Tag Archive | war on christmas

Need a little angel sitting on my shoulder… or, save me from the well-meaning enablers

“Tis the season to be even GAYER than usual!”

(click to embiggen)

Some years before certain media hacks started claiming there is a War On Christmas, I was accused of (among other things) being part of an assault on that holiday. It was 2001, and my paternal grandparents were coming up on their 60th wedding anniversary. Their anniversary was late in December, because they moved up the wedding (originally planned for the following spring) after Pearl Harbor was bombed and the U.S. entered World War II because my grandpa immediately wanted to sign up and go defend his country. I had been living 1200 miles away from my grandparents since my parents’ divorce when I was a teenager, but had remained in relatively close contact with them. Relatively close, that is, until I came out of the closet at the age of 31. To describe the communication as cold and infrequent would be an understatement.

So I was a little surprised when, several months before the anniversary, some relatives from out there contacted me to invite me to a 60th Anniversary party, just before Christmas. I said that I would have to look into travel logistics, but it would be nice to see the old hometown again. The relative in question hoped that I would be able to stay through Christmas and so forth. I made the comment that I wasn’t sure how much time off Michael would be able to take, since he got a lot less paid vacation at his place of work than I did.

I could almost feel the temperature drop on the line. “Oh, no. You can’t bring your friend. You understand, that would really upset everyone.”

“You expect my husband to stay back in a hotel while I’m at the party?”

”No. We expect you to be sensible and leave your friend back in Seattle.”

“What?”

They then explained (as if I needed to be reminded) that Grandma and Grandpa were elderly and weren’t as open-minded as this relative currently talking to me. They explained how many of the equally elderly siblings of both Grandma and Grandpa were planning to attend. “You can’t expect people their age to put up with… um, well, you know.”

I said that, as a matter of fact, I could expect that. And if my husband wasn’t welcome, than neither was I.

That wasn’t the end of it. Several other relatives called, urging me to come. Reminding me that this might be the last time I could see them, and surely I wouldn’t want to spend the rest of my life regretting that, just over a silly thing like this? Where was my family loyalty? Where was my Christmas spirit?

It eventually reached the point where I said, rather angrily, “You want me to take several weeks off from work, fly to Salt Lake City, drive 6 hours in a rental car, to attend an anniversary and various other social events, including Christmas all the time pretending that I’m perfectly happy to be spending the holidays 1200 miles away from my husband! If Grandma told you your husband couldn’t come to Christmas dinner, would you go?”

“I’m just saying that your friend doesn’t belong at a family event.”

Recently I shared this story with a couple of friends while we were discussing family issues, and one friend who is ordinarily diplomatic and calm reacted to this part of the tale with a vehement, “F— them! He’s your husband and he’s sweet and smart and gives good hugs!”

And while 17 years ago I didn’t mention the hugs, my final words before hanging up were quite similar.

Seventeen years later, some of those family members still think that asking me to go to all that trouble and expense to be a closeted prop in their fantasy of a perfect 60th Anniversary Party/perhaps Final Extended Family Christmas Reunion was a perfectly reasonable request, and I’m the bad guy for not subjecting myself to that.

And I want to point out, that even after the initial call that ended with me saying that if my husband wasn’t welcome I wasn’t coming, I went ahead and did the research of what it would take to get there, maybe just to attend the party by myself and then come back home to spend Christmas with my husband. That’s why I talked about where I would fly into and how long the rental car drive would be assuming only typical winter driving conditions in the two mountain passes involved in the journey. I also want to point out that before they told me my husband wasn’t welcome, they had already told me that because of my “lifestyle” it was a given that none of the relatives who lived nearby were willing to have me stay in a guest room at their house, so two weeks at a hotel at my own expense was an assumed part of the event.

Despite that, for a while I did consider subjecting myself to at least some of that as a sop toward an illusion of family harmony or something.

So I understand why some people who otherwise appear to be reasonable and even understand what it is like to be part of an oppressed minority, sometimes get up in arms when some of us are perceived as being less than tolerant of other peoples’ intolerance.

People are up in arms about Tucker Carlson Facing Advertising Boycott Over Immigration Comments to the point that supposedly reasonable people, like FiveThirtyEightDotCom’s Nate Silver to say that this is going to end all political discourse. The argument being that if we assume advertisers are endorsing everything that is said on a political analysis show, that soon we will have no actual debates.

I have four initial responses to this so-called argument:

1) Fox News, the network that broadcasts Tucker’s show, doesn’t classify his show as either news or analysis. In official filings with the FCC, in order to avoid what few regulations remain about libel and so forth, Fox News classifies nearly every pundit you have ever heard of as “entertainment.”

2) Tucker is not engaging in political analysis or debate, he is spewing lies (not opinions, lies) and inciting hatred against specific ethnic groups, religious groups, and transgender people. He is not making good faith arguments. To equate his program (and Bill O’Reilly’s whose earlier boycotts are being alluded to by everyone writing to defend Carson) with a serious political analysis program is a false equivalence. Incitement is not analysis. A lie is not a difference of opinion. Saying that some people don’t have a right to exist in our society is not a policy dispute. Locking up children in concentration camps after stealing them from parents who lawfully presented themselves at a border crossing to request entry is not a simple implementation of existing law. For some other analysis on this: Tucker Carson’s Racism is Not ‘Political’.

3) It’s a classic slippery slope argument. It’s the equivalent of saying that charging the alt-right guy with murder after he intentionally drove his car into a crowd and killed an innocent person means that now no one is ever allowed to state an opinion again.

4. It’s hypocrisy. None of these people ever scolded the National Organization of Marriage when they were trying to organize boycotts of companies that extended medical benefits to same-sex partners of their employees, or tried to get shows that included a single queer character canceled. None of these defenders of free speech said that those boycotts would lead to the end of all health benefits or all TV shows and movies. They only come out when it is the proponents of hatred that are threatened with consequences.

And to tie this back to my opening anecdote: here are the parallels.

  • My husband isn’t a friend and our life isn’t a lifestyle. He’s my husband. Trying to reclassify him doesn’t change the truth of our relationship.
  • Being civil if I bring my husband to a family get-together isn’t a Herculean feat that no one has ever been expected to perform at a family event. Big extended family get-togethers of every family include some people that others present don’t approve of but that makes nice and deals with it. Being disapproved of by half the family is practically the definition of in-law, in some families!
  • Bringing my husband to family events isn’t me forcing a political agenda on the family, nor does anyone being civil to him imply that they endorse everything that we believe. Just as Cousin Daisy bringing her husband that thinks the moon landing was faked doesn’t make any of us who are civil to them flat-earthers.
  • It’s hypocritical to claim that my declining the “invitation” which excluded not just my husband, but also my true self was the rude act, while the exclusion itself is merely a reasonable request. Yes, it was their party, and they can choose who to invite, but it is also my invitation which I can choose to decline. And while I had to get huffy on the phone, my huffiness was restricted to the relatives who were harassing me after I had already, as politely as possible, declined the invitation.

    Which isn’t to say that I believe the exclusionary invitation was the polite or correct thing for them to do in the first place, but no one is required to aid and abet their own denigration. Because it wasn’t just that my husband wasn’t invited, but also that I was expected to effectively go back into the closet for the length of my visit. I was expected to agree that there was something wrong with me, and something wrong with the person that I loved. Further, note that they didn’t just say he wasn’t invited to the party, they were insistent that he was not allowed to accompany me on the trip at all. Think about that, for a moment.

Me not attending the family event (at considerable trouble and expense) was not me abandoning my family. Nor was it a decision I should feel guilt and regret over for the rest of my life. Neither was it an attack on Christmas. Just as declining to be kicked in the teeth is not an assault on the would-be tooth kicker.

Finally, to be clear: when some of us contact companies whose products we use and express our displeasure that their money (money that ultimately comes from us) is being used to spread falsehoods and to incite or excuse violence, we are not telling anyone that they don’t have the right to any opinion that disagrees with us. This isn’t censorship, it is consequences.

May the calendar keeping bringing happy holidays to you!

“Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays”

“Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays”

In 1942 Irving Berlin composed several songs for the movie, Holiday Inn. The most famous song from that movie is “White Christmas,” and it is the only song in the movie that is specifically about Christmas. However the first song in the movie is “Happy Holiday” which in the context of the movie is about New Year’s Day, as well as an introduction to the conceit of the film—that someone could run an inn that is only open for business 6 days a year, each of them a holiday. Still, this song that doesn’t mention anything Christmas-y at all has been considered a staple of Christmas music since the mid 1940s:

Happy holiday, happy holiday
While the merry bells keep ringing
May your ev’ry wish come true

Happy holiday, happy holiday
May the calendar keep bringing
Happy holidays to you

An advertisement from the Duluth News-Tribune of January 6, 1890 is just one example of the use of the phrase for more than 125 years!

An advertisement from the Duluth News-Tribune of January 6, 1890 is just one example of the use of the phrase for more than 125 years!

But one can’t credit Irving Berlin with the invention of the phrase, “Happy Holidays!” It’s been in use for more than 125 years, and was clearly not part of any attempt to secularize the holiday.

Most people point to Bill O’Reilly’s segment on December 7, 2004 about the so-called assault on Christmas as the origin of the myth. But you have to go much further than that, back to the 1920s, when in recurrent segment of industrialist Henry Ford’s newsweekly entitled “The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem” which opined: “Last Christmas most people had a hard time finding Christmas cards that indicated in any way that Christmas commemorated Someone’s Birth. People sometimes ask why 3,000,000 Jews can control the affairs of 100,000,000 Americans. In the same way that ten Jewish students can abolish the mention of Christmas and Easter out of schools containing 3,000 Christian pupils.” Notice that even 97 years ago the American rightwing was antisemitic.

I was not alive back when Ford and others were trying to use Christmas to inflame anti-Jewish sentiment, but by the time of my childhood in the 1960s, that notion (along with the John Birch Society’s theory that the United Nations and Communists were trying take the Christ out of Christmas) had soaked deep into the psyche of evangelical fundamentalists. Though it took slightly different forms. I’ve written before about how the various Baptist churches my family attended considered Santa Claus an anti-Christian emblem. Some churches banned Christmas trees from the sanctuary, because of their pagan origins. Poinsettias were allowed because popular myth was the the red leaves represented Christ’s blood. But many of the common symbols of the holiday were believed inappropriate for the church.

Which isn’t to say that they forbade you from decorating your home and a tree or Santa — there was just a clear distinction between the sacred meaning of the holy day and the more general public celebration of the holidays. Which is why some leaders of the Christian Right in the 60s and 70s started advocating that Christians should encourage businesses to use phrases such as Season’s Greetings and Happy Holidays precisely because all that commericialism shouldn’t be associated with Christ.

That’s right, there was a time when the very same sorts of people that today are foaming at the mouth about Starbucks’ holiday coffee cups not being sufficiently Christmas-y were asking businesses not to profane Christ’s name by labeling their products with the word Christmas.

“Christians be like 'God bless this pork you told us not to eat on this most holy pagan holiday that you told us not to celebrate.'”

“Christians be like ‘God bless this pork you told us not to eat on this most holy pagan holiday that you told us not to celebrate.’”

The pendulum keeps swinging back and forth. It’s been popular across the political spectrum to lament the commercialization of Christmas for many years, for instance. But the funning thing is that this commercialization: the emphasis on exchanging gifts (specifically gifts for Children) are part of a puritanical push during the 19th Century to make the holiday family friendly. For most of its history, the Christmas season was associated with drinking and feasting and various kinds of wild partying. So the Victorians decided to wage a war on the previous forms of the holiday. Unlike the Puritans, who banned Christmas entirely when they set up their colonies in the U.S., the Victorian prudes at least understood that you couldn’t ban the celebration outright, but you could encourage people to observe it in a different way.

So the next time someone gripes about commercialization of Christmas, point out that little historical tidbit and watch their head explode.

I could ramble some more, but why not watch this video instead?

Adam Rules Everything- The Drunken, Pagan History of Christmas:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here

’Zat you, Santa Claus?

What's wrong with a black Santa?

What’s wrong with a black Santa?

Once again, some butt-hurt white guys are calling for a boycott and otherwise losing their minds because someone has hired an African-American man to play Santa at a mall. I could re-iterate the fact that the historical Saint Nicholas wasn’t a white guy. Or I could go on a rant about people who claim that queers, women, and people of color are the ones who are too sensitive being the ones getting up in arms, but I’d rather talk about Santa.

The real Santa.

I’ve made an extensive study of the topic. Part of this is because for more than 20 years I’ve been writing at least one new Ghost Story to read at our Holiday party. And I’m the sort of obsessive writer who has to run down every rabbit hole of information even slightly related to any project I’m working on. So if you want to get an earful of information on St. Nicholas, various countries’ folklore surrounding Father Christmas, Sinterklaas, Ded Moroz/Grandfather Frost, Pere Noel, La Befana, Tomte, the Hogfather, or all 13 of the Jolasveinar, I’m your guy.

And then there are the companions or anti-Clauses: Krampus, La Pere Fouettard, and Black Peter. And allied mythical creatures such as Julesvenn, Julenisse, and Santa’s elves.

But all of those things are simply the means by which people have sought to encode into folklore the truth about Santa Claus. Fortunately, a version of the truth is being shared around and turned up on my Tumblr feed this week, so rather than paraphrase that, I’m just going to quote Charity Hutchinson:

In our family, we have a special way of transitioning the kids from receiving from Santa, to becoming a Santa. This way, the Santa construct is not a lie that gets discovered, but an unfolding series of good deeds and Christmas spirit.

When they are 6 or 7, whenever you see that dawning suspicion that Santa may not be a material being, that means the child is ready.

I take them out “for coffee” at the local wherever. We get a booth, order our drinks, and the following pronouncement is made:

“You sure have grown an awful lot this year. Not only are you taller, but I can see that your heart has grown, too. [ Point out 2-3 examples of empathetic behavior, consideration of people’s feelings, good deeds etc, the kid has done in the past year]. In fact, your heart has grown so much that I think you are ready to become a Santa Claus.

You probably have noticed that most of the Santas you see are people dressed up like him. Some of your friends might have even told you that there is no Santa. A lot of children think that, because they aren’t ready to BE a Santa yet, but YOU ARE. Tell me the best things about Santa. What does Santa get for all of his trouble? [lead the kid from “cookies” to the good feeling of having done something for someone else]. Well, now YOU are ready to do your first job as a Santa!”

Make sure you maintain the proper conspiratorial tone.

We then have the child choose someone they know–a neighbor, usually. The child’s mission is to secretly, deviously, find out something that the person needs, and then provide it, wrap it, deliver it–and never reveal to the target where it came from. Being a Santa isn’t about getting credit, you see. It’s unselfish giving.

My oldest chose the “witch lady” on the corner. She really was horrible–had a fence around the house and would never let the kids go in and get a stray ball or Frisbee. She’d yell at them to play quieter, etc–a real pill. He noticed when we drove to school that she came out every morning to get her paper in bare feet, so he decided she needed slippers. So then he had to go spy and decide how big her feet were. He hid in the bushes one Saturday, and decided she was a medium. We went to Kmart and bought warm slippers. He wrapped them up, and tagged it “merry Christmas from Santa.” After dinner one evening, he slipped down to her house, and slid the package under her driveway gate. The next morning, we watched her waddle out to get the paper, pick up the present, and go inside. My son was all excited, and couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. The next morning, as we drove off, there she was, out getting her paper–wearing the slippers. He was ecstatic. I had to remind him that NO ONE could ever know what he did, or he wouldn’t be a Santa.

Over the years, he chose a good number of targets, always coming up with a unique present just for them. One year, he polished up his bike, put a new seat on it, and gave it to one of our friend’s daughters. These people were and are very poor. We did ask the dad if it was ok. The look on her face, when she saw the bike on the patio with a big bow on it, was almost as good as the look on my son’s face.

When it came time for Son #2 to join the ranks, my oldest came along, and helped with the induction speech. They are both excellent gifters, by the way, and never felt that they had been lied to–because they were let in on the Secret of Being a Santa.

So, yeah, Santa is sometimes black, sometimes asian, sometimes young, sometimes old, sometimes a man, sometimes a woman, sometimes genderfluid. Santa is sometimes pagan, sometimes Buddhist, sometimes atheist, sometimes Jewish. When I’m fulfilling the duties of Santa, then you better believe that Santa Claus is as queer as a clutchpurse full of canaries.

Some people think that nothing can exist that is not comprehensible to their little minds (to quote the late Francis Pharcellus Church in his famous New York Sun editorial responding to a question from a little girl named Virginia). They think admitting those things exist somehow takes something away from them. That somehow kindness shown to some people must always cost someone else. And that’s just wrong. Any heart where love, generosity, and kindness abounds is the heart of Santa. And when you share kindness, you don’t lose it, you gain more.

And that’s the only thing that matters.
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Yuletide, gay and otherwise

© the late, great Bob Mizer (Click to embiggen)

© the late, great Bob Mizer (Click to embiggen)

I wrote a few blog posts before Thanksgiving about the reasons we were both feeling less than enthusiastic about spending the holiday with my family. As I mentioned in the Friday Links post after, we got through the day without any disasters. It helped an awful lot that one of my nieces is a new mother and her kid is at the toddling around being cute but can’t talk yet stage. She was a great distraction. There was a teensy bit of a close call. One of the relatives that I recently had to block on Facebook because of all the homophobia who wasn’t supposed to be at Mom’s for the holiday, had her plans fall through, and was texting Mom about coming over… but it was literally while we were in the middle of loading our car up to head back to Seattle, so we dodged that one.

We are staying at home for Christmas. Mom has been talking about a facetime call, but that’s a lot less grueling than being in the actual room with folks who cheerfully try to claim that they aren’t homophobic because they love me despite my lifestyle and that I’m clearly going to hell and that allowing us to get married is going to destroy the world.

For many years what we did was alternate which holiday we spent at Mom’s, while staying home for the other. When Mom was still working (she worked in retail for decades), which holiday she didn’t have to work dictated which one we came down for. Now that we no longer have that issue, we’ve tended to stick with Thanksgiving there and Christmas at home. One reason I do that is because, well, there’s a lot less god-talk on Thanksgiving.

Despite the fact that I can still recite from memory the entirety of the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke, and can sing “O, Holy Night” in three languages, and love to sing along to Christmas hymns such as “Angels We Have Heard On High,” I don’t look at Christmas the way my Bible-thumping relatives do. I’m taoist, now, and Christmas is the season of twinkling lights and mistletoe and brightly wrapped presents and eggnog and ginger cookies and times laughing with friends. My husband is pagan, and has an even lower tolerance for the “baby Jesus stuff” than I do. I expend a bit of effort crafting Christmas music playlists that don’t contain any of the religious music to play around him. I still listen to the hymns and such, I just use headphones or listen when he’s not around.

So what is our Queer Christmas like? How does a gay taoist and his pagan bisexual husband celebrate yuletide? We put up a tree every year. We usually have a theme. This year’s is Up In the Air, built around a tin zeppelin toy my hubby got last year. So the tree has all my Star Trek ornaments and all his Star Wars ornaments, and a bunch of or My Little Pony pegasus figures, plus birds and flying reindeer and several Santas, my Marvin the Martin ornaments, lots of moons and stars. One plastic flying Santa sleigh & reindeer was a table decoration that belonged to my great-grandmother. There are also three glass ball ornaments (one pink, one lime green, and one red) with glitter that also belonged to that grandmother. They go onto the tree somewhere every year no matter what the theme is.

I make two wreaths every year. One goes on the inside of the front door, and one on the outside. We have lights that go in the windows. I have too many lights, so I have to decide which ones to put up each year. We also have some lights for the shrubbery outside, and some cheesy decorations that go on the lawn. We sometimes wear Santa hats at social gatherings during the season. We send presents (and some years Christmas cards) to friends and relatives.

We own a lot of Christmas movies and Christmas specials. I watch some of them during the weeks leading up to the holiday. I could do a multi-day marathon of just my adaptations of A Christmas Carol. And I may very well have done exactly that at least once. We frequently watch a bunch together on Christmas Eve.

Every year we host or co-host a holiday get-together with a particular set of friends. The annual party includes the Ghost Story Challenge: I pledge to have an original Christmas Ghost Story to read each year, and challenge other people to bring a story, or sing a song, or otherwise share something with the group. There’s a lot of food, a lot of laughter, and there’s a gift exchange.

On Christmas morning we check our stockings to see what Santa brought. We open presents from family members and each other. We spend the day either watching more Christmas movies, or playing with our new toys, and making dinner. We have this bad habit of making way too much food for just the two of us, but we each have some traditional dishes we like to have, and we also like to experiment with new foods. At least we always have leftovers!

In other words, our celebration of this mid-winter holiday probably sounds an awful lot like everyone else’s. We don’t have drunken orgies. We don’t decorate our Christmas tree with sex toys. We don’t perform weird anti-Christian rituals. We don’t call for the oppression of our more overtly religious relatives or neighbors. We both say “Merry Christmas” at least as often as we say “Happy Holidays!”

We’re not making war on Christmas. We’re not trying to ruin anyone else’s holiday.

So why are anti-gay groups posting pictures of the White House lit up in rainbow lights from a couple of years ago with captions saying, “Trump should project Merry Christmas on the White House! That will show them!”

Show us what? That their ability to make false equivalencies knows no bounds? That they think being asked to treat people who believe differently than them with respect is oppression? We’ve known that for a long, long time.

We’re not the ones disrespecting the message of the Prince of Peace, who told his followers to love their neighbors as themselves, to love their enemies, bless those that curse the, and do good to those that hate them. In that way, our queer Christmas is a lot closer to the message of Christ than anything they’re doing.

Make the Yuletide Gay.

Make the Yuletide Gay.

Red cups, manufactured outrage, and twisted meanings

Two of several designs of holiday cups at Starbucks this year, and my annual bag of Christmas Blend coffee.

Two of several designs of holiday cups at Starbucks this year, and my annual bag of Christmas Blend coffee. Photo © Gene Breshears (Click to embiggen)

The annual wails of outrage and anger at Starbucks over the “War on Christmas” began a few weeks ago, before a bunch of Trumpkins took it into their heads to punish Starbucks by going to various Starbucks stores, buying fancy coffees, telling the barista their name was Trump, and then get all upset if anything untoward happened. Or something. I really still don’t understand how buying stuff from a company punishes it.

Anyway, I saw some blog posts a couple of weeks ago claiming that this year’s Starbucks holiday cup was, once again, an assault on traditional american values because it didn’t say Christmas on it. The blog posts were in reference to a green cup that Starbucks unveiled a week or so before election day. They called it a Unity cup, and the featured artwork was many different people drawn with one continuous line, to symbolize how everyone is connected, humanity is one big family, et cetera. And the usual War on Christmas nuts started making angry posts about it.

Here, in a picture I swiped for the Starbucks corporate website, are this year's actual holiday cups, which all look very Christmasy to me!

Here, in a picture I swiped for the Starbucks corporate website, are this year’s actual holiday cups, which all look very Christmasy to me!

There are a couple of problems with this outrage. First, the cups weren’t the Starbucks holiday cups: No, Those Green Cups Aren’t The Starbucks Holiday Cup. Second, in what way can any Christian be legitimately offended by a message of community and connectedness of all mankind? Especially at Christmas?

I mean, in Luke 2:14 after the angel tells the shepherds that the savior has been born, a multitude of the heavenly host appears in the sky beside the first angel and sings, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Right?

Well, that’s one of the problems. The King James Version, which was the English language translation of the Bible preferred by most protestants for a couple hundred years (and was the one I first read cover-to-cover, the one read and quoted from the pulpit at all the churches I attended, and the one from which I memorized the Christmas story as told in Luke chapter 2 and Matthew chapter 1 as a child), states the angels’ song the way I quote it. God’s message is good will toward all mankind in that translation.

But evangelical and fundamentalist Christians have spurned the King James Version and a couple of similar translations, in part because they weren’t homophobic enough. Seriously, in 1946 the Revised Standard Version added the words homosexual or homosexuality to several passages. The fact that it was unclear in the original languages what some of those were passages talking about, and in other cases were references to particular types of prostitution (and a weird legalistic argument some people were apparently making that if they hired a male prostitute pretending to be a woman they weren’t really cheating on their wife) was completely glossed over with these changes. (You can read a lot more about it here: Homophobia and the Politics of Biblical Translation.)

The god of the King James Version was pretty judgmental, but not judgmental and condemning enough, apparently. And the new translations many of the evangelicals and fundamentalists favor render that verse a bit differently: “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” Clearly implying that God does not offer universal love and forgiveness to everyone.

Make no mistake, the King James Version’s translation has all sorts problems. And the original texts from which the modern Bible is derived have other problematic issues. There are so many passages that praise slavery, for instance. There’s the bit in the old testament where men are instructed, if they suspect their wife might have been unfaithful, to take said wife to the temple for an involuntary abortion. There are also twenty-five separate and unequivocal passages stating that left-handed people are abominations and will not get into heaven. These are just some of the reasons that I no longer consider myself a member of the religion in which I was raised.

But I still keep, rather foolishly, expecting that more people who call themselves Christian will actually conduct themselves according to the actual teachings of the man who said: “I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Do good to those that hate you. He didn’t say to make laws that punish those who disagree with you. He didn’t say to deny marriage licenses to those who believe differently than you. He didn’t say deport those who worship differently than you. He didn’t say to build walls to keep out people who look and speak differently than you. He didn’t say to tell all those people you are persecuting that you love them even while you’re doing all these hurtful and hateful things to them.

He said to do good to everyone, including those who hurt you. That’s how you love your neighbor. But it’s apparently a lot easier to change the words of their sacred book than it is to change their own hearts.

A red coffee cup with snowflakes on it, or Christmas ornaments, or snow covered evergreen trees, or a fanciful reindeer do not constitute a “War on Christmas.” It’s manufactured outrage, not an actual war. But people who call themselves Christian and support the persecution and demonization of people based on race, sexual orientation, immigration status, or religion? That is an actual war on the teachings of Christ.

Hang your stockings and say your prayers…

The original Saint Nicholas and his modern avatar.

The original Saint Nicholas and his modern avatar.

One of the weirder arguments I ever got into with a friend was over the song Here Comes Santa Claus. For context, this was back when I was still closeted, and I had met this friend while we were both members of an Evangelical touring teen choir. We got together one day to work on a gaming project, and I was playing Christmas music, which meant that every 40 minutes or so I would have to swap cassette tapes (because this was the stone ages, i.e., the early 1980s). About midway through Bing Crosby’s recording of Here Comes Santa Claus my friend stopped talking and got a weird frown. I asked him what was wrong, and he asked me to wait a minute, he was listening.

While Here Comes Santa Claus isn’t particularly my favorite Christmas song, it is fun to sing, and that particular recording has some fun orchestration, so I thought he was just appreciating the song. When it reached the end he said, “Disgusting!” and launched into a tirade about how secularism was destroying Christmas. Also, how could I listen to such blasphemous music?

The lyrics he objected to first were: “Santa knows that we’re God’s children, that makes everything right.” He felt it was telling children they weren’t going to hell just because Santa said so. Which I could understand where he was coming from, but it seemed more than a bit of a stretch. I pointed out that, first, it’s a children’s song, and second it wasn’t really that different than the sentiments expressed in a lot of hymns. Under the theology of the churches we both attended, if you were a born again Christian, then you were one of God’s children, et cetera.

His angry response was that most of the people who heard this song weren’t saved, though. And it would lead children astray. I quoted the lyrics of a few of his favorite christian songs, and pointed out that they weren’t all that different, but it didn’t mollify him. It just got him even more worked up.

He had other issues, such as the part of the song where it told children to pray to Santa. I pointed out it said no such thing, “Hang your stocking and say your prayers” meant to say your usual bedtime prayers, which lots of children in the sorts of churches we attend were expect to say every night.

Then he jumped to the part that pissed him off most: “Let’s give thanks to the lord above, ’cause Santa Claus comes tonight!” He was really upset about the notion of thanking god for Santa, and seemed to think that was the most blasphemous of all. I asked him how it was blasphemous to thank god for good things that happened, and his response was a rather confusing thing about myths and false gods. It just made no sense to me.

I had been thinking it was all pretty funny up until this point, but he was getting livid. And so I pushed back a bit harder than I probably ought. The girl he was dating (who eventually became his wife) was from a family that went to an even more fervent evangelical church than the one I attended. And they were one of those families who said, “Praise the Lord!” all the time. Any time that anything good happened, one would say, “Praise the Lord!” and the others would chime in with various affirmations.

And I do mean anything. Kid gets a decent grade at school? “Praise the Lord!” Bee buzzes around your head when you’re in the garden, but never stings you? “Praise the Lord!” Car starts (any car, one that is brand new and has never shown any signs of trouble)? “Praise the Lord!” Open a can of soda without it spraying all over everything? “Praise the Lord!” Successfully get the lid of the toothpaste back on the first try? “Praise the Lord!”

They were hardly the first family that did that, but it always had seemed a bit over the top. So, I mentioned them, and asked how it was any different than the song suggesting people thank god for the presents they were going to get on Christmas morning. I went further, and quoted Matthew 6:5, “And when you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men.” I suggested that his girlfriend’s family—and anyone who was constantly repeating “Praise the Lord!” at every little thing—were being like that: doing it because they wanted people to see them and know how devout they were. So, if he wasn’t objecting to that, he could hardly be justified getting wound up about a children’s Christmas song.

I should point out that I didn’t believe his girlfriend was some egotistical hypocrite. As it happens, I’d known her longer than he had. I’d even dated her, once. She was one of the sweetest people I had ever met. Still is, actually. But he was just so angry at Here Comes Santa Claus that I couldn’t help it. And I did think he was being hypocritical.

The real problem was, I think, that afternoon may have been the first time in his entire life he had heard Here Comes Santa Claus. At least in a setting where he could actually hear all the lyrics. I’d learned some time before that until he joined the touring choir and we started rehearsing our annual Christmas concert that he hadn’t been familiar with really any Christmas songs. His family wasn’t the type to own Christmas albums, or sing carols around the tree, and so on.

Another part was his family had never been religious, at all. He had been raised in a pretty anti-church home, in fact. He’d been converted to Christianity in junior high, after some incidents where he’d gotten into somewhat serious trouble at school. He always seemed to be trying to make up for his supposedly misspent youth. Given that at the time this conversation happened, he was 19 years old, he wasn’t exactly an old man looking back on decades of debauchery, but he could get that crusader’s gleam in his eye sometimes.

I’m sure that he believes that one of the reasons I’m a queer bound for hell now is because I listened to songs such as Here Comes Santa Claus without being offended. Whereas I still can’t wrap my head around how, with all of the pain, suffering, inequality, hunger, and war going on in the world, the things that people like him get most revved up with righteous fury about are Christmas song lyrics or nativity scenes on public property or whether someone says “Merry Christmas” rather than “Happy Holidays.”

As silly as it is, I really think this Christmas carol is a lot closer to the true meaning of Christmas than those war on Christmas screeds:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

The red cup is already silly old news, but it’s more than a joke

A bag of Starbucks Christmas blend and the cup from my most recent latte, both purchased Saturday.

A bag of Starbucks Christmas blend and the cup of from my most recent latte, both purchased Saturday.

The accusations about the Starbucks red cup that were recently put forward as further evidence of the so-called War on Christmas are funny and ridiculous. The entire notion of a war on Christmas is ludicrous to the extreme. Just as ludicrous as the claim that Christians are an oppressed minority in a country in which 70% of the population identifies as Christian, with about 90% of elected federal officials (not to mention every local and state level) also Christian.

But I saw an article last week which was trying to make the argument that because the whole thing was caused by a self-proclaimed YouTube Evangelist who is actually a con-man, that it was wrong for any of us to make fun of it or otherwise call it out.

Bull.

A close-up of the supposedly anti-Christmas mug. Look at the band. Snow! And how long had red and green been Christmas colors, anyway?

A close-up of the supposedly anti-Christmas mug. Look at the band. Snow! And how long have red and green been Christmas colors, anyway?

Make no mistake: Joshua Feuerstein, the guy who made the YouTube rant (which got more than 12 million views on YouTube; I haven’t bothered to try to track down how many shares the version he shared to Facebook got) makes money from his rants, such as his laughable attempt to take down evolution (that got 2 million views) and so forth. He’s the same idiot that illegally recorded the phone call where he tried to get a bakery to make a cake and write a hateful anti-gay message on it (you may recall the baker offered to make him a bible cake, one she makes many times, but leave it blank and sell him the tool to write his own message on it; even offered to give him cake decorating lessons). He’s in the business of ginning up outrage and getting people to donate money to him so he can continue to fight the good fight.

The trim on the back of the bag, why, that's foil Christmas wrapping paper much like the kind favored by one of my Great-grandmothers!

The trim on the back of the bag, why, that’s foil Christmas wrapping paper much like the kind favored by one of my Great-grandmothers!

But here’s the thing: con-men like Feuerstein don’t just prey on the idiots who gave him $20,000 to purchase a special web spycam so he could expose the anti-Christian plots of… well, I don’t think he ever said. He also apparently never bought any such camera. They also cause real harm.

At least half of the animus and most of the money raised to pass Proposition 8 in California several years ago repealing marriage equality was raised by con-men like him. Most of the money raised to mount their legal defense of Prop 8 was raised by con-men like him. Most of the money and most of the votes needed to repeal Houston’s anti-discrimination law recently was fired up by con-men like him.

The bag even has the word "Christmas" on it. The actual word. It clearly can't be a salvo in the War on Christmas because it hasn't substituted the word "Holiday" for Christmas, right?

The bag even has the word “Christmas” on it. The actual word. It clearly can’t be a salvo in the War on Christmas because it hasn’t substituted the word “Holiday” for Christmas, right?

The entire campaign in Washington state several years back to try to prevent domestic partnerships was orchestrated by two such con-men. One of them raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the campaign mostly from local donors, and then his financial filings revealed that throughout the campaign he paid directly to himself between $5,000-$20,000 every week in consulting fees for “website maintenance.” That’s in addition to paying himself a salary out of the money as the head of the campaign. The other guy, who is peddling his lies in Washington state only because Oregon’s department of revenue determined many years ago that his so-called ministry not only didn’t meet the legal definition of a church, but didn’t meet the definition of a non-profit charity, and had placed tax-liens on him for collection of back taxes. He raised tons of money, too, with all of his emails about the evil gay agenda. The problem was that the links included in those emails for donations were to his new church (we have more liberal laws for registering such things than Oregon does, and Oregon isn’t actually restrictive on that). But the church isn’t allowed to advocate for or against ballot measures.

He’s also the guy who fought all the way to the Supreme Court to try to keep the public records of who signed the Referendum petitions private, claiming that he received death threats. That prompted even ultra-conservative Justice Scalia to side with the pro-liberty forces in the case and say “participating in democracy requires a bit of civic courage.”

Both of them returned and squandered a bunch of money trying to repeal marriage equality in the state in 2012 when the legislature passed that.

The con-men themselves, whether they are internet douche bags like Feuerstein, or international hate-mongers like “Porno Pete” LaBarbera or Scott Lively or rabid anti-gay creep Brian Brown, may be in it more for the notoriety and the money, but they cause real harm. Lively, for instance, his being sued in U.S. court for crimes against humanity because of his activities resulting in the passage of “kill the gays” bills in Uganda and similar places. All of them contribute to the atmosphere of fear and hate that causes so-call Christian parents to kick their children out on the street for being (or being suspected of being) gay. They contribute to the bullying that drives 1500 children to commit suicide out of fear of being rejected by their rightwing families for being queer, gender-nonconforming, or trans. And yes, they even contribute to the mania that causes governors to try to ban refugees who are actually the victims of the terrorists that governors claim that they can only keep out by banning refugees.

They aren’t merely con-men or grifters. They’re hate-mongers and life-destroyers, too.

See! Starbucks isn't the company that has substituted the generic "Holiday" for Christmas! Though the photo of holly berries is still rather festive...

See! Starbucks isn’t the company that has substituted the generic “Holiday” for Christmas! Though the photo of holly berries is still rather festive…

I must confess that I have several reasons this particular issue annoys me. I’ve written before about love of holiday coffee blends and that it was a silly tradition shared with my late partner, Ray. So I have a bit of an obsession with Christmas-themed coffee, whether it be Starbucks’ Christmas blend, Peet’s Holiday Blend, Tulley’s Holiday Joy Blend, Caffe Ladro’s Fireside Blend, et cetera.

They are all meant to celebrate Christmas, not make war on it! Rich, warm, soothing coffee is about love, not war!

I love my Christmas blends, and every year I collect a bunch. I really do go the entire month making myself Christmas Blend and Holiday Blend and Holiday Joy Blend, and so forth. It’s part of my Christmas celebration. And yes, I’m a queer guy who is a taoist married to a pagan, but every year we put up a big Christmas tree in our living room. We cover our house in Christmas lights. We send Christmas cards. We say “Merry Christmas!” to people. We are not waging a war on Christmas or Christianity.

No, the only people doing that, are the folks like Feuerstein. Con-men who are trying to turn a buck by spewing hate and stirring up fake outrage in the name of Jesus. He warned us that such evil people would come forward and claim to be acting in his name. And he told us on the day of judgment what he would tell them:

“I know you not from where you are; depart from me, all you workers of iniquity.”
—Luke 13:27

I wish we didn’t have to wait…

0000StarbucksRainbowCups

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