Tuesday, December 20, 2005

ConservaChristmas II

It's a shame that Andrew Sullivan is gay. Not for the same reason it's a shame that Rufus Wainwright's gay, but because otherwise Sullivan would be such a consistent social conservative. Abortion is murder, those who prefer "happy holidays" to "merry Christmas" are PC bores, but don't you dare say anything bad about gay marriage, let alone "Brokeback Mountain!"

Sullivan writes, in the British (not NY) Times:

And so we have our new Scrooges, and they are much worse than the original. They're whiny, sensitive pedants who feel that their civil rights have been infringed if a town council puts up a manger scene in the shopping mall. In America, where political correctness was born, these kinds of events are now an annual ritual of a sort.

And how about those whiny, sensitive gays, then? So whiny and sensitive. No, wait a second, I think it's Jews who are supposed to be whiny and gays who are supposed to be sensitive, gotta get those stereotypes right...

At the same time most of the Jews I know have no problem with Christmas at all. Ditto Muslims. And most of them find the PC cant as annoying as the rest of us.

This "problem with Christmas" nonsense, ugh. It would be very hard to find Jews or Muslims in America who have a problem with the fact that Christians celebrate Christmas, have Christmas trees, take the day off from school or work on December 25, and so on. It's not having a problem with a religious holiday to not want it to have federal endorsement. It's not "PC cant" to want a country with no state religion to maintain a certain official neutrality towards all religious holidays.

As with his oh-so-enlightened take on a woman's right to choose(doesn't apply to him, so abortion is murder, even if logisitcally it kinda still has to be legal), Sullivan's nuanced, dare I say sensitive take on gay issues doesn't carry over to how it might feel if you live in a country with no official religion yet which nevertheless officially embraces the majority's biggest religious holiday. I know what it's like to be both to not celebrate Christmas and to know that my gender and sexual orientation put me at risk for pregnancy. I don't, however, know what it's like to be a gay man. Yet I believe in gay rights, I believe gay marriage should be legal, out of the same "PC" principles that lead me to believe the needs of minority religions and women ought not to be scoffed at. It's not that I demand that people be fully on the left or fully on the right. Hardly. But it would be far more consistent if Sullivan had a bit of the nuance he has when discussing issues that affect him personally when discussing equally personal issues he does not himself have to deal with.

He ends his column in the following way:

"Merry Christmas. There. I said it."


Think about it. Male-female romantic relationships work for most of us, so why be all PC and pay any mind to those few couples who'd rather go the same-sex route? Hmm? Now do you see why non-Christians might be annoyed?

One thing that confuses me: Sullivan writes, of having Jewish friends: "And if a friend of mine is Jewish, I tend to shy away a little from wishing him “Happy Christmas”. I’ve learnt to say “Happy Hanukkah” or “Happy Holidays”. What if one of these Jewish friends (or just any non-Christian, Jewish or otherwise, Sullivan's acquaintance or otherwise) happens to be among the readers of this article. Why, then, the triumphant "Merry Christmas"?


codone said...

quick question:

Do you believe governments should have the right to mandate that churches perform gay marriages?

In Canada this possibility is real.

Rachel said...

Christmas really is not a very important Christian holiday (not nearly as important as the whole Lenten season, culminating in Easter, etc) so if there was a ratio of "Christmas activities" to "Religious Meaning". You would find Christmas to be pretty secular. Jesus did a lot more important things than be born. On some level I see your point, but it doesn't seem like a restriction of rights comparable to denying marriage. No one is mandating you celebrate the holiday, which again, seems pretty secular to me. I mean, I disagree with Andrew, obviously we should opt for the "Holidays" lexicon (heaven knows coming from a mixed house we have to) but I don't think we should deny Christmas its status as a federal holiday.

Anonymous said...

If I remember correctly, the full greeting used to be:

Merry Christmas, Happy New Years

People in a hurry, or trying to fit this greeting on a small card (or in big letters) often went for Happy Holidays. Christmas and New Years are both holidays.

As best I can tell, O'Reilly has declared war on New Years, which strikes me as rather odd. One possible explanation is that he felt that 1952 or 1592 or some such year was the perfect year, and the world has gone to hell in a handbasket thanks to the perfidy of New Years.

Ryan McCarl said...

I agree with you that Sullivan is lame for jumping into the "Merry Christmas" controversy. But I'm not sure that one must either support both gay marriage and abortion rights or neither, as you seem to imply. These are equivalent or related things only if you think of them both purely as "rights," as individual decisions that have no more impact on others than what I choose to eat for breakfast this morning.

That's somewhat plausible, perhaps, in the issue of marriage equality - but then again, no third party is killed when two men or two women tie the knot. Regardless of how you feel about whether abortion should be legal, it is dishonest to simply lump it in with other "rights." That treats it as though it is a mere personal choice that affects no one but the woman who chooses, and that perspective over-simplifies a difficult and complicated moral issue.


Phoebe said...


Canada's something else entirely.


"it doesn't seem like a restriction of rights comparable to denying marriage."

If Christmas were really just the secular holiday you say it is--and there wasn't this massive movement led by Bill O'Reilly et al and supported by far too many conservatives to put the "Christ" back into it, while keeping it a holiday celebrated by all Americans, thereby making sure all Americans pay their dues to Christ, then I'd agree with you. But that's not the case. Also, "denying marriage" is just denying legal marriage--same-sex partners may live together, the law just doesn't help them out in many ways. Same goes for those who celebrate a major holiday that isn't Christmas--no automatic government support when you want the day off. While marriage could (I believe should) be legal for same-sex as well as opposite-sex couples, all religious holidays could not possibly be federal holidays. This is why I'd like to see the government step away from both marriage AND religious holidays...


Indeed. This is why two Christians may well wish each other "happy holidays." A point too subtle for O'Reilly's purposes.


Of course someone can have legitimate reasons for being pro-gay marriage and anti-abortion, or vice versa. My point is that someone who takes the "immoral" (from a social-conservative perspective) view on one such issue (say, the issue that affects this person personally) ought to at least display a certain sensitivity or nuance when dealing with others.