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COMMENTARY: The right wing’s "War on Christmas"

For the past decade now, when this holiday season rolls around we can always count on a yearly kerfuffle from someone from the Right — the continuing war on Christmas.

That this annual present comes this year from a host on Fox News is no surprise.

On her recent show "The Kelly File," Fox News Channel host Megyn Kelly ignited a conflagration when she stated that both Jesus and Santa Claus are white.

Kelly's assertion was a response to Aisha Harris’s (African-American, and "Slate" culture blogger) contestation that the commercial image of Santa Claus, in this day and age, should no longer be a white man, but rather a penguin.

"Two decades later, America is less and less white, but a melanin-deficient Santa remains the default in commercials, mall casting calls, and movies. Isn’t it time that our image of Santa better serve all the children he delights each Christmas? ... I propose that America abandon Santa-as-fat-old-white-man and create a new symbol of Christmas cheer. From here on out, Santa Claus should be a penguin," Harris wrote in her blog.

While Kelly has backpedaled on her assertion that Jesus is white, she has remained, however, both unwavering and unapologetic in her claim that Santa is.

“For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white.”

For Kelly, the incontrovertible evidence she cited was the 1947 Hollywood classic “Miracle on 34th Street,” and the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

In her cleanup effort to stem the avalanche of criticism that she is, at best, naively insensitive, and, at worst, outrightly racist, Kelly now states her remarks were merely tongue-in cheek, calling her critics "humorless."

Last year, in 2012, the Right’s holiday kerfuffle was about what the appropriated season’s greeting would be exemplified the continued chapter in the culture war spearheaded by what the Christian Right calls the "War on Christmas."

With Hanukkah (except this year in my lifetime), Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice and Christmas all celebrated this time of year, one would think that we would embrace an all-inclusive seasonal greeting emblematic of our nation’s religious diversity with two simple words — Happy Holidays!

In 2011, Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee vexed his Republican colleagues by renaming the state house Christmas tree a "holiday tree."

"The governor defended his decision by arguing that it is in keeping with the state’s founding in 1636 by religious dissident Roger Williams as a haven for tolerance -- where government and religion were kept separate," the Daily Mail reported.

Some see the war on Christmas as an assault on Christianity, where the mere utterance of the word is gradually being expunged from the holiday public lexicon.

And it feels to these Christian holiday revelers, the country, in its effort to be political correct, is moving toward religious intolerance.

The political correctness concerning how to inclusively greet, speak and commercially showcase this holiday season in public borders on fanatical.

Many Christians will argue that the war on Christmas has been going on for decades, but it revved up again with a new band of Christian soldiers in 2005, helped along with Fox News praising John Gibson’s new book, "The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday is Worse Than You Thought."

"Christmas has been declared politically incorrect, and the situation is much worse than you realize. ... At first it was just Nativity scenes in the town square and other overtly Christian symbols. But now the secular militants have expanded their war on Christmas to go after things regarded by most Americans — and even by the Supreme Court — as innocent symbols of the federal holiday that is Christmas,” Gibson wrote.

“You can’t say 'Merry Christmas' at a school or office anymore; only 'Happy Holidays' is acceptable. No more caroling in public. Friendship trees instead of Christmas trees. No more Santa Claus, treetop stars, wreaths, Christmas music -- even instrumental versions! — or school performances of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Even the colors red and green are under attack."

But there is a difference, in my opinion, between Christian apologists and Christmas apologists.

For many Christians, this is one of their high holy holidays, and it is their religious bedrock that not only anchors them in their faith but it also shapes and governs them in their view of the world. The author and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis eloquently captured this essence when he wrote in his 1945 essay "Is Theology Poetry?" "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."

But for Christmas apologists, they refuse to see anything else because the war on Christmas is about their cultural dominance and they are fighting back with all their might.

For example, Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly has talked up boycotts of retailers like Walmart and Target for not using the words "Merry Christmas." O'Reilly misses the point that by using his political and economic clout to cripple stores for not showing commercial deference solely to Christmas desecrates the very character of our multicultural holiday season.

In 2009, William Donahue of the Catholic League told MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough that the group fueling the war on Christmas is "secular Jews who hate Christianity and Catholicism in particular. And, of course Pat Robertson had to chime in and said on his "700 Club" television show that the group is Muslims.

Truth be told, Muslims, secular progressives and Jews have never been the folks trying to abolish Christmas. Instead, it was once an extreme group of Protestants — yes, the Puritans. With the date of Dec. 25 deriving from the Saturnalia, the Roman heathen’s wintertime celebration, and with the date found nowhere in the Bible stating it as the birthday of Jesus, the Puritan Parliament banned Christmas from 1659 until 1681.

The intolerance of multicultural themes, Santa Clauses of color or no Santa Clauses for this holiday in 2013 has little to do with a heightened renewal of the birth of Christ by the Christian Right. Instead, it has much to do with a backlash spearheaded by Christian conservatives as the country continues to grow more culturally and religiously pluralistic.

And for the record, the real St. Nicholas (the Christian saint who inspired Santa Claus) hailed from Turkey.

The Rev. Irene Monroe is a syndicated religion columnist who appears in SDGLN, The Huffington Post and other media. She was chosen in October 2009 by MSNBC as one of "10 black women you should know." Monroe has been profiled in O, The Oprah Magazine and in the Gay Pride episode of “In the Life" TV, a segment that was nominated for an educational Emmy. Several times she has received the Harvard University certificate of distinction in teaching. She is in the film, "For the Bible Tells Me So," and is profiled in "CRISIS: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing up Gay in America." Visit her website here .