Danny Tyree: Merry Christmas: The skirmish dissected
Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. Season's Greetings. Like, Whatever, Dude.
I do not necessarily subscribe to the view that this devolution of yuletide messages represents a full-blown War On Christmas, unless you think of it as a faceless war of attrition like the wearing down of the significance of Memorial Day or Pearl Harbor Day.
If it is a war, both sides have gaping holes in their underlying principles and battle strategies.
An attempt to be magnanimous and multicultural and inoffensive sounds all warm and fuzzy on the surface, but it stinks of inconsistency. Let's face it. Regardless of the season, people wear bawdy T-shirts that give little old ladies heart palpitations, scarf down animal flesh in the presence of vegans, blare songs from the car stereo about premarital sex and adultery, engage in ostentatious displays of affluence that rub salt in the wounds of the destitute, question the patriotism of those with differing political views and try their darnedest to humiliate fans of opposing sports teams. Retailers market buttocks-revealing thongs and expose youngsters to checkout-lane magazines announcing "100 Sizzling Sex Secrets."
In short, we spend 12 months a year flaunting and taunting, oblivious to those who might be irked, embarrassed or appalled.
Yet we've been conditioned to balk at speaking or hearing the simple words "Merry Christmas."
As the grown-up version of that babe in the manger declared, "Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat and swallow a camel!"
I know. I know. A generic greeting is more convenient and less demanding than dressing modestly or recognizing animal rights or voluntarily giving up the profits from a potentially lucrative product - but that very convenience makes watered-down greetings a rather shallow gesture. And shallow gestures would seem incongruous with the celebration of a spiritual leader who made countless meaningful gestures and sacrifices (think crucifixion). You contribute nothing to another person's dignity by preemptively assuming he'll be a thin-skinned hothead.
On the other hand, some go too far in defending "the way my momma and my granny always celebrated Christmas." The shepherds came to Bethlehem to adore one who would be the Prince of Peace, and not many peaceful princes take an "in your face" approach to issues that are not central to their goals (for example, salvation).
The Gospels are full of examples of Jesus testing his listeners, such as challenging some of them to give all their worldly goods to the poor. There is no mention of a litmus test about Dec. 25.
According to the Good Book, Christ came to save the world from sin — not to lord it over the world's biggest birthday blowout. He did not come to change water to Chuck E. Cheese tokens.
Friendly reminders of "Wise men still seek Him" should be sufficient, but the more combative traditionalists feel obligated to attach the ill-tempered corollary "...but morons need Him crammed down their throats."
Greetings need to be heartfelt and intellectually honest as well. Your greeting should not be a soulless reflex action. It should not back anyone into a corner. It should not be a cowering capitulation to imagined negative reactions.
Whatever your holiday greeting of choice, make it deliberate and sincere. Proudly utter the purest, most honest sentiments you can muster.
Merry Christmas to all.
Danny Tyree publishes a weekly column for Cagle Caroons Inc. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.