the term “Happy Holidays” in place of a Christmas only theme [1], [2], [3].

  • Fox News renamed “holiday ornaments” on its website as “Christmas ornaments” after Bill O’Reilly made comments condemning the “War on Christmas” on his show [4].

  • Falwell's Liberty Council threatened to sue the city of Boston over a remark on the city's official web site that called the city Christmas tree a "Holiday tree" [5].

The last item is surely the most comical as it turns out Boston's mayor (and several other city officials) knew nothing of the 'offensive' language on the site and promptly confirmed the "Christmas tree" title as the correct one. Why is it that the religious right is so concerned about this fictional "War on Christmas"?

Honestly, I have no idea where they get half their ideas and I would be hard pressed to ever guess which ones that they are about to go off about. That said I'll throw out a semi-educated guess anyway...

The religious right currently has the greatest amount of political influence that it has held in several decades, this fact seems to be without debate, and with that power comes the fear of losing it. A backlash against the recent religious movement is unavoidable just due to the enormity of its intrusion into our daily lives. Americans will always follow the fads initially, but they don't like being told what to do, and they will get sick of being preached to at one point (its just a question of when).

Though church attendance grew through the late-90's and spiked after 9/11, the latest data seems to indicate that church attendance within the United States has returned to its pre-9/11 levels and may continue to drop [6]. Furthermore, there is some suspicion that the attendance level has actually dropped below than the commonly stated 40% mark but has been influenced by polling bias due to the fact that most polls of this nature are performed or financed by religious groups, a decidedly biased group in this discussion [7].

Declining membership is sure to put pressure on the Christian leadership to find ways of maintaining the political clout that they've gained in the last decade, and few things can do that better than an "us against the world" crusade. By inventing an enemy, the religious right may reinvigorate their followers and strengthen their resolve, or they may just make Americans a little more sick and tired of being preached to.

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