Bill O’Reilly’s Know-Nothing War On Christmas Rhetoric Sparks More Violence

Bill O’Reilly and pals have long been fanning the flames of pointless cultural resentments as a way to drive up ratings and keep their annually angry audiences constantly outraged about trivial or even imagined holiday slights. But bogus “War on Christmas” rage boiled over into real life violence yesterday, as a group of Christmas zealots attacked Jews on a subway train when one of them dared to wish them Happy Hanukkah in response to “Merry Christmas.”

“Almost immediately, you see the look in this guy’s face like I’ve called his mother something,” Adler told CNN affiliate WABC.

Two women who were with a group of 10 rowdy people then began to verbally assault Adler’s companions with anti-Semitic language, Hellerstein said.

One member of the group allegedly yelled, “Oh, Hanukkah. That’s the day that the Jews killed Jesus,” she said.

It got worse from there: stitches, broken noses, black eyes.

The silver lining of the story is who came to the aid of the Jewish subway riders: a Muslim student from Bangladesh, who apparently knew better than native Americans that this sort of thing was despicable. (Of course, the police arrested the student initially… but later let him go after his newfound allies vouched for him).

I’ve posted several stories about holiday tribalism in just the last few days, and it just seems to get worse and worse. The ridiculous thing here is that in none of these stories was anyone infringing on the rights of revelers to freely celebrate Christmas any way they want. But apparently, that’s not good enough for the right wing’s Christmas crazies: Christmas must dominate all other choices, or else it’s not merry enough for them. And in this case, the apparently horrifying suggestion that other holidays and religions exist was enough to spark a fistfight.

Maybe folks like Bill O’Reilly should think twice before exploiting Christmas to make a quick ratings bucks off of bogus blowhardism. Some people are apparently taking this rhetoric seriously.

Update: Still think O’Reilly is serious about his War on Christmas crusade? Check this bit of utterly self-interested inconsistency out.

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24 Responses to Bill O’Reilly’s Know-Nothing War On Christmas Rhetoric Sparks More Violence

  1. One of my best customers is Jewish. Every year, he wishes me Merry Christmas, and I wish him Happy Hanukkah. Sometimes, just to change it up, he wishes me Happy Hanukkah, and I wish him Merry Christmas. Sometimes we wish each other Happy Kwanzaa, just to mix it up a bit. I’ve thought of wishing him Happy Eid, but I think that may be pushing my luck.

    The point is that while both of us enjoy this time of year, we don’t take it too seriously. The whole point of this season is to remember that all humans are part of the same family, while maybe even–heaven forbid–actually having some fun.

    Sure, it’s a shame that a handful of assholes ruin it, but I strongly suspect that these people are assholes because they’re assholes, not because they’re Christians. From my experience, most people of faith enjoy this time of year, but very few are willing to come to blows over it.

    -smith

  2. Bad says:

    That’s why I was careful to only call them Christmas zealots, rather than Christians. They may well have been the latter as well, but that’s incidental. :)

  3. phillychief says:

    Well zealots or not, their christian faith did nothing to prevent them from being assholes. Isn’t it supposed to make you moral or something?

  4. Well zealots or not, their christian faith did nothing to prevent them from being assholes. Isn’t it supposed to make you moral or something?

    Well, being an atheist is supposed to make you rational or something, but it clearly hasn’t worked in your case. Chiefs fan? Sheesh, and you say I’m deluded? Everyone knows God is a Patriots fan. ;>)

    But seriously, the problem here is that the so-called “Christians” in question were behaving in a very un-Christian manner. Last time I checked “Do unto others, etc”, and “Turn the other cheek” were still the order of the day. Religious zealots invariably ignore the tenets of their own religion that they find inconvenient, thereby giving all believers a bad name.

    -Smith

  5. Bad says:

    I generally don’t find it productive to argue over whether certain behavior is in keeping with some religion or not: it gets too far into True Scotsman territory as well as being a near impenetrable question anyway (without Christianity, for all we know, a given person might have been far MORE violent: how are we supposed to know how having a belief factors into someone’s actions and long-term personality?).

    But it does get frustrating to constantly hear that Christianity is responsible for nearly every good thing that has ever happened in Western society, just by touching it however indirectly, but when bad things happen or its followers express tribalism, suddenly that’s not really Christianity at work, or Christianity failing. What is true Christianity, or a Christian manner? Is it whatever nice things people say it is at any given moment? Is it acting according to Biblical precepts? And what are those, really? Heck, even “turn the other cheek” is not necessarily the simple “be a proud pacifist” message it appears (and hardly any Christians at any point in history are pacifists anyway, or think that Christianity requires pacifism), considering that it is an action that in the culture of Jesus’ time could have been interpreted as a grave insult to the cheek slapper. Do we count the picture of Christianity shown in Revelations?

    Again, I try not to take any assertive position on how to interpret a religion that’s not my own, but I do think it’s fair to point out the knots people tie themselves into trying to prove that Christianity is all good things to all good people. I don’t agree, for instance, that the “be nice and kind and don’t beat people” message people claim is a core idea in the NT is really there all that clearly or forcefully. But when Left Behind militants try to tell me that Paul’s letters would support armed rebellion against a gay government, well, I think there are teeny tiny problems with that too

  6. phillychief says:

    “But seriously, the problem here is that the so-called “Christians” in question were behaving in a very un-Christian manner.”
    Yes, that’s all well and good and the usual response of “oh they weren’t REAL christians”.
    Thing is there’s even more debate amongst christians as to what’s a real christian as there are between theists as to what’s the real religion.

    Thing is, if incidents like this will happen with religion or without, then religion seems to be superfluous at best.

    Btw I’ll remind you raven as I have on other blogs when you make the same quip, I didn’t say WHEN they’d win the SB. Success ebs and flows in the NFL. I remember all the years when the Pats were a joke. If you’ve been a fan all your life, you’re finally cashing in on your devotion. Enjoy it while it lasts.

  7. Btw I’ll remind you raven as I have on other blogs when you make the same quip, I didn’t say WHEN they’d win the SB. Success ebs and flows in the NFL. I remember all the years when the Pats were a joke. If you’ve been a fan all your life, you’re finally cashing in on your devotion. Enjoy it while it lasts.

    My, my, you atheists are a humorless lot, aren’t you? ;)

    ;>) <——–That means I’m kidding, ok? Now here’s a link I want you to follow. I think it will serve you well:

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/joke

  8. OK, on to more serious things:

    Yes, that’s all well and good and the usual response of “oh they weren’t REAL christians”.

    It’s the usual response because it happens to be the correct one. Surely you’re not going to judge all Christians based on the actions of a few pinheads. Most Christians of my acquaintance (using the term in its broadest sense) would find their actions deplorable.

    Thing is there’s even more debate amongst christians as to what’s a real christian as there are between theists as to what’s the real religion.

    I would certainly agree with that.

    Thing is, if incidents like this will happen with religion or without, then religion seems to be superfluous at best.

    Christianity comes in many forms, I grant you. But it is fundamentally a religion that, at its core, preaches tolerance and non-violence. The problem isn’t with the religion, but rather with the fact that those who claim to practice it actually don’t. I’m sure you will be quick to point out the many odious deeds that have been perpetrated in the name of Christianity, and you would be right, but the problem there is with the people, not with the religion itself.

  9. Bad says:

    Forgive us if we’re tired of that joke. It’s sort of on the order of “you Chinese people sure like math, don’t you!” When a meme has been used to stereotype and demean us for so long, I think it’s fair enough to be a little irritated, and not be faulted for it. I’ll just pretend you’re the atheist Dave Chapelle or something, and it’ll be okay… except for the fact that even Chapelle eventually got weirded out by his own comedy. :)

    As for the issue of Christians, I still think you’re playing the True Scotsman game a little too much. The point is that many people claim that Christianity has benefits, but then only want to count the good things even tangentially related to it and not anything bad even directly coming out of it, ever. It’s a huge double standard. It would be better to simply admit that it is neither demonstrably good or bad. If the “problems” are with the people, then so are the advantages and good things. You can’t have it both ways.

  10. When a meme has been used to stereotype and demean us for so long, I think it’s fair enough to be a little irritated, and not be faulted for it.

    At first I thought you were referring to my little potshot at the Kansas City Chiefs, and I thought to myself, “what the hell is he talking about?”

    And then I realized what you were really talking about, so let me address that immediately:

    I was KIDDING! Honest! But if you were offended, please accept my apology. No offense intended, I assure you! I’m sure you’re a real hoot in real life. ;>)

    I’ll just pretend you’re the atheist Dave Chapelle

    Now THAT’s something I’ve never been called before! I kinda like Chapelle, actually.

    As for the issue of Christians, I still think you’re playing the True Scotsman game a little too much.

    Here I disagree with you. I quote: “This form of argument is an informal fallacy if the predicate (“puts sugar on porridge” or “does such-and-such an act [as committing a sex crime]”) is not actually contradictory of the accepted definition of the subject (“Scotsman”)”

    The operative phrase here is “accepted definition of the subject.”

    There is nothing in the definition of “Scotsman” that would necessarily preclude him from committing a crime and still being considered a Scotsman. He can therefore commit a crime and still be considered a “true” Scotsman.

    But in the case of Christianity, (or any religion for that matter) one is defined as such by one’s belief’s and actions, not by where one was born. Christianity is, at its (often ignored) core, a pacifist religion. So in this case, there IS something in the definition of “Christian”, namely, a renunciation of violence, that would preclude someone from being considered a “true” Christian if his actions do not reflect his professed beliefs. So in this case the “True Scotsman” analogy doesn’t hold up.

  11. phillychief says:

    You’re all losing me with this Scotsman thing.

    raven – I’m not going to say christianity makes people do bad things. I’m just saying it doesn’t stop them from doing bad things. As Bad points out, believers like to credit the belief when people do good things but fault the people when they do bad things. That’s hypocritical. Trying to escape that with “they weren’t REAL believers” is just shameful.

    As for the claim of being humorless, I’d say insisting to use the same joke over and over no matter how many times it bombs is not just humorless but irrational, comparable to say christians insisting on abstinence programs despite proof it doesn’t work or catholics denying condoms despite everyone including the UN recently blaming that as the primary factor for the spread of AIDS. When something doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. Drop it and move on.

  12. You’re all losing me with this Scotsman thing.

    Try this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_true_Scotsman

    raven – I’m not going to say christianity makes people do bad things. I’m just saying it doesn’t stop them from doing bad things.

    Obviously. History is full of Christians behaving badly. Were I to name them all, poor Bad here would start getting charged by WordPress for the excessive bandwidth.

    As Bad points out, believers like to credit the belief when people do good things but fault the people when they do bad things. That’s hypocritical. Trying to escape that with “they weren’t REAL believers” is just shameful.

    Let’s look at this in a different, non-religious context, shall we? In this country we have laws, agreed? It’s against the law to murder, steal, cheat on your taxes, drive too fast, etc. While we might like to think that we would all live virtuous lives even if there were no laws, the sad truth is that it’s the fear of going to jail or paying a fine that compels many people to obey these laws.

    But if someone commits murder, do we blame the law against murder? No. We rightly blame the murderer for failing to obey the law. Is that hypocritical? Of course not; we recognize that the fault lies with the murderer, not the system of laws that he chose to violate.

    Now, if one of the basic tenets of Christianity were that Christians should go around beating up Jews, then we could justifiably condemn it as a bad religion on those grounds alone. But again, at its core, Christianity is a pacifist religion, so the fault lies with the perpetrators, not with the religion.

    As for the claim of being humorless, I’d say insisting to use the same joke over and over no matter how many times it bombs is not just humorless but irrational, comparable to say christians insisting on abstinence programs despite proof it doesn’t work or catholics denying condoms despite everyone including the UN recently blaming that as the primary factor for the spread of AIDS. When something doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. Drop it and move on.

    So you respond to my charge of being humorless by being, well, humorless. OK. It occurs to me that a better idea would have been to say something really, really witty here, but I suppose if my team were 4-10 at this point I might be a little cranky too. ;>)

    But as I noted above, I was just KIDDING. To be perfectly honest, I had no idea that I had hit a nerve by blundering onto a stereotype until this was pointed out to me by the blogmaster.

    Oh, and if it makes you feel any better, there’s probably little you could say about the Catholic church that hasn’t already occurred to me. Four years at a Catholic college did more to beat the Catholicism out of me than anything you or Dawkins could have said. But, just as Dawkins professes to still having a soft spot for the Church of England, I still have one for my old alma mater. Go figure.

  13. phillychief says:

    Murder,

    Your law analogy doesn’t quite work. Those that break the law know they’re breaking the law. They don’t claim to be lawful people. Zealots believe they are “true believers” and following the true intent of their god. Religion is also absolute, whereas laws are transient. There also isn’t the same notion that following laws makes you a better person the way following a religion makes you a better person. There are probably more problems with the analogy, but I’m tired.

    Also, although there aren’t DIRECT statements in the bible to say beat up jews, there is the notion of them killing Jesus and the “wonderful” story of the wandering jew. Regardless, there are directives against witches and homosexuals and a plethora of stories that could easily be read as examples of things to do which aren’t that nice.

    a better idea would have been to say something really, really witty here, but I suppose if my team were 4-10 at this point I might be a little cranky too. ;>)

    Now see that’s new, a little imaginative and therefore funny. That’s a big improvement.

  14. Also, although there aren’t DIRECT statements in the bible to say beat up jews, there is the notion of them killing Jesus

    The idea that “the Jews killed Jesus” is an odious myth (on their part, I mean, not yours) and deserves to be dispelled. Jesus was put to death by the Romans, not the Jews, as evidenced by the fact that crucifixion was a Roman form of execution. Had the Jews executed him, he would have been stoned, not crucified. And yet this vile myth persists to this day.

    The majority of the New Testament was in fact written by Jews for Jews. Remember at that time Christianity did not see itself as distinct from Judaism, but rather as the next step in Judaism. In their view, Jesus WAS the Messiah and fulfilled all the prophecies of the Old Testament, so you don’t really see a lot of Jew-bashing in the New Testament, with the notable exception alluded to above.

    Now see that’s new, a little imaginative and therefore funny. That’s a big improvement.

    Glad you liked it. I’ll give you something even funnier, and it’s a true story to boot: I have a friend who has a Doctorate in Divinity (stop snickering until I get to the good part). He has read the Bible in the original Hebrew and Greek, so he clearly has a brain in his head. He is also a REAL fundamentalist Christian.

    How one can be a biblical scholar and a fundamentalist Christian at the same time frankly eludes me. He and I have argued this point over and over. I bring up all the points you would expect me to, the contradictions in the Bible and so forth, but to no avail.

    So one day, I ask him about Genesis 19:30. You know, the story about how Lot’s daughters got him drunk and basically Did Daddy? How, I asked him, does this jive with his notion that the Bible is the unadulterated word of God? Is God therefore saying that it’s OK for fathers and daughters to have sex?

    To his credit, he didn’t miss a beat. He just shrugged his shoulders and said, “You know what? There’s a lot of weird shit in the Old Testament”. That’s the nearest I ever got to him conceding a point to me.

    So if it makes you feel any better, I annoy the fundamentalists, too. ;>)

    -Smith

  15. Bad says:

    Oh it’s not quite that simple. The Gospels were written over time, and in the time since the very early church, opinions on the Jews soured considerably (and they were written in Greek, not Hebrew, making the idea that they were written by Jews for Jews a little strained). Despite claiming to be foudned in Judiasm, the Christian movement found very few Jewish converts (and no major rabbis) and this became a source of resentment amongst early Christians. In addition, the failed Judiac rebellion that ended in the extremely traumatic destruction of the Temple was taken as a sign of major disfavor on the Jews.

    This is actually one reason why scholars think the Gospel of Mark, which is likely the earliest published, was written after the destruction of the temple: many elements in it seem to reference or retrodict this event (like the cursing of the fig tree, the tearing of the temple cloth). The Gospels, in fact, are almost all absurdly defferential to the Romans: portraying Pilate, who was in history reknowned as being bloodthirsty as a troubled but thoughtful ruler, or portraying a Roman convert as a constrast to sneering Pharisees.

    At the very least, we’re talking about a very strained relationship, and even the early Christians who were Jews were major outsiders: seen as part of a strange cult rather than an offshoot of Judiasm.

  16. phillychief says:

    Frankly, I see a doctorate in divinity like having a doctorate in Star Wars or Star Trek. Purely silly, but something a lot of people take seriously. Btw, I’m still waiting for a legitimate Star Trek apologetic for the human looking Klingons of the original series and the way they looked in all other Star Trek shows and movies.

  17. Frankly, I see a doctorate in divinity like having a doctorate in Star Wars or Star Trek. Purely silly, but something a lot of people take seriously.

    Frankly, I take Star Wars and Star Trek far more seriously than I take divinity. But I knew you’d get a chuckle out of that one. Think of it as my Christmas present to you. ;>)

    Btw, I’m still waiting for a legitimate Star Trek apologetic for the human looking Klingons of the original series and the way they looked in all other Star Trek shows and movies.

    Wellllll, that’s just the way they did it in the 60’s. Of course, a die hard Theist would say that since God made Man in His image, it stands to reason that he also made Klingons in his image.

    (tongue planted firmly in cheek)

    -smith

  18. Arrrgggghhhh! Screwed up the blockquote! I’m so ashamed! Blogmaster, help!

  19. phillychief says:

    But that doesn’t explain the contradiction between and this both being Klingon. The apologetic that they were made in a god’s image just further complicates things. And man and smooth Klingon and bumpy Klingon are all the image of god? Very confusing indeed.

  20. Ohhh, I missed your point. I thought you were asking how it was that humans and Klingons looked so much alike in the original series. Now I see what you were really driving at. Look at this way:

    Series in perpetual danger of being canceled and with tiny budget = smooth Klingons.

    Blockbuster movie series with budget bigger than many third world nations =bumpy Klingons.

    Or, if one wanted to use a little more imagination, one could perhaps argue that just as there are different types of humans (caucasian, negro, and mongolian), perhaps there is more than one type of Klingon (smooth, bumpy). The mind boggles. :)

  21. (and they were written in Greek, not Hebrew, making the idea that they were written by Jews for Jews a little strained).

    Not at all. Most biblical scholars consider the Gospels of Mark, and especially of Matthew, to have bee written by Jews, although it is doubtful that they were actually written by Mark or Matthew. Matthew in particular attempts to demonstrate how Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of the Tanakh (what Christians refer to as the Old Testament). Such a book was almost certainly written by a Jew for a Jewish audience, since, for the most part, only Jews would have known or, more importantly, cared about ancient Jewish prophecies. To what degree the author succeeded in his aim is another matter entirely.

    As far as the language is concerned, that is not so problematic as it appears. Greek was the Lingua Franca of the day, and in any event some Biblical scholars believe those to gospels were originally written in Aramaic.

    Your other points about friction between early Christians and Jews are well made, however.

  22. Bad says:

    Again, I just think the idea is strained. It’s like saying that Joseph Smith’s Book of Mormon was a book by a Christian for Christians. The reality is that, while technically true, it doesn’t capture the reality of the thing, which is of a fringe sect that ultimately was never taken seriously by significant numbers of Jews or, to any respect I am aware, any educated rabbis of the time. They were singularly unimpressed.

  23. You just don’t want to give me my cookie. ;>)

  24. […] on Christmas” fund-raising gimmick seems particularly good way to close out our recent silly season of holiday hysteria. Drop the whole “War on Christmas” thing: It’s tiresome, and you’ve raised enough money on […]

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