S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

This dust-up about Christmas --

Absurd! There is a certain virtue to political correctness. But, in the case of avoiding the use of the word Christmas, there is no reason to adhere to such silliness. December 25 is a valid Christian holiday that marks the birthday (arbitrarily chosen date) of Jesus Christ. Let's explore the Christmas controversy. Or, as a college student titled his recent terrific editorial, "Merry Christmahanakwanzayule."

Where did the conflict originate? A Wikipedia chart on religious demography in the U.S. might account for some of it. In 1990, 88.3% of Americans self-identified themselves as Christian. In 2001 the percentage had dropped to 79.8%. The "other religions" percentages were 3.5% in 1990, and 5.2% in 2001. People who said "No Religion/Atheist/Agnostic" totaled 8.4% in 1990 and 15.0% in 2001. (The aggregate total is slightly over 100% because of the survey's method of not adjusting for refusal to answer in this U.S. Census survey). To quote:

# the greatest increase in absolute as well as in percentage terms has been among those adults who do not subscribe to any religious identification; their number has more than doubled from 14.3 million in 1990 to 29.4 million in 2001; their proportion has grown from just 8% of the total in 1990 to over 14% in 2001;
# there has also been a substantial increase in the number of adults who refused to reply to the question about their religious preference, from about four million or 2% in 1990 to more than eleven million or over 5% in 2001.

"Religion in the United States," Wikipedia, reports that 20% of Americans are non-Christian, summarizing it this way:

Most Americans adhere to Christianity. According to the 2001 American Religious Identification Survey (discussed below), 80% of the U.S. is Christian and 15% do not adhere to a religion. Other religions comprise 5% of the U.S. population.

One of the central parts of the conflict emanates from a segment of conservative Christians that named the controversy "the war on Christmas." Media Matters carried a post recently, " 'Somewhere Jesus is weeping' over attacks on Bill O'Reilly," devoted to this whole brouhaha. This kind of stuff is where my opening Absurd! comes from. Prosper, an online "prosperity" magazine out of Sacramento, CA, carried a 2006 dialogue, "Out of their minds - Holiday v. Christmas," that is an excellent summary of the controversy. For a lucid elaboration of the issues it is a good read.

For my part, it seems reasonable to get back to some kind of balance. That would mean thinking about the reality that twenty percent of us will not be celebrating a holy birthday on December 25. Sensitivity to that does not mean ignoring the eighty percent who theoretically mark the day that way. Buth there is a deeper reality here. And that there are a whole lot of us in the theoretical cadre. We are not regular church-going Christians. Wikipedia reported,

On the other hand, nearly 40% of respondents who identified with a religion indicated that neither they themselves nor anyone else in their household belongs to a church or some other similar institution.

. . . The top three "gainers" in America's vast religious market place appear to be Evangelical Christians, those describing themselves as Non-Denominational Christians and those who profess no religion. Looking at patterns of religious change from this perspective, the evidence points as much to the rejection of faith as to the seeking of faith among American adults. Indeed, among those who previously had no religion, just 5% report current identification with one or another of the major religions.

This dust-up over Christmas will pass. After Christmas articles will let us know how the retail world handled it. I hope we find evidence of a bit of sanity connected to the reality. What I find in the blogosphere conversation is a number of folks just want to get the holidays behind them. There is another good sized number that sends me greetings via comments or e-mails. And there is another number that totally ignore Christmas in their writings, and celebrate one of the variety of current holidays privately. Out of which of the theoretical groups you come is your personal preference. I greet you and salute you. And I am curious about who I am leaving out or insulting with the wrong phrase:

  • Merry Christmas!
  • Happy Kwanzaa!
  • Happy Hanukkah!
  • Have a good Eid al-Adha!
  • Welcome to the Winter Solstice!
  • Happy holidays!

My links:

(Cross-posted at The Reaction.)

My “creativity and dreaming” post today at Making Good Mondays is about my own holiday.

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