Happy Holidays and the Snake of Secularism
The first thing I would like to do is classify what this is and what this is not. I would primarily define my endeavor here as observational. There are better ways to air frustrations than to the void of a blog people probably assume was abandoned. What might initially seem to be a simplistic, crotchety-old-man PC culture rant, could actually offer a substantive critique.
Observation is important. Contextual awareness helps one know whether they are being warmed by a fire or being consumed by it. We should know how close we are to the end. The rivals of conservative Christianity grow more awkward, incoherent, and obvious in their foibles. It’s easy to laugh at them as sites like the Babylon Bee do so well. From time to time, however, it’s valuable to take the next step and ask the next question. What does this say about their hearts? the dominant culture? and are the next dominoes to fall more pernicious?
I’ve recently been puzzled by, “Happy Holidays”. Growing up, my understanding of the phrase was that it was reforming some intolerant past by being more inclusive, giving a nod to what must be some unsung cornucopia of other holidays that occur during this time. Now that I have a decent understanding of the scope of cultures and communities in Oklahoma, my confusion has only grown. What are we doing here? What do we mean by it?
Perhaps it’s a tip of the cap to Hanukkah so that Jewish people can be included in the Christmas tidings. I think not. This past year Hanukkah didn’t even happen in December. Even if it happened on Christmas day, in Oklahoma 0.1% of the population is Jewish. Who y’all talking to? I will give the holiday some credit in that it’s the only other one here with some real substance. At least it’s about God. And sometimes Hanukkah happens later in the month. If so, I could imagine a scenario where it might be polite to acknowledge both holidays in a grouped setting if one finds themself speaking in a general sense before both holidays have occurred and there is a reasonable expectation of Jewish people in your audience. That’s a tiny Venn diagram.
Then there’s New Year, which, in my experience, is an occasion to stay up a little later than normal, maybe see some friends, and spend 30 seconds watching a complementary 30 second countdown on TV. Nothing to see here. On some level, all holidays are so culturally relative that their significance can vary wildly without rhyme or reason. Lamenting the disfigured caricature of Christmas most people celebrate has been done ad nauseam, so I won’t retread those paths here, but, as I enter my third decade of Elf, stockings, and light shows, I’ve seen too much to get excited about celebrating these aspects of the holiday. Give me the good stuff. Give me Immanuel. Give me God with us.
“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.”
Finally there is Kwanzaa, a holiday with the substantive backbone of a car-lot inflatable. It is definitionally derivative of Christmas, and at least from my wikipedia-ing, was created to be distinct of Christmas, a clear rejection of the inclusive aspects of the Gospel’s message.
I hope you’ll agree, one of these holidays is not like the others.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Take a second there. Breathe that verse in again. That’s incredible. The fulfillment of centuries of prophecies. Literally the universe is structured around the incarnation of the Son of God, from the beginnings of creation to culmination in Glory. I’ll say it again: the universe is structured around the incarnation of the Son of God, from the beginnings of creation to culmination in Glory.
Sorry not sorry. Your other holidays are kind of lame.
If you want to greet someone with well wishes regarding any of the specific aforementioned celebrations, it’s clearly of little matter. There are a myriad of phatic greetings we regularly use. These phrases serve the purpose of social acknowledgement, akin to “hello”, and, beyond that, I wish people really do have a happy new year.
This generic greeting deserves far less grace. Let’s be clear. Our use of “Happy Holidays” is fundamentally incoherent. Group them all together, and it’s like asking how the side salad is at Mahogany’s steakhouse, but it’s not even the relative significance between them which is so disjointed. (This is the turn). None of these other holidays are regularly associated with deep reds, poinsettias, holly branches, evergreen trees, or tinsel, the accoutrements which regularly adorn the phrase “Happy Holidays”. These are all Christmas symbols, meaning people are actually wishing people a Merry Christmas but in a cheap masquerade sort of way. It’s a clunky deception, which might explain why my coworkers only messaged it in the few days before December 25th. “Happy Holidays” is just phatic, performative chaff to be blown away. It means nothing.
However, this communal charade is more than just a waste of breath. It speaks to something much deeper. They hate God (see Romans 1). They may be scared of the woke mob backlash or a card-carrying member of it, but that still only leaves you as a Pharisee or Pilate, and what’s the difference? Maybe God is useful to them sometimes, in this case as an excuse for some days off and credit card debt, but if we could keep ‘Christmas’ without the collared shirt at your grandparents’ Christmas Eve service, that would be preferable. If we could shift the focus to something good, but ultimately temporary, like family or generosity, then we can pretend that everyone derives an equally valid moral meaning from the holiday. Just don’t make us think of something eternal. Did you not hear me? Please stop. Hand me a little more materialism and gluttony to numb my senses again. Ahhhh. That’s better.
That’s what Christmas is to them.
“This is what the wicked are like — always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.”
As for Christians who know the truth, why do people engage in this farce of misdirection? Why do many believers play their game? It’s in the name of secularism, a non-evangelical version of the Gospel where one can hold their thoughts in cognitive dissonance, agreeing with the true means of salvation outwardly, but not thinking too hard about its exclusivity, the consequences for the damned, and preferring the ugly sheen to their feet.
“Beautiful are the feet which bring good news.”
Secularism is deceptive because its social performance is called polite and its proponents describe it as neutral, protecting the Christian in civil society. Isn’t religious freedom the main goal anyways? The answer is no.
“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”
Our institutions are only useful towards that end.
I believed the lies for a while as well, but, as Douglas Wilson points out, war has already been waged. Just ask the first ones to fall, the florists and bakers (see Wilson’s “Not Whether But Which, As I Keep Saying”). Secularism fundamentally assumes a world in which Jesus is not the Lord of the state, which means someone else is, and why are we listening to them?
At least be honest about whom you worship. If you’ve accepted political party X and social acceptability as your lord and savior, come forward now. This is your altar call. But if you believe that Christ is Lord of all, don’t fight for secularism, because His lordship isn’t contingent on any institution — especially not polite society.
“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (repetitio est mater studiorum)
I’m On Instagram Too Much
What spurned my writing? I was browsing my Instagram feed, and my alma mater’s holiday post on December 26th came up. I looked at their posts for the year and noticed that each of the posts for Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and Halloween named the holiday in the picture, but even on Christmas day, the picture just read “Happy Holidays”. They aren’t making this hard. This is more Inspector Clouseau than Sherlock Holmes. It’s honestly just tacky at this point.
So What’s My Point?
“Happy Holidays” is a lie. It is not inclusion but exclusion. They aren’t even trying to hide it anymore. It can only be inclusive if it comes from a jellyfish Christianity — which is denying the Bible’s authority — and is then, at best, an obfuscation. However, those people in power aren’t Christian, at least not anymore. They’ll only tolerate you if you don’t bark or shed too much. For your good behavior they’ll wish you a Happy Holidays in December, expecting you to wag your tail in gratitude. But if your theology nips at too many heels, watch out. They might start telling the kids about a farm up state. And if you want to know how far along we are with this process, all of this is with a Christmas already neutered to an embarrassing level of impotence. If Christians aren’t the ones deploying the secularism, then it’s no longer just distasteful, it’s reptilian–a snake who seeks to deceive and devour. We know this because, as Christians, Romans 1 tells us about the state of their hearts. They hate God, especially any God worth worshiping.
“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
This is not all to fight some culture war. That war does exist, and I think Christians are confused about where their alliances fall. I posit that many Christians create a morality bucket. In that goes Jesus’ teachings, but other stuff falls in there as well, often the latest cultural trend. It could be an appreciation of the troops, or a woman’s ‘right’ to kill her child, the protection of the southern border, environmentalism, or ‘wokeness’. In this case it is a traitorous secularism. When this happens, a fly (the deadly kind) has fallen in the stew. Jesus’ clear teaching condemns–without hesitation–much of the extra stuff in an individual’s morality bucket, and teaching on this regularly either rejects/qualifies scripture to validate sin or, as a means of appeasement, leaves confusion in its wake instead of clarity.
May I propose we start with the book? What would the Bible say about who our ‘inclusiveness’ is trying to include? And for what reason and at what cost? This is not a call to tear down the “Happy Holidays” banner from your workplace next winter, but you should know what’s going on. As we live in the world, we must be reflective more and more of the ways we are of it. There’s a lot to unpack; it requires more than simply an eschewing of promiscuity, fame, and greed. At least some of those are yet disdained by society. If you’re old enough to read this blog you’ve already witnessed cultural morality evolve at breakneck speed. Tides turn, but our foundation is one of solid rock. Stand on that. Understand where popular morality is wrong and identify it as such. Under the mystique of culture and its cover of darkness, these aberrations are hidden, but there will be a day of reckoning where the truth will expose our cultural trysts. We best cover up now, because, as the adage goes, when the tide goes out, you see who’s been skinny dipping.