Culture wars really heat up over Christmas

Posted Nov. 29, 2012, at 3:34 p.m.

Several readers were upset by a headline that accompanied two photos Tuesday, “Holiday trees move into place.”

Holiday trees? Those are Christmas trees, they told us in no uncertain terms.

And that’s how easy it is to find yourself in the middle of a “War-on-Christmas” minefield.

This debate goes back decades, and it contains several interesting sub-arguments.

Originally, some Christians began to feel in the 1960s and ’70s that the religious meaning of the holiday was being lost amid our increasing mania for buying and giving gifts.

In other words, materialism was overshadowing what was originally a religious occasion.

Some even said Santa himself was taking our eyes off the real “reason for the season,” the birth of Jesus Christ.

That anger was further stoked by several court decisions forbidding the use of only Christmas displays on public property.

Then, in about 2001, the argument took a new and more political turn when Fox News host John Gibson released a book titled, “The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse than You Thought.”

He and Fox talk show host Bill O’Reilly argued retailers, government and public organizations were self-censoring the use of “Christmas” in favor of multiculturalism and inclusivity.

All this in a country where people identify themselves as 79 percent Christian, 16 percent unaffiliated and about 5 percent other religions, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

In 2006, a Chicago Tribune poll found 68 percent of Americans agreed there was a war on Christmas.

Putting overheated rhetoric aside, this seems like a debate between two visions, one of a general public holiday, the other of a much narrower focus on Christmas alone.

In any event, here’s our newsroom policy:

We understand the desire to preserve the meaning of Christmas, and we also respect those who want to include all faiths, and even those without faith, in a seasonal celebration.

But we intend to report accurately rather than impose arbitrarily a single standard on all.

In other words, if a city calls it a holiday tree, as Auburn did last week, then we will call it a holiday tree.

And when Oxford Hills holds a “Christmas Parade,” as they did yesterday, we will call it a “Christmas Parade.”

Again, if it’s your tree or celebration, you name it, we’ll report it.

But rest assured that on the day before Christmas, at the top of our front page, the Sun Journal will still wish all of our readers a “Merry Christmas,” just as we have done for many years, and without contradiction or complaint.

Sun Journal, Lewiston (Nov. 25)

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/11/29/opinion/culture-wars-really-heat-up-over-christmas/ printed on July 31, 2014