by John Ellis
The outrage over the supposed War on Christmas has long been supported by the twin pillars of misplaced priorities and ridiculous conspiracy theories. White evangelicals in this country have long – since their beginning – embraced a martyr complex combined with a love for conspiracy theories. The handwringing over the War on Christmas is white evangelicalism at its consumerist, self-serving best (or worst). This year, a new conspiracy theory about the War on Christmas is beginning to make the rounds online that is breathtaking in its absolute nonsensicalness. But I’m going to wait a few paragraphs before unveiling it and tearing it down. The overall picture of the War on Christmas needs to be painted first.
Of course, on one hand, there has always been a War on Christmas because Christmas is the Enemy’s worst nightmare. God taking on flesh to crush the head of Serpent-Satan is the ultimate narrative (and literal) flanking. The Creator of the world and the Savior of God’s people lying in a manger would be bad storytelling if it hadn’t been so brilliantly foreshadowed in the Story’s beats leading up to the Incarnation. Christmas is vital in God’s Story, and it spells the destruction of the Enemy, and he knows it. How much Serpent-Satan knows and what his ultimate goals are, I don’t know. Frankly, I don’t care because speculating about things like this that God doesn’t reveal to us in the Bible takes our eyes off the Story. Which is one of my primary criticisms with the online discourse about the War on Christmas. It selfishly elevates expressive individualism into a real spiritual battle with very real suffering, pain, and martyrdom.
Looking at the world, the War on Christmas is visible. The increased persecution of Christians by radical Hindus in India since President Narendra Modi took office is part of the War on Christmas. The Enemy launched an attack against Christmas earlier this year in Kenya when Al-Shabaab militants martyred six Christians, some of them being burned alive. Christian pastors in China being imprisoned is part of the War on Christmas. How do I know this? Because King Jesus told us that the world will hate and persecute his followers. However, the beleaguered clerk at Target wishing shoppers a happy holiday is not part of the enemy’s War on Christmas. Whining because your company no longer allows the song “Joy to the World” to be sung at the annual holiday party is not the “righteous” flex you think it is.
Christmas (or whatever you want to call it) in this country is little more than a hedonistic display of our consumerist excess. Yes, there are islands of real joy, real community, and real selflessness dotted throughout the holiday season. By and large, though, our society is consumed with consuming. Christmas in this country gives us an excuse to consume even more without feeling guilty – as long as we also donate toys to underprivileged children, of course. As a follower of King Jesus, I’m happy that beleaguered store clerks are no longer allowed to connect the Incarnation to the worst excesses of consumerism. I’m thankful that companies are no longer using the name of my King and Savior as a marketing ploy. And it makes my heart glad that Christmas in this country is becoming further distanced from what my brothers and sisters in Christ are enduring for the name of Jesus in India, Kenya, China, and wherever else around the globe Christians are being persecuted and martyred. If the War on Christmas means divorcing the birth of Jesus from the materialistic excesses found in the United States of America, then count me among the soldiers waging that war.
The misplaced priorities, to put it mildly/kindly, by those concerned about the so-called War on Christmas is a larger concern than the nonsensical conspiracy theories. Misplaced priorities speak to poor theologies and an out-of-balance understanding of the eschaton among white evangelicals in this country, which is a serious issue. The conspiracy theories, though, do help expose the self-serving ridiculousness of the whole ginned up enterprise. For example, the current conspiracy I alluded to in the opening paragraph serves as an absurdist entrance into the obvious foolishness of it all. Some of you are aware of it, for those who aren’t, there is a conspiracy making the online rounds (I’ve seen it a few times on my newsfeeds already) that Disney hates God and wants to destroy the true meaning of Christmas as evidenced by a still photo turned into a meme from the Disney+ series The Santa Clauses.
(There are some spoilers ahead, but not enough to bother anyone over the age of ten. Plus, you’ll likely figure all this out on your own about five minutes into the first episode if you choose to watch the series.)
The series is light-hearted, silly, and seemingly hastily produced. It’s not very good but still fun to watch. With Tim Allen reprising his role as Scott Calvin/Santa Clause in the popular The Santa Clause movies, the series moves forward into the future after Santa and Mrs. Clause’s children are almost grown. For the sake of his family, Scott/Santa decides to retire. Facing retirement, he undergoes a mini-existential crisis brought on by the realization that the elves never talk about the previous Santa. Scott/Santa is worried that the elves don’t appreciate him and won’t miss him when he’s gone. This is the context that frames the moment that the conspiracy theorists have grabbed hold of.
As the Clauses are planning to leave the North Pole, the elves surprise the family with a going-away party. During the song and dance that opens the celebration, a group of elves hold up letters to spell out “We’ll Miss You Santa!” Except, the elves are in the wrong order and the sign unfortunately spells out “We’ll Miss You Satan!”
For me, it’s one of the funnier moments in the series because the joke works on multiple levels. One, and at its most important level, it underscores Scott/Santa’s concern that the elves don’t appreciate him. They see him as evil. Two, it plays into the frivolous, unthinking nature of the elves. Three, it touches on the theme of this article: the belief in parts of our society that Santa is evil. I’ve heard the joke many times that Santa and Satan both wear red and both have the exact same letters in their name. Disney+’s joke works.
What’s not contained in the joke, at all, is any subtext of Disney’s participation in this so-called War on Christmas. It wouldn’t make any sense within the context of the series. It requires a self-serving belief that *my* expressive individualism as a God-fearin’, Constitution-loving, patriotic American is under attack to read that conspiracy theory into an innocuous joke. If anything, the series underscores that expressive individualism. It stars, Tim Allen, for crying out loud. More importantly, for the bolstering of that expression of individualism, the series puffs up the belief that our white, American version of Christmas is wholesome, family-friendly, and devoid of the nastiness I wrote about it above. Except, the argument can be made that our white, American version of Christmas is an idolatrous placeholder for heaven; we should examine our hearts and ask if our Christmas is John Bunyan’s Vanity Fair brought to life.
So, yes, there’s a War on Christmas. But it’s not found in Starbucks’ cups, store clerk greetings, and the renaming of work parties. And attempts to prove it using nonsensical conspiracies only serves to place unnecessary stumbling blocks in front of the Kingdom’s call for Christians to be faithful witnesses to the Resurrection. Please stop with the cultural War on Christmas nonsense. It profanes the name of Jesus.
Soli Deo Gloria
 This should raise an important existential question: Unless Jesus lied, how come white evangelicals in this country have enjoyed lives free from suffering and persecution throughout this country’s history? If you really ask this question, the answer is scary. I believe that we – white Americans – are the prosperous wicked that the Psalmists cry out to God about. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t individual Christians among the prosperous wicked, but I do believe that, by and large, our privilege and wealth are not evidence of God’s blessings but are evidence of the temporal fruits of sin. To read more about that, click here.
 This deserves more attention, but my wife and I try to divorce American Christmas from the Incarnation. For example, we don’t say, “We bought you presents to honor God’s gift to the world in Jesus.” That’s dumb and self-serving. Likewise, saying, “We bought you presents to honor Baby Jesus’ birth” is dumb and self-serving. It’s the epitome of the white Western gaze that can’t see beyond our own image in the mirror. … Like I said, this deserves more attention – fleshing out – but I’ll have to leave it at a mini-rant in a footnote for now.