Thursday, December 08, 2005

Bill O'Reilly's Defense of Christmas

Bill O'Reilly has become a parody of himself. On last Friday's edition of his radio show, he railed against anti-Christian forces of evil who are trying to destroy Christmas, and vowed to do battle against them.

I am not going to let oppressive, totalitarian, anti-Christian forces in this country diminish and denigrate the holiday and the celebration. I am not going to let it happen. I'm gonna use all the power that I have on radio and television to bring horror into the world of people who are trying to do that. And we have succeeded. You know we've succeeded. They are on the run in corporations, in the media, everywhere. They are on the run, because I will put their face and their name on television, and I will talk about them on the radio if they do it. There is no reason on this earth that all of us cannot celebrate a public holiday devoted to generosity, peace, and love together. There is no reason on the earth that we can't do that. So we are going to do it. And anyone who tries to stop us from doing it is gonna face me. [Emphasis in original.]

It's certainly very generous, peaceful, and loving of Bill O'Reilly to threaten to "bring horror" to people who, in his mind, put down Christmas. I can see that he's living out what he tells us is the true meaning of Christmas.

That said, I take it that Bill O'Reilly is not a religious man, does not consider himself a Christian, and is not concerned about the actual meaning of Christmas. Christmas is not a "public holiday." It is not a day set aside by the federal government to celebrate "generosity, peace, and love together."

Christmas is a religious holiday. More than that: Christmas is arguably the central holiday, the most important holiday, the most sacred holiday in the religious calendar of the Christian religion. (I use the qualifier "arguably" only because, being Jewish, I'm not entirely certain if Christmas is considered a more important holiday than Easter, in a religious sense, or if the two are considered equal in importance by religious Christians.)

The equivalent to Christmas in terms of religious importance in Judaism is not Hanukkah, but Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur -- what Jews call the High Holy Days. Contrary to what some may believe, Hanukkah is not the "Jewish Christmas." Hanukkah is a minor holiday on the Jewish calendar. The only reason it's assumed the importance it has in American society is because it falls at the same time of year as Christmas, and it's become competitive with Christmas, in large part as a way for Jewish families to deal with the glamor and allure of Christmas, to children especially. You can bet that in Israel, Hanukkah is not anywhere close to the huge deal it is here.

All of which is to say that O'Reilly, in my view, is trivializing the sacred, religious meaning of Christmas as the day that Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, who obviously is the central figure in the Christian religion. There's no Christianity without belief in Jesus Christ as the Messiah and the Savior. That's what Christmas is about. It seems to me that devout Christians should be shocked and outraged when a well-known public figure turns a deeply spiritual Christian holiday like Christmas into no more than a federal holiday when businesses and schools are closed.

1 comment:

jlg17 said...

Billy O promised to bring horror to those who would cheapen Christmas.

Ignoring the irony in that, notice, if you will, the irony in this: the last time anyone decided to intentionally provide horror to US citizens during the holidays was when the Viet Cong launched the Tet Offensive against American troops in Vietnam on January 30, 1968.

I guess Bill O'Reilly has a lot more in common with his mortal enemy Hanoi Jane than he'd like to admit.