Whatever Happened to the War on Christmas?

The holiday wedge issue packs less punch this year

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Media watchers in the year in 2010 might not believe it, but there was a time in America--say, 2005--when the holiday season meant joy, mirth, and spirited debate about the purported existence of a "war on Christmas." Bill O'Reilly said that "outside of the war on terror, this culture war is the most important thing happening in the country today" while papers like The New York Times and Washington Post denied it even existed. This year, aside from a few blips, it's been pretty quiet. How to explain the decline of the "war" as a wedge issue? A sampling of opinions from around the Web:

  • No Takers  FOX News helped stoke the original outrage, but Mediaite's Frances Martel notes the network's Chris Wallace was unwilling to revisit the subject during a recent appearance with conservative radio host Mike Gallagher. Asked for comment about the "assault on Christmas," Wallace responded with an exasperated "Oh gosh!" before urging Gallagher "stop this." Pressed for a response, Wallace only reluctantly gave in. "You're the host," said Wallace dryly, "so I'll play along and pretend this is an issue."
  • Little Interest  The Huffington Post's Jason Linkins says that to truly appreciate how little attention the subject is receiving, one need only observe the reaction--or lack thereof--to Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma's announcement last week that he would not be marching in Tulsa's annual Holiday Parade for the second straight year to protest the word "Christmas" being removed from the event description. "Why," wondered Linkins, "is no one making an "It gets better" YouTube clip for the "saddened and disappointed" Inhofe?"
  • Shift in Focus  Former GOP presidential candidate and conservative columnist Gary Bauer cites the foiled car bomb attack at a public tree lighting last month in Portland as proof initial fears about the war on Christmas were misplaced. Rather than worrying about store clerks wishing people "happy holidays" instead of a merry Christmas, more attention should be paid, he thinks, to Muslim terrorists "targeting Christianity in a religious war meant to destroy the Judeo-Christian foundation of our country." That said, he does mention "Radical Islam's secular enablers [who] have been driving Christianity from the public square for decades" and is less than pleased with the American Atheists' campaign.
  • Who Has The Energy? Salon's Mary Elizabeth Williams writes that Americans are too caught up with real problems in 2010 pay much attention to issues like the Catholic League's objections to the new atheist billboard outside the Lincoln Tunnel. She explains:
I know both groups are wildly overinvested in promoting themselves and butting into everybody else's private belief systems, that's what I know. I know they can both scream all they want, but the greater metropolitan area and the world at large are chock-full of people for whom "celebrating" this season doesn't involve telling other people what's really in their hearts. I know that whatever you believe--or don't--the end of the year marks a marvelous opportunity for introspection, and resolution to favor kindness, compassion and empathy over finger-wagging and agenda-pushing. And that I'm ready to take up a collection to create a billboard that celebrates ignoring anybody belligerent enough to shout from a billboard about what the hell any of us ought to be celebrating in the first place.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.