Is There Really a 'War on Christmas'?

Can Christmas be both everywhere and sacred?

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Outrage against the so-called "War on Christmas" may have been prevalent in the 1990s and early 2000s, but a number of pundits have pointed out that 2010 has been noticeably quiet on this particular front of the culture wars. The New York Times' Ross Douthat, however, disagrees. In a recent column, Douthat says that being a serious, observant Christian can be difficult in today's atmosphere of consumerized, secularized Christmas. Here's what he has to say and how fellow pundits are responding.

  • Finding Piety in a Time of Consumerism  The New York Times' Ross Douthat reflects on "the peculiar and complicated status of Christian faith in American life." He says the time around Christmas is "the season when American Christians can feel most embattled. Their piety is overshadowed by materialist ticky-tack. Their great feast is compromised by Christmukkwanzaa multiculturalism. And the once-a-year churchgoers crowding the pews beside them are a reminder of how many Americans regard religion as just another form of midwinter entertainment, wedged in between 'The Nutcracker' and 'Miracle on 34th Street.'"
  • Secularization Has Watered Down Christmas  "The secularization of Christmas is a point I sympathize with," sighs Think Progress' Matthew Yglesias. He says that "the transfiguration of Christmas into a largely secular observance" has forced everyone to participate, watering it down for the actual observant Christians for whom it is a religious day. He suggests having "a big national secular holiday where the idea is to have fun and brighten the darkest day of the year with presents and whatnot" that would be separate from Christmas, thus preserving its sanctity.
  • Christmas Can Be Nationwide or Religious, Not Both  The New Republic's Jonathan Chait examines the inherent tension in making a religious day such as Christmas a national holiday. "If you want Christmas to be totally pervasive, as many Christians desire, as opposed to merely almost-totally-pervasive, then its religiosity needs to be underplayed. Or if you want to return it to its role as a holiday about Jesus, then it has to be something other than 'our national holiday.'"
  • Who Cares? Religion Is Personal  In other words, someone else's particular way of celebrating the season--or not--shouldn't matter, writes blogger Aaron Larson writes. "I think Douthat would be a lot happier if he stopped worrying about other people--whether others appreciate the 'true meaning' of Christmas, whether the nation is sufficiently Christian, whether the guy next to him in the pew at Christmas Mass is going to be there next week, whether other people are celebrating Hannukkah or Kwanza, or the odd hybrid he calls 'Christmukkwanzaa'--and focused on his own spirituality."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.