At one time, television celebrated the Charles Dickens novel "A Christmas Carol" by broadcasting four different versions of the story, the most significant of which was with English actor Alastair Sim playing the part of Scrooge. Last year TV, apparently fearful of overdoing the movie because it deals with Christmas, ran just one of them.Yes, that must be what is subduing ABC Family in their 25 Days of Christmas programming, the fear of overdoing movies that deal with Christmas. They were going to go with 50 Days of Christmas, but then were fearful going overboard with the festivities and crossing over into an all out extravaganza. Or, it is much more likely that they decided to choose from the wide array of other Christmas films (good and bad) that have been made since.
(Side note: I find it odd that Mr. Garbar is concerned with the lack of diversity in his Christmas Carol tales viewing opportunities, since A Christmas Carol is, by my measure, not exactly brimming with religiosity. Scrooge isn't changed by a visit from saints or angels, but by four ghosts.)
One of most religious of Christmas specials I know of, A Charlie Brown Christmas, generally plays on one of the major television networks during the Christmas season. The only one that is possibly more religious is The Little Drummer Boy, and I seem to remember that horrible bit of stop action animation being on ABC Family as recently as three years ago.
But Garbar goes further:
Mike Johnson, chief attorney for the ADF, remarked, "It's a sad day in America when you have to retain a lawyer to wish someone a merry Christmas."
Lee Garbar, meet Michelle Goldberg, who says:
Despite Johnson's lamentations, one can in fact offer Christmas greetings without legal counsel. Christmas trees are permitted in public schools. (They're considered secular symbols.) Nativity scenes are allowed on public property, although if the government erects one, it has to be part of a larger display that also includes other, secular signs of the holiday season, or displays referring to other religions. (The operative Supreme Court precedent is 1984's Lynch v. Donnelly, where the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that a city-sponsored Christmas display including a crèche, reindeer, a Christmas tree, candy-striped poles and a banner that read "Seasons Greetings" was permissible. "The display is sponsored by the city to celebrate the Holiday and to depict the origins of that Holiday," the majority wrote. "These are legitimate secular purposes.") Students are allowed to distribute religious holiday cards and literature in school. If the administration tries to stop them, the ACLU will step in to defend the students' free-speech rights, as they did in 2003 when teenagers in Massachusetts were suspended for passing out candy canes with Christian messages.Here's the thing: I, personally, love Christmas. I love Christmas music and Christmas television specials. I love Christmas light displays and Christmas plays. I love seeing Santas collecting money for charity on the sidewalk. I love presents, and giving them. I love the feeling of Christmas, of good cheer and good will toward men. But, as an atheist, I can also tell you that there is no war on Christmas. Forget all of the things Goldberg cites. Walk into any mall, any store, from now until December 26th, and you will hear Christmas carols, most of which contain some kind of religious sentiment. "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"; "O! Holy Night"; "Little Town of Bethlehem"; "O Come All Ye Faithful"; "Christ Is Born"; "What Child Is This"; etc, etc, etc. They are beautiful songs. They hold a sometimes beautiful sentiment. They are also vibrant reminders that those of us on the outside of these faithful proclamations are still living in a Christian nation, that the Christian celebrations are still national celebrations, and that we are all inculcated with those messages of Christ the Savior is Born! whenever we step outside our house this time of year. And for those of us who do not believe Christ is, actually, the Savior, it is also a reminder that our own ideas about this time of year are less important.
Grabar also writes:
Still, the campaign against Christmas has resulted in diminished observance of the holiday. For example, schools have all but eliminated various practices of the past in observing Christmas and emphasizing the day as recognition of the Savior's birth.Sure, because "the Savior" isn't, actually, my Savior. He isn't the Savior of a great swath of my friends, and to be taught in the secular public school system that he is would be a bit of muddling of the separation of Church and State thing. There are other people who exist in this country. They deserve to be able to go to school and not be inundated with Christian references, and to not be taught - even during a certain time of year - that the Christian way is the Right Way, with the implicit implication that all other ways are wrong. Lee Grabar can believe that; the teacher can believe that; but to use the public school system, the system paid for with everyone's money and not just Christian funds, is crossing the line. And more than warring against Christianity, it is warring for the recognition of the rest of us.