Saturday, December 7, 2013

The War on Christmas Part I: The Cult of Disclaiming Oppression

I'm writing a series I'm calling "The War on Christmas" as an homage to the droves of high-ranking Christian bigots (and a fair number of people who have literally no idea what religious minorities go through) out there.  I expect the series to take at be at least a three-parter but hey, who knows?

For a quick clarity here: I am a Pagan who celebrates Yule, I don't really make a distinction between Christmas and Yule in my daily life.  They are the same holiday with two different interpretations, and both Christians and Pagans have borrowed from each other various practices.  I also am one of a large majority of non-Christians who doesn't usually get personally offended when somebody says "Merry Christmas."

I say "a large majority" because although I'm certain such a phenomenon exists, the idea that there are droves of non-Christians out there being snide about people saying "Merry Christmas" is pretty much a myth.  In fact, it's often non-Christians who post stuff like this:
Which I think is a nice diagram for ignoring religious hegemony and oppression.

Let me explain here: It's not that I think there's anything wrong with just going with whatever greeting a person happens to use with you.  It's that being subjected with a barrage of endless posts like this is a constant reminder that the way this is treated is not equal between faiths.  You can talk all you want about how everyone should just be able to use whatever greeting is appropriate in their faith or culture, but unless you're celebrating Christmas or constantly around people who share that faith or culture people are not going to look at it as just another greeting.

There's a reason most of us don't stray beyond "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays."  Anything other than these two can reasonably be expected to seen as a direct insult to Christianity if you use it with a Christian.  If you're a non-Christian you're expected to bite your tongue, but there's no way Facebook posts are going to convince Christians to do the same because Christianity is an entitled majority faith in this region.  That's where the disparity is: The lecture being given is essentially "Don't worry what people are greeting you with because it's all meant in good cheer anyway."  It's a great message that can only realistically benefit people who say "Merry Christmas" or a generic holiday greeting, and yet they always stick some other religious holidays in there (usually Hannukah, Kwanzaa, maybe Yule or Winter Solstice) as if they are part of the picture just to make it look equal.  They aren't, though.  That's why most of us don't use them.

It's for that reason I do get unnerved when people say "Merry Christmas" to me without having any understanding of my background or history.  Because I can and do acknowledge that this dialogue is stacked almost entirely in favor of preserving Christian hegemony and NOT interfaith tolerance. 
And you know what?  There's nothing wrong with acknowledging that you are uncomfortable with "Merry Christmas."  It doesn't make you a horrible person, it makes you a person who is aware of a terrible disparity of privilege that is being hijacked by the media as a "War on Christmas" when really it should be called "teaching people not to make assumptions about other peoples' faith practices."