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Lloyd Omdahl, Published December 16 2012

Omdahl: Devil’s wedge issue

Not even Christmas can escape the divisive polarization that has embittered American politics. Christmas peace is being disrupted by an evolving controversy between the advocates of “Merry Christmas” and the revisionists who want “Happy Holidays.” It’s the devil’s wedge issue.

As in partisan politics, to win the day it is necessary to demonize the opponents. So it is no surprise that the Merry Christmas folks claim that the Happy Holiday advocates are malicious pagans trying to take Christ out of Christmas.

Of course, this controversy plays right into the devil’s hands because it fosters mean-spirited thoughts and gets Christians to say un-Christian things about those who want to wish folks Happy Holidays.

What is the reason for this Happy Holiday business anyway? Who is driving the devil’s side of this issue?

Some Happy Holiday supporters claim that they are simply acknowledging the growing religious diversity in society. This Christian country now encompasses citizens of all faiths. Not only that, we have a growing number of folks who have abandoned religious belief.

Now don’t take these faithless nonbelievers too lightly. According to Pew Research, their number has doubled in the past 10 years. They’ve turned away from faith in spite of the plethora of Christian televangelists and traditional pulpiteers.

Somehow the Christian message didn’t get through to them. Maybe we spent too much time fretting about Happy Holidays and not enough time making Christmas merry for folks who face neither a merry Christmas nor a happy holiday.

Besides, I don’t think that wishing everyone a Merry Christmas is going to bring this growing number of nonbelievers to a faith in the founder of Christmas. To be honest, we have a lot of church people wishing folks a Merry Christmas without ever taking the founder serious themselves.

Money also is a big factor in this Merry Christmas-Happy Holidays argument.

When Black Friday rolls around, the Happy Holiday folks want everyone lining up at midnight, packing the stores, and loading up on the bargains. They argue that Muslim, Hindu and nonbeliever money is as good as Christian money.

The Happy Holidays folks are convinced that non-Christians would not spend as enthusiastically if they thought Christmas was a season limited to Christians.

Because business has a big stake in the Christmas season, the management of Target, Best Buy and Wal-Mart may have more to do with the promotion of Happy Holidays than the devil.

Christmas shopping and Black Fridays are the lifeblood of free enterprise, and we know that free enterprise is a Christian value. The political guidecards circulated by Christian organizations before elections tell us so. The Bible may be silent on the subject, but we know that free enterprise is better than communism. That must count for something.

The angels didn’t say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays on that first Christmas. Their message was “peace on earth, good will to men.” If they come around this Christmas, we should send them to Washington, where the message is most needed.

As a Christian myself, I’m on the side of Merry Christmas. For one thing, I can’t be a party to hijacking the birthday of the reason for the season. It just doesn’t seem like an honest way to get a good holiday. The Happy Holidays people ought to create their own holiday, maybe around the March equinox.

Maybe the best way to keep the Christmas peace is to for Christians to keep saying Merry Christmas and the non-Christians to keep saying Happy Holidays without making an eternal case out of it.

I’ve searched the Scriptures, and I can assure you that this is not a heaven or hell issue.

Merry Christmas.


Omdahl is a former North Dakota lieutenant governor and retired a University of North Dakota political science teacher.