The other day, my friend Ted posted something about his alarm with the rising tide of militant Christian fundamentalism. No, we don’t have Bible-thumping extremists setting off bombs in our midst; well, hardly ever. The alarm is over the growing insistence among conservative Christians that their religious views should be adopted as central to our public institutions: not only should their god be recognized in public schools and courthouses, for instance, but he ought to become part of the school curriculum and acknowledged explicitly as our guide in lawmaking. If you happen not to be an adherent of everything these folks believe, too damn bad for you. You’re probably going to hell anyway.
The San Francisco Chronicle has a front-page story on the crusaders’ latest effort: Ensuring that Christmas gets the respect it deserves. The effort features Jerry Falwell’s “Friend or Foe” Christmas Campaign and several other groups:
“Falwell has put the power of his 24,000-member congregation behind the ‘Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign,’ an effort led by the conservative legal organization Liberty Counsel. The group promises to file suit against anyone who spreads what it sees as misinformation about how Christmas can be celebrated in schools and public spaces.
“The 8,000 members of the Christian Educators Association International will be the campaign’s “eyes and ears” in the nation’s public schools. They’ll be reporting to 750 Liberty Counsel lawyers who are ready to pounce if, for example, a teacher is muzzled from leading the third-graders in ‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.’
“An additional 800 attorneys from another conservative legal group, the Alliance Defense Fund, are standing by as part of a similar effort, the Christmas Project. Its slogan: ‘Merry Christmas. It’s OK to say it.’
In fact, it’s not only OK to say “Merry Christmas,” you’ll be trampling Christians’ civil rights if you refrain. Ah, the ironies: The poor, abused Christians whose holiday will be spoiled unless the rest of us not only respect it, but let them observe it exactly the way they want to, where they want to — sort of like the people in Berkeley who insist it’s their right to walk the streets naked. Using the courts, a.k.a. Satan’s playground, to give the unbelievers a taste of their own medicine.
The story goes on to report that Target stores are in trouble with another love-Jesus-or-die group, the American Family Association, for allegedly adopting a policy banning the phrase “Merry Christmas” from advertising and in-store displays. Target — which I think does deserve some heat for banning Salvation Army bell ringers from its premises — swears that it has imposed no such ban. No matter — the zealots are boycotting the chain next weekend unless the company gets right with their god and installs prominent “Merry Christmas” signage. Which presents a dilemma: Refuse to shop at Target because of the wrong-headed decision to keep the bell ringers away? Or do all my holiday shopping there next weekend to vote against the Falwell-fundamentalist axis.