Fox News, the War on Christmas, and Christian Philosophy
Fox News is an easy target for people like me. It tends toward the extreme in order to entertain and provocate. Its annual panic meter is once again off the charts as it strikes fear in the hearts of viewers. It is December, after all, and thus has begun the “War on Christmas.”
Rally the troops! We must defend Christmas!
The most powerful defender of Christmas at Fox is Bill O’Reilly. In the video above, O’Reilly discusses the “War on Christmas” with Father Jonathan Morris. O’Reilly is “fed up” and claims that “the people who want to diminish the Christmas federal holiday are insulting me and they are insulting you if you are a Christian and believe in traditional America.”
There are plenty of people who respond mimetically to O’Reilly and Fox News. I get that. The “War on Christmas” is manufactured silliness to get us riled up. But I don’t want to fight O’Reilly or Fox News. I want to do something slightly different. I sympathize with O’Reilly and I want to tell you why.
In his very awkward interview with David Silverman, President of American Atheists, O’Reilly kicked off his defense of Christmas by insisting that Christianity is not a religion; rather, it is a philosophy. His point was that while the Government can legislate on religion, it can’t legislate a philosophy. So everyone, especially the Government, needs to leave Christmas alone!
Let’s assume that O’Reilly’s fear is genuine. That assumption allows me to sympathize with him. At some point, we all feel diminished and insulted by someone else. In fact, many of us feel insulted and diminished by Fox News and we tend to respond with imitative defensiveness. O’Reilly feels like a victim and so he grasps for power. Others feel like victims of Fox News’s agenda, and so they grasp for power. The danger is that we mimic one another and become run by a power that is over and against one another. We think there are radical differences between us, but in reality, we are run by the same thing – a mutual desire for power.
There is a way out, and O’Reilly unwittingly points to it. Let’s take O’Reilly’s cue and emphasize the philosophy of Christianity, beginning with the philosophy of Christmas. As much as we might try to defend Christmas through power grabs, this philosophy is categorically not about power grabs. The philosophy of Christmas is about vulnerability. Christmas is about heaven and earth uniting in a newborn baby who was vulnerable. Jesus was born into a poor Jewish family and his people were constantly under threat by the occupying Roman Empire. Rome had a specific philosophy of peace that created peace through violence. It would crucify anyone who challenged its regime. Of course, ancient Rome’s philosophy of peace was no different than any other ancient empire, and it is no different than the philosophy of peace propagated by modern nations that believe in peace through violence, including the United States.
But the philosophy of Jesus, which is the foundation of any Christian philosophy, is different. The Prince of Peace doesn’t create peace through violence. Rather, he created peace through forgiveness, turning the other cheek, and loving his enemies. Jesus’ philosophy of peace was a challenge to Rome’s, and so Rome crucified him. As the theologian James Alison states, Jesus became the “Forgiving Victim” in order to show us a new way of life.
Like O’Reilly, I hope we start taking the philosophy of Christianity seriously. If we do, we will find ourselves becoming un-diminished, un-insulted, and un-scandalized by others. We will begin the process of becoming more like Jesus, who instead of grasping for power by conducting his own defensive war against those who sought to diminish him and his people, became vulnerable and entered the place of diminishment, shame, and death so that we no longer need to put one another in that place; that we might instead live in a community that embraces everyone through the spirit of compassion, love, and forgiveness.