War on Christmas

Beyond the War on Christmas: AP serves up an advent story that fails to mention Advent

Beyond the War on Christmas: AP serves up an advent story that fails to mention Advent

It’s time for a major-league GetReligion flashback.

It has been a decade since M.Z. “GetReligionista emerita” Hemingway wrote a post — a low-key nod to the whole “War on Christmas” school of media coverage — in which she talked about the overlooked religious traditions that, once upon a time, millions of Christians followed in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

The name of her post back in 2008: “The War on Advent.” Here is MZ’s overture:

Of all the seasons of the church year, the first — Advent — is definitely the one that leaves me feeling most out of touch with my fellow Americans. While everyone else is frantically shopping, decorating, partying, those Christians who mark Advent are in a period of preparation and prayerful contemplation. The disciplines of Advent include confession and repentance, prayer, immersion in Scripture, fasting and the singing of the Great O Antiphons and other seasonal hymns. …

The season is marked by millions of Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians and many other Christians, but not only do you rarely see any media coverage of it, the media actively promotes the secular version. 

Advent ends on Christmas Eve with the beginning of the Christmas season. In America, the end of Advent coincides with the end of the secular Christmas season/shoppingpalooza. Just as my family is putting up Christmas trees and lights and buying gifts for friends and family, much of the rest of America is experiencing the post-Christmas hangover.

This is all true. I thought that back when I was an evangelical Anglican and I feel that way today as an Eastern Orthodox Christian — only we observe Nativity Lent. Yes, I have written about this topic here, here and here (in which I asked Siri for some seasonal info). You get the point.

So what is Advent? Here’s a piece of yet another column I wrote on that. The voice here is the Rev. Timothy Paul Jones, a Baptist who is the author of “Church History Made Easy.

… Jones noted that "Advent ... comes to us from a Latin term that means 'toward the coming.' The purpose of this season was to look toward the coming of Christ to earth; it was a season that focused on waiting. As early as the 4th century A.D., Christians fasted during this season. ... By the late Middle Ages, Advent preceded Christmas by 40 days in the Eastern Orthodox Church and by four weeks in western congregations." Advent was then followed by the 12-day Christmas season.

This brings us to an Associated Press story with this rather non-liturgical headline: “Forget the chocolate: Advent calendars go for booze, cheese.

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Happy Trump-idays! The real reason for so much winning and saying 'Merry Christmas' this season

Happy Trump-idays! The real reason for so much winning and saying 'Merry Christmas' this season

Thank you, President Trump!

Because of you, my family was able to celebrate and say "Merry Christmas" this holiday season. That's something we haven't been able to do since ... last Christmas.

As GetReligion readers probably heard, the president congratulated himself in a Christmas Eve tweet: "People are proud to be saying Merry Christmas again. I am proud to have led the charge against the assault of our cherished and beautiful phrase. MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!"

So much winning — and Christmas spirit!

But personally, I identified with the response of Ed Stetzer, executive director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, to Trump's tweet: "So, was this a thing that I missed? Were some of you really ashamed of saying Merry Christmas before the election? Or afraid to? Teach me — are you proud and more bold now? What?" (See Stetzer's Twitter timeline for some excellent feedback that he received.)

Here's the deal, though: Trump's emphasis on Christmas — like his "Make America Great Again" slogan — has tapped into something deeper than saying Merry Christmas, as a nice PBS Newshour segment noted Monday night.

I recall that when I interviewed Robert Jeffress, one of Trump's key evangelical advisers, earlier this year, I asked about the Christmas issue.

Jeffress told me:

People say, 'Well, what’s the big deal about Merry Christmas? I think President Trump understands that Christianity has been marginalized in our country. For the two years I’ve known him, he’s talked about that quite a bit, the marginalization of Christianity. He certainly believes that people of all faiths or no faith ought to have the right to practice whatever faith they have. But he’s noticed the decline of Christianity in America, and that concerns him.

Real war on Christmas or not (for what it's worth, the Washington Post's opinion Twitter account thought Dec. 25 was a great day to question Jesus' existence), Trump's Christmas focus seems to have resonated with much of his evangelical Christian base.

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Our Fox News question remains: Was there any real religion factor in career of Bill O'Reilly?

Our Fox News question remains: Was there any real religion factor in career of Bill O'Reilly?

What can I say? People keep asking me if there is some kind of "religion ghost" lurking in the story of the fall of Fox News superstar Bill O'Reilly.

After all, he was one of America's leading "conservatives."

O'Reilly also mentioned, from time to time, his Catholic roots. Yes, we will get to that timely handshake with Pope Francis in a minute (Religion News Service report here). As religion-beat patriarch Richard Ostling told me, in an email one-liner: "Since O'Reilly made so much of his Catholic identity, perhaps he should have asked Pope Francis to hear his confession when they met at the Vatican?"

But, you see, this is where I need to plead ignorance and seek help from readers. As I have said before, I never watched O'Reilly's show. I don't think I ever watched an episode from end to end, because I truly despised the style and content of his baseball-bat commentary work. His opinion-to-reporting ratio was not my cup of tea. I remain a Brit Hume, Kirsten Powers, Megyn Kelly, Howard Kurtz kind of guy.

So help me here: Did O'Reilly consistently make a big deal out of the CONTENT of his Catholic identity or did he just mention it in passing? Did he quote scripture, the Catholic Catechism or papal documents? I honestly want to know.

I also hear this: What about the whole "War on Christmas" riff that he used year after year after year, world without end?

From what I have seen, that part of his work was based on his anti-political-correctness stance and a kind of marketplace version of civil religion. I never heard him engage in the actual details of church-state debates linked to this important First Amendment topic. He just bashed away, knowing that his audience loved it. Did I miss something?

If there is a valid GetReligion angle to this story it is, in my opinion, the possibility that the very public falls of O'Reilly and original Fox News maestro Roger Ailes offer insights into the political philosophy at the heart of this news operation.

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The liturgical color purple: Did Clintons make a statement about politics or faith?

The liturgical color purple: Did Clintons make a statement about politics or faith?

All over the world, millions and millions of Christians know what the color purple means.

More than anything else, it stands for seasons centering on the repentance of sins. Thus, it is the liturgical color for vestments and altar cloths that the truly ancient churches -- think Eastern Orthodoxy and the Church of Rome -- associate with Great Lent and also with the season known as Nativity Lent in the East and Advent in the West.

Of course, in the modern world Nativity Lent/Advent has been crushed by the cultural steamroller of Shopping-Mall Christmas (which already seems to be underway in television advertising). But that's another story, as in the actual cultural War on Christmas (as opposed to you know what).

Purple is also the liturgical color associated with royalty, as in Christ the King. In Western churches -- especially oldline Protestant churches -- most people link this connection with the purple candles in an Advent wreath. United Methodist churches retain some of these traditions through historic links to Anglicanism.

This brings us news-media speculations about why Hillary Clinton and President Bill Clinton elected to splash purple into their wardrobe when she gave her speech conceding that Donald Trump had won the presidency. Let's start with the top of this U.S. News & World Report take on the topic:

Hillary Clinton conceded the presidential election to Donald Trump on Wednesday in front of her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and her running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia.
Both Clintons made a bold statement with their clothing: Hillary donned a dark gray pantsuit with purple lapels and a purple blouse underneath, and Bill wore a matching purple necktie.
Throughout her campaign, Clinton has often sent a message with her fashion choices, so what did the purple ensemble mean?

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#WarOnChristmas: RNS, other media jump on (nonexistent) controversy over Starbucks cups

#WarOnChristmas: RNS, other media jump on (nonexistent) controversy over Starbucks cups

Yes, Virginia, Religion News Service wrote a snarky "news" item quoting three anonymous Twitter users.

The subject of the report: The alleged controversy over holiday cups at Starbucks.

The wire service's lede:

(RNS) Yes, Virginia, there are people brandishing pitchforks because the new Starbucks cup is green and doesn’t have a snowflake.
On Tuesday (Nov. 1), the much-loved and much-derided coffee chain rolled out a cup with a white circle on a green background covered with an army of little cartoon faces drawn with a single line by artist Shogo Ota.
For some customers, this was the first salvo in what they see as the company’s annual “War on Christmas.”
“Starbucks is trying to take Jesus out of Christmas with the new cup,” someone named Jazmine H wrote on Twitter.

Wowza! If Jazmine H is upset, this must be a legitimate national news story!

And there are even reports that Starbucks has unveiled new Satanic holiday cups.

Oh, wait. That report is from the Babylon Bee, the fake religion news website. My bad.

Back to the Starbucks cup brouhaha: As the late, great Yogi Berra said, "It's deja vu all over again!"

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War on Christmas: Is it actually taking place at shopping malls and churches?

War on Christmas: Is it actually taking place at shopping malls and churches?

So why was that whole Starbucks red cup winter blend outrage thing considered a major news event in the first place?

Yes, you had a former evangelical pastor serving up a click-bait selfie video that let to YouTube after YouTube after YouTube and snarky story after story after story. I thought that this Washington Post something-or-another took the prize for capturing the tone of the media product being served up.

But about that wave of outrage. You know, folks who know something about evangelicalism and its leaders had to stop and ask: Precisely who is Joshua Feuerstein and how in the world did this unknown guy end up getting waves of media coverage?

As you would expect, the Starbucks wars were the topic of this week's "Crossroads" podcast, but host Todd Wilken and I did everything we could to try to find some actual news hooks linked to this fiasco. Click here to tune that in.

For starters, all of this was supposed to have something to do with (a) lots of Christians being upset (although there was next to zero evidence that this was true) and (b) the Christian season of Christmas, which begins on Dec. 25 and continues for the following 12 days.

No, honest. Stop laughing. You can look it (but don't ask Siri).

Then there was this other Washington Post red-cup piece that -- along with the Stephen Colbert piece at the top of this post -- kind of pointed toward the topic that dominated the Crossroads taping.

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Think Advent, early: Divine Mrs. MZ goes gently postal in rant about the War On Christmas

Think Advent, early: Divine Mrs. MZ goes gently postal in rant about the War On Christmas

Can you hear the clock ticking as our culture veers toward open warfare?

Can you hear the shopping malls preparing their displays, the lawyers preparing for combat, the atheists preparing their posters for protests, the spin-zone Fox opinion writers preparing their scripts?

Here comes the War on Christmas 2015.

The Divine Mrs. M.Z. Hemingway –GetReligionista emeritus – knows what is coming and jumped into the fray early, but not on the subject of Christmas alone.

Right up front, let me stress that I realize that her recent piece at The Federalist, "Forget The War On Christmas, The War On Advent Is Worse" was not a journalism piece. However, it was an essay with implications for how journalists can (I would plead "should") think about one angle of the Christmas coverage that is to come. Thus, I thought I would share a piece or two of it.

There are some potential angles in this piece for journalists thinking about Christmas Wars coverage.

Angle No. 1: When does Christmas actually begin? In the culture? In the Christian tradition, as opposed to the "American" tradition, the shopping mall tradition?

Angle No. 2: At what point are ordinary Americans already swamped with stuff that is allegedly linked to Christmas?

Angle No. 3: Does any of this have anything to do with religious faith and practice?

Here is M.Z. getting rolling:

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Everything you know about Christmas is wrong

George just posted about an old story being rehashed for Christmas, which reminded me that the regular attempts to debunk Christianity around its holy days has become my favorite tradition. What would Christmas and Easter be like without a semi-blasphemous newsweekly magazine cover questioning some central tenet of the religion?

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Christians are numerous. What's their problem?

Yesterday, Pew came out with a new “Global Religious Landscape” report. Much of the media coverage has been focused on the relatively high percentage of people who are religiously unaffiliated. We’ll probably need to look at how some media continue to confuse everything between atheism and multiple religious traditions into one grouping.

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