In an op-ed penned for Fox Nation on Tuesday, Neutering Religious Holidays, Norris complained, “We haven’t even hit Thanksgiving, and already the war on Christmas is underway.”
Well, to be fair, the shelves in stores are already full of Christmas merchandise, so it really isn’t out-of-season to declare an early war on Christmas. I mean, technically speaking.
But Norris lamented that “our country is heading down a slippery slope,” and that “one of the largest public school systems in the U.S. is eliminating every mention of religious holidays on its official calendar.”
“We have to stop it before it is too late.”
What Norris is upset about is that,
The Montgomery County Board of Education in Maryland has cut Christmas and Easter, as well as Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashana, from next year’s school calendar. No religious holiday will be mentioned by name.
To be fair, MY religious holidays don’t even make it onto a school calendar, for example, Winter Nights, a three-day celebration during which, traditionally, many weddings took place. There are other religions, larger than mine, similarly affected by a widespread state of neglect. To be fair, our holidays ought to be added to the calendar, or all others removed.
And this is sort of what a concerned Muslim family wanted, as Norris admits:
NPR reported on the origin of the decision: “The path to the board’s decision started about two years ago on something that was somewhat unrelated. Members of the county’s Muslim community — roughly estimated at around 10 percent of the more than 1 million population — were seeking to have two of their religion’s holy days added to the calendar of days off. They wanted Eid al-Adha the most.”
Fair enough, I’d say. What use Christian holidays to non-Christians, and vice versa? Norris here misses the point that the number of Muslims doesn’t matter. The point is, not everybody in the district – let alone the state or the country – are Christians. Other religions have the same rights and protections as Christianity.
That may offend the Chuck Norrises of the world, but it’s a fact.
But remember, for Norris, the only religion is HIS religion.
In any event, instead of adding some Muslim holidays, the school board voted to remove all religious holidays, which greatly vexed Norris:
The students will continue to get the same religious days off, but there will be generic references to them, such as “winter break.” Board members have even gone so far as to reinterpret the historical recognition of the holidays by saying that the days off are not meant to observe those religious holidays.
To be fair, the historical recognition of the holidays is a bit iffy at best anyway, as I mentioned above. Besides, much as I would like to see my holidays recognized, I have to admit the school calendar would get a bit unwieldy if Muslim, Hindu, Pagan, and other holy days began to crowd the calendar already filled with Jewish and Christian. And let’s not forget the dread Festivus for the rest of us that so frightens Gretchen Carlson.
Besides, it’s an issue of fairness. Perhaps the best thing to do IS to simply remove all mention of religious holidays. And that’s what, the school board’s president, Phil Kauffman, said:
“The best way to accommodate the diversity of our community is to not make choices about which communities we’re going to respect in our calendar and which ones we’re not going to respect.”
Chuck Norris wants only Christian holidays respected, however. He is not pushing for the inclusion of other religions and their holidays, so his claim to be a champion of religious freedom falls rather flat, likewise his insistence that “religious neutering” is more about “endors[ing] secular progressivism” than that “religious diversity,” he himself is so clearly opposed to.
But Norris wants to know where President Barack Obama is while all this religious diversity is going on:
And where’s our president when these Christian and Jewish references are being erased from civic calendars? Is he crying out in defense of religious liberty and our First Amendment? Nope. He’s as silent as a church mouse, just as he’s been for the past six years on any such matter.
As Media Matters for America has helpfully pointed out, President Obama has not been silent about religion, or about his own personal faith. It’s just that Fox News refuses to listen to, or report on, such expressions of faith, as when earlier this year, at Easter, he talked about the suffering of Jesus.
Oh, well that was terribly inconvenient. But that’s okay, we can just pretend he never said that.
Along with President Obama’s Christmas address last year, in which he said,
“So many people all across the country are helping out at soup kitchens, buying gifts for children in need, or organizing food or clothing drives for their neighbors. For families like ours, that service is a chance to celebrate the birth of Christ and live out what He taught us – to love our neighbors as we would ourselves; to feed the hungry and look after the sick; to be our brother’s keeper and our sister’s keeper.”
Oh dear. Now that IS inconvenient. He even called Jesus “the Christ.”
Norris, who is a big Reagan-fan yet consistently gets Reagan wrong (a common disease among Republicans of today), invokes Reagan:
Let us never forget that there was once a time in the U.S. when people and even presidents weren’t afraid to stand for traditional values and encourage others to do the same.
Case in point, President Ronald Reagan, in his 1981 Christmas address, televised and on the radio from the Oval Office for the entire nation and world to hear, said: “At this special time of year, we all renew our sense of wonder in recalling the story of the first Christmas in Bethlehem, nearly 2,000 years ago. Some celebrate Christmas as the birthday of a great and good philosopher and teacher. Others of us believe in the divinity of the child born in Bethlehem, that he was and is the promised Prince of Peace. … Like the shepherds and wise men of that first Christmas, we Americans have always tried to follow a higher light, a star, if you will. At lonely campfire vigils along the frontier, in the darkest days of the Great Depression, through war and peace, the twin beacons of faith and freedom have brightened the American sky. At times, our footsteps may have faltered, but trusting in God’s help, we’ve never lost our way. … So let this holiday season be for us a time of rededication. … Tonight, in millions of American homes, the glow of the Christmas tree is a reflection of the love (of) Jesus. … Christmas means so much because of one special child.”
The whacky thing is that yesterday, Fox News turned this poorly reasoned op-ed into news, with Fox & Friends’ Elisabeth Hasselbeck and her cohosts reading she calls it Norris’ “fiery op-ed” aloud, saying, “Chuck Norris’ point was, remember the time when American presidents weren’t afraid to talk about traditional values, as Ronald Reagan did back in 1981”:
The real newsworthy thing is that Norris is also the guy, who in 2009, insisted that, “If this thing [healthcare reform] passes the government will have the right to come into our home, and regulate how we raise our children.”
That obviously hasn’t happened. But I guess invoking St. Ronnie is a lot more fun that admitting you lied about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, an effort, not coincidentally, in which Fox & Friends was complicit.
And as a final thought, imagine if the school district had simply added the Muslim holidays. Imagine the outcry then. We would be talking about a different, if equally divisive, column today.
Norris, and Fox & Friends, can’t get over the idea that America is just for white Evangelicals. This whole episode is not about an imagined war on Christmas, but a simple recognition of a changing ethnic and religious demographic in our country.
But come on, let’s get this over with. We have big religious holiday coming up and we’ve got a lot of work to do if we’re promote a spirit of diversity of belief, rather than a potentially state- and certainly a Fox-sponsored religion that represents only a portion of America.
 Winter Nights marks not only the beginning of winter (and thus the dark half of the year) but the beginning of the ritual year. It runs 3 consecutive days and falls on the first full moon following the autumn equinox. During Winternights, cattle were slaughtered and consecrated to the gods to cull the herds for winter (a practical matter if you want to have food to eat during the winter, given the absence of grocery stores back in the day), and sacrifices made to Freyr, and toasts “to prosperity and peace for the year.” As mentioned, this was a big time for weddings take place, as well as a good time to consult a seeress about what the coming year will bring, which was probably a more accurate forecast than any provided by Fox News.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.