This is the latest header on Donald Trump’s Twitter-feed. While Trump is arguably the most cynical and amoral individual ever to hold the office of president, he knows a good wedge issue when he sees it, and the so-called “War on Christmas” is among the best.
We all know the story: secularists and pluralists are seeking to impose their ideological perspective by removing the celebration of Christmas from the public square. That’s why Starbucks’ decision to have plain red Christmas Starbucks cups in 2015 was immediately interpreted as yet another volley in that interminable war.
And so when Trump panders to his ever-diminishing conservative base with a promise that we will say “Merry Christmas” again, he’s seen as a culture warrior defending Christianity in the public square.
The fact is, however, that the so-called war on Christmas is nothing more than a war on Christendom. Ever since Constantine converted to Christianity at the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312, Christians have sought privileged place from governments in the West and around the world. Christendom is thus a partnership between church and state, one in which the church receives favored status by the government.
While there have certainly been benefits from this partnership (the cessation of Christian persecution, for example), those benefits have been purchased at a very high cost. One of the highest costs is the completely erroneous notion that Christianity exists to provide a comfortable backdrop to civil society rather than a radical call to take up one’s cross.
And nowhere is the corrosive impact of Christendom more evident than in the milquetoast vestiges of public religion that provide the inoffensive backdrop to the consumerist festival which fills every December. So folks hear “Silent Night” sung by a public school choir on the courthouse steps and they look over at the creche on government property and they think they’ve won some sort of victory. And if anyone challenges their ever-diminishing territory of hegemonic rule in the public square (or, as in the case of Starbucks, private enterprise), they go to war for “Christmas”.
However, the truth is that all they’re really fighting for is the last vestige of a hived out and emasculated public religion that bears little relationship with genuine Christianity.
For further reflection, you can read my article “Why you shouldn’t sing “Silent Night” at city hall.”