A View From The Handbasket

Monday, November 07, 2005
Turning water into whine
Posted by neros_fiddle at 8:29 PM
In the comments to a post down there somewhere, Dob complains about a blogger over at First Draft complaining about white Christian men with persecution complexes. (So, in effect, it's a complaint about a complaint about a complaint. This sort of thing is what makes blogging so much fun.) As part of my response, I mentioned Bill O'Reilly's crusade last year to save Christmas from the godless heathen who say, "Happy Holidays."

Well, it looks like this year is going to be even worse. Rampaging into the "Right-Wing Paranoia" section of your local bookstore is this screed by Fox News talking head John Gibson:

This is just the beginning, though. Those white-Christian-male haters over at First Draft helpfully point out that a "Christian legal group" is offering free legal representation to anyone whose right to encourage others to celebrate Christmas is trampled by Satanic school boards and meddling city councils.

Now let's think about this for a minute. These groups are behaving as though the celebration of Christmas (and by extension Christianity itself, assuming we grant the premise that Christmas is really "Christian" in the first place) is somehow being threatened. That a holiday that single-handedly makes many corporations profitable is somehow in danger. That the biggest orgy of commercialism in the Western world is being pushed out. It takes a certain kind of sucker to fall for a premise like that, and that's John Gibson's target market.

According to a 2002 Pew Research survey, 82% of Americans identify themselves as Christian. The only other category to get more than 2% was "no preference" (with 10%). It's this 82% majority that is apparently scared witless that their entire religion is going to be wiped off the face of the map.

That's hyperbole, of course. Christians aren't really worried about the survival of their religion, and most Christians aren't part of this wacky crusade. What the subset of Christians that are making noise about this are really frightened of, of course, is the possiblity that they might have to confront the reality of a world in which that pesky 18% exist.

Like Jim Crow racists who tolerated blacks only if they used separate facilities and stayed in the back of the bus, these "Christians" can only move through the scary world if all other religions give them proper deference. They want a Nativity scene on the lawn of the courthouse (and a Ten Commandments monument inside) to remind everyone which God is in charge 'round these parts. They demand a Christmas pageant at their kid's school to remind any heathen kids that they aren't "real" citizens unless they love Jesus. They want that minimum-wage temporary cashier at Best Buy to tell them, "Merry Christmas," to reassure them that everyone else either thinks like them or can be forced to.

These people have no actual religious conviction. They have no faith. They have only a shaky group identification and a massive fear of the world. "Otherness" frightens them, and they find comfort in rigid conformity. They're the ones who want to turn America into a theocracy, like the Taliban running amok in Afghanistan blowing up statues that didn't mesh with their worldview. They want to infect the rest of us with their fear -- they want us to be as afraid of them as they are of us.

I think FDR had some appropriate advice for how to deal with people like Bill O'Reilly and John Gibson. Reject fear.

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