Every holiday season, words reliably flow from columnists’ keyboards about good will toward men, “this holiday season…,” and whatnot. We are also treated to an ever-increasing barrage of manufactured outrage over the supposed “War on Christmas.”
It’s the time of year for American Christians, already swaddled by a culture and government that cheerfully stomps all over the Establishment Clause, to kvetch about how their holiday has supposedly been stripped of its religious intent and symbolism.
Back in 2005, before this annual flurry of fury had even reached the apotheosis of silliness—Starbucks Christmas cups, and so on—the late, great Christopher Hitchens penned one of his many columns about the tawdry consumerist spectacle and oppressive state-religion aspect of Christmas: “…it was exactly this paganism and corruption that led Oliver Cromwell—my own favorite Protestant fundamentalist—to ban the celebration of Christmas altogether.”
Hitch delivers a further response to the outrage that erupts whenever some municipality decides that they should actually respect the Constitution—not to mention all of their non-Christian constituents—by not erecting Christian displays on public land with public money:
… there are millions of well-appointed buildings all across the United States, most of them tax-exempt and some of them receiving state subventions, where anyone can go at any time and celebrate miraculous births and pregnant virgins all day and all night if they so desire. These places are known as “churches,” and they can also force passersby to look at the displays and billboards they erect and to give ear to the bells that they ring. In addition, they can count on numberless radio and TV stations to beam their stuff all through the ether.
It’s not precisely an argument for banning Christmas ala Cromwell. But it is a healthy reminder that freedom of religion in today’s America doesn’t always include freedom from religion.