Merry Christmas

Michael Prell Author, Underdogma
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’Tis the season to celebrate the annual festive tradition of refusing to call Christmas “Christmas.”

68% of Americans say they prefer to be greeted with “Merry Christmas” and not “Happy Holidays,” and yet each year the Anti-Christmas Brigade takes to the streets, and takes to the airwaves, to protest against Americans calling Christmas by its name.

Why is that?

Sometimes the best way to understand why people do what they do is to examine what they don’t do. Like protesting against the new Islamist yuletide tradition: the Christmas bombing.

Last year, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the “Christmas Day Bomber” (notice he wasn’t called the “Holiday Bomber”), tried to blow up a passenger jet over Detroit on Christmas Day. This year, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, the “Christmas Tree Bomber,” tried to blow up a Christmas holiday tree lighting ceremony in Oregon. What’s next: the Christmas Pudding Bomber? Christmas turkeys stuffed with IEDs? Christmas stockings hung by the chimney (with C-4)?

If the Anti-Christmas Brigade wants to eliminate Christmas from America’s town squares, out of fear that perhaps Christmas trees and the smell of eggnog might attract bomb-happy Islamic terrorists, that would be cowardly, but at least it would make sense. But rather than trying to protect us from being killed by Christmas bombers, they’re trying to protect us from being killed by Christmas kindness in the form of Christmas trees, carolers, and young men publicly kissing young ladies under mistletoe.

NOTE: the penalty for publicly kissing young ladies under Sharia is jail. The penalty for young men kissing young men? Death.

What exactly is so threatening about Christians, at Christmastime, celebrating a national holiday which was proclaimed by Congress back in 1870? This is the part where the Anti-Christmas Brigade will jump up and recite from its holiest of holy scriptures: Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists, in which he wrote of “a wall of separation between Church & State.”

The funny thing about that wall is: it appears to only be impervious to Christians.

Earlier this year, President Obama smashed through that wall when he, too, invoked the name of Thomas Jefferson — not to oppose, but to defend the expression of religion in the biggest town square in America: New York City and the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque.” He said “Thomas Jefferson wrote that ‘all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion’” and he upheld “the principle that people of all faiths…will not be treated differently by their government.”

But people of different faiths are treated differently by their government.

Just a few miles down I-95 from the Ground Zero Mosque, the government of Philadelphia banned (and then unbanned) “Christmas Village.” In Portland, the “Christmas Tree Bomber” had to settle for trying to bomb a “holiday tree,” because the government of Portland already got to the infidels before him and changed “Christmas tree” to “holiday tree.” And, lest you think that this targeting of Christianity is limited to Christmastime, recall the case of 12 Christian students in Washington State who were suspended for praying at school. By contrast, USA Today reports that “some public schools and universities are granting Muslim requests for prayer times, prayer rooms and ritual foot baths, prompting a debate on whether Islam is being given preferential treatment over other religions.”

Of course they’re being given preferential treatment. Muslims can pray in schools, Christians cannot. When peaceful Christians try to put up Christmas trees, they are either told to call them “holiday trees,” or driven out of American town squares by government. When a radical Islamist tries to detonate said “holiday tree” to kill “the enemy of Allah” while screaming “Allahu Akbar,” we are told by the mayor of Portland that it’s “our collective responsibility” and that “it doesn’t appear that there is any evidence that it was some sort of ideological focus,” and that the government took swift action to “beef up patrols around facilities like mosques and other places to prevent any ill-guided retribution to the Muslim-American community.”

So much for that “wall of separation between Church & State.” When an Islamist tries to kill innocent Christians at Christmastime, the State builds a wall of protection around Muslims to protect them from Christians.

Why is that? Since both Christians and Muslims believe in God (and some say they believe in the same God), why are they treated so differently?

One major difference between Christians and Muslims is the relative power they hold in America. The United States is not just a majority Christian country, it is an overwhelmingly majority Christian country, with 76% of Americans identifying themselves as Christians, and only 0.6% identifying themselves as Muslims. In Portland, it’s 79% Christian and less than 1% Muslim.

For the past five years, I have been studying people’s attitudes about power imbalances, and what I found speaks directly to the different ways that different religious groups are treated in America. When given the choice between low-power groups (underdogs) and high-power groups (overdogs), people often reflexively take the side of the low-power group: the underdog. I gave this belief system a name — Underdogma — which is the reflexive belief that those who have more power can do no right (even when they do nice things like decorating Christmas trees in town squares) and those who have less power can do no wrong (even when they try to blow up those Christmas trees and kill innocent people).

To test this theory, researchers at the University of South Florida presented test subjects with a hypothetical bombing and killing of innocent people by either a high-power group or a low-power group. Their findings confirmed Underdogma. “Participants sided with the less powerful group, giving it more sympathy and support, and seeing it as an underdog,” wrote Joseph Vandello. “In addition, the same violent bombing was seen as more justifiable, legitimate, moral, and necessary when committed by the weaker group. When people perceive a power imbalance, terrorism may be considered an equalizer for the disadvantaged.”

In the case of the Christmas Tree Bomber, the mayor of Portland cited youth unemployment, failing schools and tuition increases as elements that led to the young bomber’s “vulnerability.”

Pure Underdogma.

So, the next time you see a Christmas tree in a town square, ask yourself what is more threatening to the American way of life: those who would light up a Christmas tree with lights, or those who would light it up with explosives.

Michael Prell is the author of the forthcoming book, Underdogma: How America’s Enemies Use Our Love for the Underdog to Trash American Power (January 2011).