I endorse enthusiastically my friend and colleague Tom Piatak's defense of Christmas. As a curmudgeon, however, I am inclined, this time of year, to gloomy reflections.
Perhaps they go back Herbert W. Armstrong's annual diatribe against Christmas, which I never missed in my teens. Armstrong, the founder of The Worldwide Church of God (and Garner Ted Armstrong's father) was a British Israelite who hated Christmas, and every year he devoted an hour of his "church's" broadcast to listing the suicides, crimes, and fits of depression that marked the "holiday season."
If your you have tender feelings about Santa Claus, Gene Autry, the Muppets, Charles Dickens, and chestnuts roasting on an open fire, perhaps you should not read my own diatribe, which I dedicate to the shade of Herbert W. Armstrong.
I love all great Christian holidays, including Christmas, but increasingly I keep this one with some circumspection. In my world, the secular celebration of Xmas is honored more in the breach than in the observance. For example...
I am less than thrilled by the singing of "Silent Night" on an anti-Christian television show shown on an anti-Christian network and sponsored by anti-Christian advertisers. I am not especially interested in what well-intentioned Jews have to say about how much they like the Christmas season and how much they deplore the Jewish anti-Christianism that is so prevalent in America. When the comic Gary Gulman comes on the radio doing his "All I want for Hannukah is Christmas shtick, I change the station. This is our holiday, Gary, not yours. Stick to Hannukah--which, by the way, commemorates the killing of Gentiles.
And, to be perfectly frank, I could never stand to watch Charlie Brown's Christmas and I do not like Vince Guaraldi's music. Two thousand years of art, literature, and music, and people are still watching Peanuts? Schulz is often praised for the Christian themes in his comics, but he was an ex-Christian and a self-described secular humanist. In my view, he was a board member of that sinister Northeastern syndicate.
I hate all Christmas specials, especially the Grinch who did not so much steal as profane Christmas with Seussian inanity. I did get a bang out of the Andy Williams specials for which he hired actors to play his family, while his wife was doing life for murdering her faithless lover the Croat-American skier Spider Sabich. "Ain't that America?"
I am also sick to death of the anti-Christian Charles Dickens' rewrite of Christ's Nativity as a a softcore Marxist parable without Christ or angels but with a new pantheon of bogus deities--the deeply offensive Ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future. How dare such a man pen such a line as "God bless us, everyone." The nasty hypocrite should have been on his knees praying to escape the fires of Hell.
As an atheist I loved the secular American Christmas as much as Gary Gulman. I got all dewey-eyed as I attended Midnight Mass with a Catholic girlfriend, though I usuall fell asleep well before the canon. At parties I joined (and still join) in lustily in singing all the traditional sacred songs like "Frosty," "Rudolph," "Blue Christmas," and "Santa Baby." (I still enjoy Charles Brown's "Merry Christmas Baby," though it strikes, perhaps, the wrong note for the sacred holiday.)
As a Christian, however, I go into hiding at this time of year, harboring feelings that old Ebeneezer would have endorsed before he turned all gooey and maudlin. "Bah, Humbug." I wish that every non-Christian who wished me a Merry Christmas would die with a stake of holly in his heart! (That was a joke.)
There was a time when public hypocrisy was worth maintaining if only for the sake of our children. These times, however, are going to require a harder edge. Here are some Christmas thoughts that would not occur to Frank Baum, Irving Berlin, or whatever American Idol winner is hoping to go gold with a tacky Xmas album.
Suppose we all began to take Christmas seriously and refused to spend over $50 per person on presents and none on at any store owned by non-Christians? Suppose we agitated for a law banning all references to Christmas, including Santa Claus, at the anti-Christian public schools whose bloated budgets and overpaid teachers are funded by money stolen from Christians? The Church has always thrived under persecution and has ofteb decayed under government patronage. On Christian holidays, I do not wish to be patronized or tolerated or indulged. All I ask, to quote a very great man,is to be let alone.
Here's the beginning of my new Christmas song:
Oh daddy dear and did you hear the news that going round?
The Christmas tree's forbid by law to grow on the school ground.
And Christmas Day no more we'll keep
No holly will be seen,
For there's a liberal law against
The colors red and green.
Just kidding, of course, or am I?
Thomas Fleming is the former editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of The Politics of Human Nature, Montenegro: The Divided Land, and The Morality of Everyday Life, named Editors' Choice in philosophy by Booklist in 2005. He is the coauthor of The Conservative Movement and the editor of Immigration and the American Identity. He holds a Ph.D. in classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Before joining the Rockford Institute, he taught classics at the University of Miami of Ohio, served as an advisor to the U.S. Department of Education, and was headmaster at the Archibald Rutledge Academy. He has been published in, among others, The Spectator (London), Independent on Sunday (London), Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Chicago Sun-Times, National Review, Classical Journal, Telos, and Modern Age. He and his wife, Gail, have four children and four grandchildren.