The Mississippi-based American Family Assn. last week issued a fatwa against Gap Inc. — the retailing giant whose brands include Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic — calling for a “two-month boycott over the company’s failure to use the word ‘Christmas’ in its advertising to Christmas shoppers.”
The War on Christmas season has officially begun.
Gap “does not use the word ‘Christmas’ to avoid offending those who don’t embrace its meaning,” writes Buddy Smith, executive assistant to the president of the AFA, on the organization’s website. “Christmas has historically been very good for commerce. But now Gap wants the commerce but no Christmas.”
“I interpret Gap’s decision as a warning sign to Christians to get out there and tell people about Jesus Christ,” writes Smith.
And they say nobody likes fruitcake.
It would be easy to get sidetracked into debating the merits of the War on Christmas. Why, for example, is the phrase “Happy holidays” so insufferable to Christian fundamentalists, but not the vulgar, surfeiting exploitation of Christ’s name to sell smokeless ashtrays, dessert toppings, Droid phones and trampolines? I’m not a theologian but I think the Gospels are pretty clear that Jesus was no fan of merchants.
And since China is in the news this week: Why not go after Gap and other retailers for trading in Chinese-made goods, since the Chinese government actively oppresses the Christian faith? Seems like building a case on religious tolerance would have more resonance. Oh, wait. Never mind.
But here’s the real question: Why attack Gap for not using the word “Christmas” in its advertising when in fact it does, and in a big way too?
Surf on over to YouTube and watch Gap’s latest 30-second spot, titled “Go Ho Ho” (Crispin Porter + Bogusky). The spot — which is in heavy rotation on network and cable TV — features a group of insanely athletic dancers leaping and twirling and stomp-cheering around a white log-cabin set. They chant, “Go Christmas, go Hanukkah, go Kwanzaa, go solstice. . . . Do whatever you wannukkah and to all a cheery night.”
There it is, right up front, enjoying pride of place: the C-word.
Meanwhile, both Old Navy and Gap sell Christmas-themed merchandise, such as Christmas boxer shorts, which I’m sure can only be removed in the sanctity of marriage.
In other words, Gap Inc. has demonstrably not banned the use of the word from its advertising or stores. So how did AFA get this so wrong?
Gap Inc. has been in the organization’s War on Christmas cross hairs for a while now, and it may well be that the boycott was planned before Gap’s holiday ads were released (phone and e-mail messages to the AFA were not returned). Gap and CP+B just pulled a switcheroo.
It’s unlikely the new Gap ads will placate the psalm-singers in Tupelo. After all, in the spirit of inclusiveness, Christmas is mentioned in the same breath as Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and solstice. The winter solstice, as everyone knows, is a pagan celebration, so — viewed through a peculiarly warped lens — the Gap ad puts Christians on the same level as a bunch of blue-paintedheathens dancing around a Yule log drinking mead out of a stag horn.
How dare they! I call for a double boycott.
Perhaps the AFA did Gap a favor. If you look at the history of the organization’s boycotts — often involving punitive actions against companies that support gay rights — you’ll see that they have no commercial impact. Actually, these boycotts seem to be good for business: In the decade of the AFA’s boycott against Disney, which ended in 2006, the world’s largest entertainment conglomerate’s revenue roughly doubled to $34 billion. Likewise for Ford, which just posted a billion-dollar profit in the third quarter of 2009.
I’m not suggesting causality, but condemnation by the AFA does seem to be a kind of lucky charm for big business. Personally, I am inclined to patronize Gap as a statement of cultural tolerance, even though at my age I look like an overcooked ballpark frank in its clothes.
The big loser here is the AFA. The annual War-on-Christmas drumbeat is absolutely not about defending the sacredness of Christmas. It is instead — transparently — marketing, a ratings gambit for Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, and for the AFA, the centerpiece of its annual fundraising.
This year, thanks to Gap, the AFA fumbled its boycott ball and in the process managed to look both intolerant and out of touch.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
SANFORD â€” A Lebanon man alleges he was fired last month by the local Wal-Mart because he refused to dress up as the store’s Santa Claus.
A spokesman for the retail giant denied the claim, which was filed this week with the Maine Human Rights Commission on behalf of Christopher Nolan.
Nolan, 27, had worked at Wal-Mart for three years, most recently as a bicycle assembler.
In his complaint, Nolan said he thought it was a joke when he was asked Dec. 8 to fill in as the store Santa Claus at the Main Street Wal-Mart. He said his co-workers were laughing.
Nolan, who described himself as an atheist who doesn’t believe in Christmas, said he laughed as well and then declined. “I said, ‘Uh, no way,’ ” he said in an interview last month.
Nolan said he was surprised when his supervisor called him later to say that Nolan had an hour to change his mind. When Nolan again refused to don the Santa suit, he said, his boss brought him into his office and told him he was fired.
“He said, ‘We have to do an exit interview,’ ” said Nolan.
Nolan provided the Portland Press Herald a copy of his exit interview form that was signed by the store manager and includes the following statement of termination from his supervisor: “Asked Chris several times to dress up as Santa Claus. Repeatly (sic) told me no and then said he would look for another job. Didn’t listen to me at all. Told him I would take him out of the system.”
Nothing like being true Christians and sharing the holiday spirit by loving one another?
Teachers banned a nine-year-old boy from his class Christmas party because his parents had barred him from RE lessons.
Douglas Stewart was forced to stay at home while his friends received presents from Santa and tucked into ice cream and jelly.
His parents were told he was not welcome at the celebration because they had pulled him out of religious eduction classes earlier in the year.
Headmaster Ian Davidson said that because the youngster had no interest in religion he could not celebrate the birth of Christ.
Furious mother Dawn Riddell, 38, said yesterday: “I’ve helped out at the Christmas party before and it’s got absolutely nothing to do with Jesus. Douglas was heartbroken he couldn’t go. It was cruel.”
Â I had to repost the whole article, it’s such a laugh. Christians have been persecuted throughout history! We atheists are gonna convert them all! To war! P.S. Merry Shopmas!
Vernon (WTNH) _ A sign posted by Atheists in the Rockville’s Central Park has people talking,Â prompting calls to the town hall and the local clergy.
The Connecticut Valley Atheists posted the three-sided sign, which some call a billboard, and it was the only sign in the town center marking the Holiday season.Â Two sides of the display feature the Twin Towers, framed by the words “Imagine No Religion.”
This Christmas, Martha Chennelle and Amy Houser say Vernon could use a few prayers, considering the sign standing in front of town hall.
“We believe that Christ is the reason for Christmas,” saidÂ Chennelle.
“I feel like this is an attack on my beliefs as a religious person,” said Houser.
The sign, put up by the Connecticut Valley Atheist Group, which was supposed to mark the winter solstice, but the “Imagine No Religion” part of it, taken from John Lennon’s song, “Imagine,” has a lot of people upset.
Houser says the sign mocks her religion during a holy time of the year.Â “Imagine no religion is an attack against me, as any person of faith should take it as an attack against them,” Houser said.
The town issued permits to the Atheist group to put the sign in the park.Â They also issued permits to a group of churches that plans to put a nativity scene and to a local synagogue to put up a menorah.
Dennis Himes, a Vernon resident, and member of CT Valley Atheists, says he was tired of seeing Christian displays.
“There are plenty of places to put up nativity scenes in Vernon.Â The original question that started this controversy was not whether a nativity scene would be put up in Vernon,” said Dennis Himes of Vernon.Â “The question was whether the nativity scene would be put in front of a church or in front of town hall, on government property.
Himes also says that the picture of the Twin Towers is meant to show that without religion, 9-11 wouldn’t have happened.Â A suggestion that has upset Muslims, as well.
“This is an attack,” said Houser.
Chennelle and Houser have been fighting back with prayer.
“We ultimately believe that Christians have been persecuted throughout history,” said Houser, “so this is nothing new.”
According to the Hartford Courant town officials issued the Atheists a permit to put up the sign to commemorate the Winter Solstice.Â Permits were also issued to local churches and a synagogue to put up their own displays.
Yesterday the town of Rockville put up a large Christmas Tree, just 10 feet from the display.