Saturday, December 10, 2005

John Gibson, FOX News Channel

Mr. Gibson:

You are the Christmas outrage. I don't expect you to publish this, or even to acknowledge it, except perhaps to hurl epithets at me: "secularist," "liberal," and other appellations. You certainly won't recognize the good sense in what I say, but I'm writing anyway, because I need to purge myself of ill-will before I get together with family and friends on December 25.

I grew up Christian, and I celebrate Christmas. And it doesn't matter a whole heck of a lot to me whether my government or some gigantic corporation tells me "Merry Christmas" during this time of year. It just doesn't. You see, Christmas isn't about George Bush, Coca-Cola, or a display in the town square. Christmas is (so I've heard) about "peace on Earth and goodwill to men."

That's why your unapologetic attempt to politicize the holiday is so noxious to me. There is no "liberal conspiracy" to take Christmas away from America — and even if there were, could it even happen? I don't mean to reprise How the Grinch Stole Christmas here, but you could take away all the trees, the gifts, the (gasp!) nativity scenes, and the verbal exchanges of "Merry Christmas" — but you would still have Christmas. Because none of that is what Christmas is. Or is it?

To my (no doubt heretical and anti-Christian) mind, the only way you can ruin Christmas is by turning people against one another. And I hate to say it, sir, but that's exactly what you and Mr. O'Reilly seem so determined to do these days.

You and your colleagues obsess so much about the trappings of America's values (religious or political) that you would prefer those symbols over the very values themselves. You would throw away free speech to protect the flag. You would reject the Founders' determination to separate church and state rather than take a two-word McCarthy Era test oath out of the Pledge of Allegiance. And now, because you're so preoccupied about whether you're seeing the words "Merry Christmas" enough, you've gone and undermined the spirit of Christmas.

Isn't Christmas (isn't Christianity?) really about mutual tolerance and respect, about loving and caring for your brother, about emphasizing the things that unite people? Not for Fox News, apparently. For Fox News, Christmas is an opportunity to foment more political division — to take another shot at those nasty liberals. After all, at the moment the right wing is taking a beating on the issues that really matter.

So let's use Christmas — Christmas! — to get back at the left. Let's set up a straw man! Let's talk about how the left-wingers are coming to your house to take Christmas away. Let's get true-believing Christians nice and hopping mad, so we can turn them against the "secularists" and the Jews and the Moslems. Because, really, what is the meaning of Christmas if you're not dividing people and turning them against one another?

Your invocation of a "War on Christmas" is simply unconscionable, Mr. Gibson. And it's a misuse of your pulpit, or your broadcast booth . . . whatever you would have me call it.

The problem with mixing religion and politics is that you end up putting one to work for the other. It would be a shame if our government were subordinated to the goals of any one religion: as a result, we as Americans would forfeit our freedom of conscience. But that's not the problem I identify with you folks at Fox News. You folks have gone the opposite direction: you're using religion to press a political agenda — and as a result, you have lost your souls.

Here's an idea, Mr. Gibson: instead of spending your hours of airtime this season fighting to get America's department stores to change the lettering on their banners, why don't you use Christmas as an occasion to HELP PEOPLE? Why not use the time to press viewers to donate to the victims of Katrina? Or to the thousands of homeless in Pakistan who are expected to die without shelter this winter because of the earthquake?

Or is that sort of thing not "Christmasy" enough for Fox News?