Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.
Bill O’Reilly, who paid $32 million to keep sexual harassment charges quiet, spent a significant amount of time pretending there is a war on Christmas. Over the course of several years, in the rare moments when he was not allegedly harassing women on his staff, O’Reilly was piously calling for more holiness in the holidays. His heir apparent in this charade is Donald Trump, who has also been accused of harassing multiple women, but who suddenly gets religion when he has a gullible listening audience. Last month Trump promised a room of religious zealots that, “We’re saying Merry Christmas again.” As if anyone had ever prevented anybody ever from saying those words.
In prior years, this fictional war has led easily fooled, overwhelmingly white conservatives to become indignant over Starbucks cups and factual Neil deGrasse Tyson tweets. Though it’s not even Thanksgiving yet, the outrage machine is already firing on at least two cylinders. Here are five ways Christians are fighting the totally imaginary war on Christmas.
1. Creating anti-inclusive wristbands and selling them for a profit.
The American Family Association is a hard-right Christian organization dedicated to “combating the homosexual agenda,” while showering praise on a man who brags about criminal sexual assault. Each year, the group is among the most deafening voices decrying the imaginary war on Christmas, and 2017 is no different. To those who are tired of the welcoming inclusiveness of the phrase “Happy Holidays,” the AFA offers its “Keep Christ in Christmas” wristband. “These wristbands are great conversation starters,” the site notes, which is true if you’re only looking to talk to other Christians with a persecution complex! The first hit…er, wristband is free but if you want more it’ll cost you, because capitalism is the reason for the season.
2. Insisting on putting up nativity scenes everywhere.
Fun fact: there’s a group called American Nativity Scene that has the singular goal of putting up (yep) nativity scenes “in every state capitol throughout the United States during the Christmas season.” It is helped in this endeavor, particularly on the legal front, by the Thomas More Society, a law firm whose main gig is fighting reproductive justice, but which also dabbles in the “free expression of religion in the public square.” (It is also about “restoring respect for marriage as the sacred union of one man and one woman” because one can multitask at being awful, apparently.) The collaborative duo buys and ships nativity sets to people willing to form a committee and go through the proper chain of protocols to display the scenes in their local statehouse. They’ve successfully placed nativity scenes in 14 state capitals, though they hope to add more to the list this year. It’s unclear who’s underwriting it all, but the group says the effort is funded by a “special benefactor/angel.”
3. Getting angry at children’s books.
The publisher describes the children’s parody book Santa’s Husband as “a fresh twist on Kris Kringle” about “a black Santa, his white husband, and their life in the North Pole.” As you might guess, some people are going apeshit. Megyn “Santa Just Is White” Kelly is probably annoyed. And author Daniel Kibblesmith says that a broad coalition of right-wingers has launched attacks on social media. In an interview with Vice, Kibblesmith said that outraged commenters have demanded he “stop rewriting history,” as if the book deviates from the biographical life details of a real person. Pearl-clutching conservatives have tweeted that the book ruins “an innocent childhood experience…[with] PC crap” and suggested Kibblesmith be “sued for defamation of character.” He has “even found his picture on a white supremacist’s blog trying to ‘out’ him as Jewish.” Snowflakes are easily triggered, it seems.
4. Making naughty and nice lists of stores based on how Christmasy they are.
The Liberty Counsel claims that in 2003, it began to notice that “people wanting to celebrate Christmas were told to sit down and be quiet.” (This has never actually happened.) In response to this fantasy, it began categorizing retailers as “nice” or “naughty,” with the latter category reserved for businesses that don’t remind customers they prioritize Christians all the time. The American Family Association maintains a similar list and invites its followers to rat out stores that aren’t Christmas-focused enough.
5. Making (reportedly) terrible movies.
Full transparency: I have not yet seen Let There Be Light, the “faith-based film” executive-produced by bloviating gasbag Sean Hannity, nor is there enough money currently in circulation to pay me to see it. The movie stars ex-Herculesactor Kevin Sorbo, on an apparent break from tweeting about how the Jews killed Jesus and calling black protesters “animals.” The holiday release reaches its giant closing scene on Christmas Eve, and credits roll to a soundtrack of children singing “Silent Night.” The New Yorker describes the film (the full plot of which sounds like formulaic Bible-beating pap) as “pious, xenophobic fun for the whole family”; the LA Times calls it “melodramatic” and “unevenly acted” with a “seeming fixation with the Islamic State”; and the Hollywood Reporter writes “even believers will find it unconvincing.”
Kali Holloway is a senior writer and the associate editor of media and culture at AlterNet.