Column: The real Grinch

By Todd Swiss

Ah, December. A time for holiday cheer, overspending and overeating. It’s the average American’s favorite time of year. However, this December, Christian conservatives are trying to ruin the holidays with boycotts and lawsuits.

Jerry Falwell, Bill O’Reilly and their hordes of fanatics are taking a stand against the secularization of Christmas. They are planning boycotts of large chain stores such as Target and Kmart because they have chosen to replace the traditional “Merry Christmas” with the more universally accepted “Happy Holidays.”

Yet even Wal-Mart, the Christian conservative’s best friend, is also replacing their Christmas slogans with more universal holiday phrases. A spokesman from Wal-Mart has said the “Happy holidays” greeting is “more inclusive. With 130 million customers walking through the door and 1.3 million employees, it’s safe to say there are a lot of different faiths out there.”

This petty political move by Christian conservatives is disappointing, but not surprising in the least.

While Christmas is the national holiday that is most widely celebrated, it should not be the sole focus of this time of year for the common man. O’Reilly suggested that the stores should say “Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Season’s Greetings, Happy Kwanzaa.” While this does cover all of the bases, it is obviously an unreasonable request. Most people do not even want to hear “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas” from a tired holiday retail employee, let alone the eight-word politically correct greeting. And why does “Merry Christmas” get first billing in his new “appropriate” greeting?

O’Reilly even goes as far to suggest that a plain “Happy Holidays” actually offends Christians. With his logic, he must not have minded that thousands of Jews in the past may have also been offended when they were greeted with a “Merry Christmas” instead of a “Happy Hanukkah.”

The move to boycott stores is weak. Even the leaders of the boycotting movement have publicly said that they will shop at Wal-Mart during the holiday season. But the hypocrisy does not stop there. Many of these same people (not including O’Reilly) have no problem with just saying “Merry Christmas” to everyone and therefore alienating a large portion of our population that may have different religious views.

Their reasoning for this proposed alienation is that America is primarily a Christian nation and that everyone else just should deal with it. Our founding fathers, who embraced the freedom of religion, must be turning in their graves. It would be hypocritical for a secular company without “Christian values” to say “Merry Christmas” without truly meaning it, anyway.

The last time I checked, Christmas’s true meaning involved the birth of a baby that would eventually save all people from eternal damnation. If this is still the case, why are the religiously devout so caught up in shopping and exchanging gifts? They should be celebrating together and thanking God for his gift instead of worrying about whether to buy an XBOX 360 or an iPod for little Jimmy.

Also, are these not the same people who often complain about how consumerism has ruined the meaning of Christmas? While they may have had a point with the whole consumerism issue, it seems like they have abandoned that issue and moved onto one that annoys everyone. They take part in the consumerism, but complain about it at the same time. That same hypocritical behavior is seen in their new crusade.

Falwell and his gang are not only picking a fight with people who have never wronged them; they are working against their own cause. These fundamentalists’ main goal is to convert everyone to Christianity and create a theocracy. But boycotting innocent stores and basically throwing a fit whenever something does not go their way is not a great strategy for converting unbelievers. In fact, it seems like they are preaching against what Jesus taught.

Christian conservatives could take after the example of their hero. Be tolerant of those people that disagree with you and maybe those people will be more excepting of your beliefs.

Todd Swiss is a senior in LAS. His column runs every Tuesday. He can be reached at [email protected]