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12.21.09

The War on Christmas Peters Out

This year, the Christian right’s annual campaign against godless liberal retailers was over before it started—with a boycott against the Gap’s “censorship of the word ‘Christmas’” abruptly suspended. Max Blumenthal on their new target.

Just three weeks before Christmas Eve, the Christian right’s annual campaign to stop the “war on Christmas” had sputtered to a virtual halt.

On Nov. 11, the American Family Association, homing in on a holiday-themed Gap ad that urges shoppers to do “Whatteveryouwannakah,” urged its members to boycott the retailer for “censorship of the word ‘Christmas,’” an omission that represented “religious bigotry at its worst.”

The Christian right has moved beyond the war on Christmas to an all-out assault on the White House and Democratic-led Congress. Satan’s new address is on Pennsylvania Avenue.

But in announcing its boycott, the AFA did not seem to notice that the Gap ad opens by loudly declaring, “Go Christmas!” before mentioning other winter holidays, from Hanukkah to Kwanzaa. There was no omission of the Christmas holiday; if anything, it was emphasized.

So on Nov. 28, the AFA suspended its boycott. AFA executive assistant Buddy Smith said the boycott had been driven by the Gap’s “putting [Christmas] on the same level as Kwanzaa and the winter solstice,” and not by the company’s omission of the holiday, as the group originally claimed—a transparent and not very effective attempt at face-saving.

Meanwhile, another Christian right powerhouse, Focus on the Family, set up a Web site, StandForChristmas.com, where Christian consumers have been encouraged to vent about the Gap and other companies with the pledge that the offenders would see the complaints.

So far, the only public response to Focus’ anti-Gap campaign has come in the form of a comment posted on StandForChristmas.com by an anonymous Gap store manager. “As a Christian I feel condemned by reading some of your comments. We’re allowed to say Merry Christmas…” the manager wrote. “The Sunday ‘church crowd’ that comes in is so much more rude and mean than any other time of the week.” Judging from the manager’s comments, members of the Christian right not only are popping into Gap stores to menace hapless employees, they also are doing some serious shopping.

The abrupt exhaustion of the war on Christmas cannot be explained only by the near flatline of cerebral activity Christian right leaders have displayed this year. The crusade was a boon for right-wing fundraising and ratings throughout the years of George W. Bush, whom the right depended on to advance its social agenda. But now that Barack Obama is in office, the conservative movement no longer needs holiday hobgoblins to energize its forces. It has moved beyond the war on Christmas to an all-out assault on the White House and Democratic-led Congress. Satan’s new address is on Pennsylvania Avenue.

By mobilizing resentment against President Obama, a man believed to be the son of Satan by 14 percent of registered New Jersey Republican voters (15 percent of Republicans weren’t sure if he was the Antichrist when asked), the right has generated a yearlong fundraising bonanza.

Focus on the Family seemed to be reeling after budget shortfalls during the last quarter of Bush’s presidency, forcing the group to fire nearly 20 percent of its work force. However, thanks to its campaign against Obama’s health-care reform proposal, Focus was able to report to The Washington Post this October that donations to its political arm had surged “beyond expectations.”

Having virtually abandoned the crusade to save Christmas from godless liberal elites in favor of a slash-and-burn campaign against Obama, the Christian right has exposed its holy motive: It’s only into Christmas for the gifts.

Max Blumenthal is a senior writer for The Daily Beast, writing fellow at The Nation Institute and author of Republican Gomorrah (Basic/Nation Books). Contact him at maxblumenthal3000@yahoo.com.