The Real War

It’s Conservatives Who Really Want Christ Out of Christmas

They’re terrified America’s tiny number of atheists will change the meaning of the holiday. But conservatives are the ones who are really at war with its message.

12.17.13 10:45 AM ET

The War on Christmas is on! This epic battle pits the forces on the right who demand that we say “Merry Christmas” to everyone regardless of their faith—or lack thereof—against those who prefer to say “Happy Holidays.”

How fierce has this so-called “war” become? Well, Sarah Palin is travelling across the country alerting people that “angry atheists” want to “abort Christ from Christmas.” Palin is like a modern day Paul Revere—you know, the guy Palin told us warned the British in 1775 that the British were about to attack the colonists.

Bill O’Reilly, the “Father Christmas” of the War on Christmas, recently clamored that there are dastardly people who want to, “banish any mention of Jesus in the public square.”

And apparently these atheists—who represent about 1.6 percent of our population—are so dangerous that it compelled Texas Governor Rick Perry to enact the “Merry Christmas law” earlier this year to ensure that public school teachers could say “Merry Christmas” without fear of attack.

But here’s the glaring hypocrisy of the right: they want to keep “Christ in Christmas,” but they don’t want to keep Christ’s teachings in the policies they advocate. It’s as if there are two Jesus Christs.  There’s the one in the Bible who advocates helping people in need, especially the poor. And then there’s the Jesus that conservatives worship, whose philosophy is to callously slash programs that help the less fortunate, from food stamps to health insurance to unemployment benefits.

I’m not a religious scholar, but it doesn’t take a Ph.D. in religious studies to comprehend the basic teachings of Jesus. The New Testament is filled with passages where Jesus implores his followers to care for the poor. Arguably the best known is Matthew 25:34-36, where Jesus discussed the importance of helping people in need: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”

Yet the same people who demand that we keep Christ in Christmas also support cutting programs advance Jesus’s philosophy. We saw that in September when House Republicans voted to slash $40 billion from the food stamps program. If this had become law, it would’ve result in nearly four million Americans being deprived of these desperately needed benefits. So much for the, “I was hungry and you gave me food.”

Despite Jesus words, “I was sick and you took care of me,” conservatives have waged a war to destroy Obamacare which would provide health insurance to millions of Americans who can’t afford coverage. In fact, 20 States with Republican governors and Republican-controlled legislatures have refused to expand Medicaid under Obamacare, making it more challenging if not impossible for the impoverished residents of these States to afford health insurance coverage.

And what would Jesus do about the 1.3 million Americans whose unemployment benefits will end just a few days after Christmas? Well, conservatives apparently believe Jesus would say “no” to any extension. Indeed, Rep. Kevin Cramer recently cited this passage from the Bible as a reason to slash benefits for the poor: “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” Interestingly, during the federal government shutdown in September, Congressman Cramer was the only member of the North Dakota Congressional delegation who didn’t donate his salary to charity.

Here’s the reality: Christmas will be fine, but without our help, the poor won’t be.   Christmas is not in danger of becoming homeless nor concerned about having enough food to eat to be able to concentrate at school or at work.

We rarely hear about the poor in our nation unless they are being demonized by the right as “lazy” or abusing the system. America’s needy are invisible to most of us- including the 16 million children in this country who live in poverty.

Yet the focus of the right’s outrage is when a public school chooses to sing non-religious Christmas songs and opts for more secular ones. Or when a huge nativity scene can’t be constructed on government property. Why isn’t their outrage directed at those who support policies that cause suffering to our most needy fellow Americans? These are the actions that truly contradict Jesus’s teachings.

And not only is supporting these social programs consistent with Jesus’ philosophy, they are good public policy. A recent study found that the social safety net created by President Lyndon Johnson as part of the “war on poverty” has actually reduced poverty over the past 50 years.

Those leading the fight to keep Christ in Christmas need to answer this simple question. What do you think Jesus would care about more: feeding the hungry and caring for the sick or requiring that all Americans say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays”? The answer is clear to anyone who has ever read the Bible.