It’s gonna be a good year in Nashville for those festive interfaith couples. Bring out the cranberry sauce (canned and complete with rings) and the latkes, the fritters and pumpkin pie, the soofganiot and the candy canes. Because two weeks after Mayor Bill Purcell presides over this year’s Metro tree lighting Thursday evening at the Public Square, he’ll be on hand for the lighting of the menorah at Riverfront Park.
This inclusiveness buys us what will hopefully be a one-way ticket out of the silliness of last year, when city officials, not at all immune to the so-called culture war on Christmas, were rightly criticized for calling that towering, glittering victim of a chainsaw downtown a “holiday tree.”
It was muddleheaded all right, but that’s not to say that the benign PC kowtowing deserved quite the rhetorical stir it inspired. You’d have thought there’d been an actual crucifixion at the hands of Metro officials. Never did a knotty pine wreak such unholy havoc. All of a sudden, Christians were oppressed and fighting against a handful of hypersensitive political animals who wanted to sanitize the moniker of a Christian symbol—the Christmas tree—so as not to offend anyone. Mind you, Christians long ago adopted this formerly pagan symbol as their own, and today, no other religious tradition calls for folks to erect dead trees in their homes and vacuum pine needles for a month. Only those who celebrate Christmas—most of us, by the way—adhere to this annual ritual, so there’s no need to contrive some broad, antiseptic name. As one Scene writer remarked last year, no one would ever feel compelled to call a menorah a “candelabra.”
Meanwhile, the mayor’s office says this year’s change in characterizing the tree comes because Purcell’s nine-month observance of Nashville’s 200th birthday, Celebrate Nashville, is honoring faiths during December. That the city is being represented by symbols of different religions therefore means that officials can call the evergreen a Christmas tree and the nine-branched candleholder a menorah without all the intellectually dishonest whitewashing.
But despite this victory for common sense locally, readers, you can go ahead and brace yourselves for what will no doubt be another year of carping by the fruitcake faction, who will make the ludicrousness of using the term “holiday tree” look utterly sane by comparison. They will insist that to say “happy holidays” is akin to being a Judas, that there’s a full-on war attacking Jesus and that they and their religious beliefs are being subjugated by academics in thick glasses and comfortable shoes who prefer that the government not acknowledge religion at all because they don’t want their Muslim TA or their Jewish colleague to be offended. Never mind the dark and twisted souls of a shopping public willing to get up at 5 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving for some “holiday” sales so they can get Aunt Martha in Spokane the digital camera she’s never been able to afford.
In fact, as early as August, the wing nuts were already at it. The American Family Association (AFA), whose website says it’s “for people who are tired of cursing the darkness and who are ready to light a bonfire,” attacked Sam’s Club for using the word “holidays” instead of “Christmas” in the August/September issue of its in-house magazine. The AFA is also asking members to call and email Best Buy in protest for using the term “happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”
As we noted in this space about this time last year, these people represent perhaps the least afflicted constituency in the history of religious or social movements. They would have us believe that Christians are somehow being persecuted just because Betty and Simon Silverstein want their kid to grow up in an inclusive environment and because Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn want to publicize their “sales of the season” or whatever. Humbug.
Once again, there’s no war on Christmas. We could start a war on the wack jobs, though. Who’s up for a bonfire of our own?