The Profound Value of 'Merry Christmas'
The words "Merry Christmas" are the tip of the iceberg of our longing to go back to a more normal America. The words are not merely about elevating a Christian celebration or an earlier period of exclusive white dominance. That is what the repulsive anti, anti, and Antifa crowd on the left would have people think. "Merry Christmas" instead has a cluster of meanings that include the birth of Christ, of course, but also are linked through nostalgia and through the facticity of history to a time where more families were intact, where a more positive view of our heritage as a Christian society was held, where sexual mores frowned upon pre-marital and non-marital sex, where the USA itself was seen as a beacon and a haven in a world of poverty, heathen belief systems, and dictatorial governments.
The words "Merry Christmas" resonate with a dominant belief in the worth of the individual as being greater than the needs or consciousness of the "collective." Yes, "Merry Christmas" is about shopping at Macy's or Saks or Amazon, but it implicitly and nostalgically reminds us that the family, not the "global village," is the building block of society. It is the intact family of a man and a woman and their children, thriving in peace, hope, faith, and love, that is the locus of our dreams and, yes, our ideology.
The above are some of the meanings attendant upon use of the greeting "Merry Christmas" rather than more limited, neutral greetings. It is no accident that Merry Christmas has been confronted with the more neutral "Happy Holidays" during the past decade, perhaps longer. The coded cluster for each is different. The coded cluster for Merry Christmas is rich in promoting happiness and social unity. The more neutral term is banal and engenders a sense of an ordinary and wearying process. How monotonous and ungrateful it is to think of Christmas as a mere "holiday" from one's employment or a time when federal buildings and banks are closed. If Christmas is about prosperity – perhaps too much, with all the commercialism and marketing of Black Friday and "sleigh bells ring, are y' listenin'" – the family and the providential role of America in the history of the world are also implicitly elevated. Have we forgotten that the Pilgrims came here to set up a God-ordained and God-centered "city on a hill" (Matthew 5:14)?
When this writer was a youth, even the non-Christians said "Merry Christmas" as a tacit acknowledgment that joy is to be found in our sometimes dark world. The hope brought by a Savior was not considered separate from or incompatible with the confident camaraderie we felt with our fellow citizens. At that time, Christ was not being pounded every day as unworthy because he is anti-gay and anti-abortion (defined as "women's health"). Christ had not yet been portrayed as a prophetic male chauvinist pig by the left and the enemy of a man's God-given right to wear a dress. Nor was Christ portrayed as a mere white boy who gained traction in the European context of self-centered white boys. This view is held by many otherwise intelligent atheists on the left, who conveniently forget the millions upon millions of non-whites in this world who pray to and believe in Christ. They conveniently forget that Jesus's first followers all were Jews.
Even in present-day multi-ethnic New York City, this writer went into a Chinese-owned Mexican fast food restaurant and engaged the young Chinese guy behind the counter in a conversation after he voluntarily wished me a "Merry Christmas." He volunteered that even though he is not Christian (and obviously not white), Christmas is his favorite time of the year. He said there is a pervasive spirit of happiness he enjoys.
There are two prongs to the significance and joy of saying "Merry Christmas." One is the acknowledgment of Christ, and the other is the somewhat sentimental joy of living in a shared society with our fellow citizens, a society defined by rights and a mutuality, respect, and hope that is unique in our world.
The debunking of this other pro-family, pro-America dimension of "Merry Christmas" began 100 years ago with the works of Charles and Mary Beard, who dedicated their revisionist histories to portraying the American founding as unrighteous, dishonorable, and based on a struggle for power and wealth by elitist hypocrites who used the "rights" language to hide their true motives. This leftist view was seminal and has morphed into the contempt for America's history that is rife today as the Democrats cling to a vision of "fundamental transformation" of our society.
As this writer wrote in his first American Thinker article seven and a half years ago, even if the Founders were self-interested and wanted to protect their wealth and positions from theft and usurpations by the British, how wrong would that have been? Nevertheless, it seems that their motives were actually more pure, more selfless, than Charles Beard suggested in his 1913 volume An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States. Despite what Beard claimed, the Founders pledged their lives, their wealth, and their sacred honor in support of natural rights and liberty within a Christian moral context. Their perspective was based on an amalgamation of biblical precepts, Platonic and Aristotelian ethics (happiness as the purpose of life), and the rights-based philosophy of John Locke that emerged in England toward the end of the 17th century. This is tacitly remembered when we say "Merry Christmas" to each other. It is a coded shorthand way of connecting with the unconscious themes that unify us all. There is a tremendous sense of security in knowing that our family and spiritual belief systems are upheld by the political and ideological foundation of the social order.
Warren G. Harding, our 29th president, in a speech in 1920, uttered a stable and profound truth that still needs to be enacted: "America's present need is not heroics, but healing; not nostrums, but normalcy; not revolution, but restoration; not agitation, but adjustment; not surgery, but serenity; not the dramatic, but the dispassionate; not experiment, but equipoise; not submergence in internationality, but sustainment in triumphant nationality[.] ... The world needs to be reminded that all human ills are not curable by legislation, and that quantity of statutory enactment and excess of government offer no substitute for quality of citizenship. The problems of maintained civilization are not to be solved by a transfer of responsibility from citizenship to government, and no eminent page in history was ever drafted by the standards of mediocrity."
Saying "Merry Christmas" remains a simple, everyday expression of this vision.
[Editor's note: The Christmas season – in some traditions, anyway – does not end until February 2. So merry Christmas!]