Jerry Falwell and Bill O’Reilly are right wing whackos – not news really, but I thought I’d stress that point first. Like all such people on the far right they have the best intentions, but when they actually attempt to put their poorly thought out sense of ethics into practice, they tend to fall on their faces.
The current “Save Christmas” debacle spearheaded by these two is a perfect example. From a typically rambling O’Reilly on “The O’Reilly Factor“:
I think the backlash against stores that don’t say “Merry Christmas” is enormous because now people are aware of the issue. There’s going to be — it’s like the third or fourth year that we’ve reported it. I know everybody’s hypersensitive about are they going to say “Merry Christmas”? Are they going to say “Happy Holidays”? What are they going to say? Are there decorations that say “Merry Christmas”? They’re hypersensitive. And when you walk into a secular environment, most Christians are looking around, and they’re really aware of it. Now, the other thing is, I don’t believe most people who aren’t Christian are offended by the words “Merry Christmas.” I think those people are nuts. I think you’re crazy if you’re offended by the words “Merry Christmas.”
On another edition of “The O’Reilly Factor”:
This, of course, is nuts. Anyone offended by the words ‘Merry Christmas’ has problems not even St. Nicholas could solve.
Every company in America should be on its knees thanking Jesus for being born. Without Christmas, most American businesses would be far less profitable; more than enough reason for businesses to be screaming Merry Christmas.
Obviously, O’Reilly believes that anyone who isn’t a Christian is obviously crazy. That’s bad enough for an Atheist like me, but what about those people who are religious but NOT Christian? Christianity might be at the top of the list, but should a retailer exclude the Jewish or the Islamic?
And as some advice to Mr. O’Reilly: You, of all people, shouldn’t call people crazy – it draws too much attention to your own insanity and urges people to make comparisons about kettles and pots.
Last year, Falwell, and others, decided that Target’s decision to disallow solicitors on the front doorstep of their stores was Anti-Christian – especially since Target bans the Salvation Army holiday bell ringers. (They encouraged shoppers to go to Wal-Mart instead – Hmm what an interesting idea for a sales campaign. I wonder if Wal-Mart demonstrated their appreciation to Falwell and friends?)
According to Falwell during a December 2004 sermon:
When we began the Christmas season this year, we were all very much aware that a war was being waged by the Christmas grinches — the American Civil Liberties Union [ACLU], Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and other secularists, to steal Christmas from America. To not only take Christ out of Christmas, but to remove Christmas totally from the American scene. I am happy to announce today that we are winning the Christmas war.
This year, Falwell has put his backing behind the “Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign” which he, ironically, says is “… designed to prevent blatant religious discrimination during the Christmas holidays.” His support includes purchasing ad space, and encouraging his followers to attack those who dare to be inclusive in celebrating the season – instead of excluding all non-Christians.
According to Falwell’s web site:
We need to draw a line in the sand and resist bullying tactics by the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, the American Atheists and other leftist organizations that intimidate school and government officials by spreading misinformation about Christmas.
Their Big Mistake
O’Reilly and Falwell, and other supporters of the Christmas Campaign haven’t thought about the consequences of their campaign. Since they aren’t doing any thinking, lets help them out a little.
The whole intent of their Christmas Campaign is to put Christ back into Christmas. Everywhere in Christmas – especially in the marketing of Christmas.
Christmas has increasingly become a Marketing and Sales holiday, with retailers making the lion’s share of their sales during the holiday sales season. (Starting the day after Thanksgiving.) For many businesses, this period is all that stands between them and profitability for the year.
As such, these companies create innovative Marketing campaigns intended to lure the customer into their businesses. Santa, elves, festive decorations, traditional colors and symbols have all been incorporated into these campaigns in order to draw your attention. You see polar bears and Santa drinking Coke, Santa driving new cars, advising clueless husbands to give their wives diamonds, or eating the cookies that kids left out in Toys R Us commercials. It’s all Marketing.
And now these businesses are being threatened by lawsuits and boycotts if they don’t put Christ back into Christmas?
The possible result here could be that Christ becomes an advertising symbol! Is this something that the right wing wants?
Do Christians want to see the Virgin Mary advertising infant care products? “Christmas Pampers for Baby Jesus!” Or how about, “Tylenol – effective for muscle pain due to riding a donkey, but safe for the unborn Jesus.” Would Jesus become a spokes-baby for Toys R Us? How about the clueless husband Joseph trying to decide if he should get Mary a new camel, or a diamond from Zales?
Oh dear – what if this bleeds over into Easter? Bunnies and Chocolates make great sales campaigns – but being nailed to a cross is sort of a bummer. (Perhaps it could be tied into an advertisement for Bactine, Band-Aid, or some sort of topical anesthetic.)
You see, advertisers want customers – and this won’t change as long as we have a society based upon capitalism. Since capitalism seems to be working pretty good for us, I don’t see this as changing anytime soon. If the religious right succeeds in convincing retailers that nothing can be sold without bringing Jesus into their Marketing campaigns, then retailers will embrace Jesus until he becomes trivial. Sure this would make many non-religious people scream – and as such would be seen as a ‘win’ by the religious but they would be wrong.
In my opinion, the marketing of Jesus would reduce him to a mere sales symbol – something that would be ubiquitous, and end up meaning nothing to anyone over the age of 10 – just like Santa Clause is today.
As an Atheist, I would be happy to find my dental floss and razors in a Nativity Display in Wal-Mart. In that regard, I can only fully support O’Reilly and Falwell’s efforts.