The War on Christmas season is one of my favorite times of the year. But as a semi-devoted agnostic who loves all the trappings of the holidays—the carols, the lights, the kringles, relatives getting pummeled with beautiful snow drifts in the idyllic Midwestern towns where I used to live—my loyalties tend to be torn. I love the idea of wiping the wide-eyed wonder off millions of yawping kids’ faces, but I also love fudge squares with sprinkles.
So do I come to bury Christmas or to praise it? Well, how about a rapprochement of sorts?
In a bid to end the hostilities once and for all, I’ve decided to meet the enemy on its own turf. It’s kind of like that time Donald Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the DMZ—though with marginally better haircuts. And fewer Christmas hams, ironically.
As my Christmas and/or holiday and/or solstice gift to you all, I decided to sit down and watch three “classic” War on Christmas movies so you don’t have to. It was the War on Christmas equivalent of storming the beaches of Normandy. I deserve a nice burial plot somewhere special after this is all over.
The three movies I picked are “Christmas with a Capital C,” “Last Ounce of Courage,” and “Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas.” They did not disappoint—unless you mean in the conventional sense of failing to inform, entertain, or enlighten. Then they did disappoint. Very much so.
So let’s get started, shall we? Our first film on the docket is …
“Christmas with a Capital C”
This 2010 offering is a bit like your typical Hallmark Channel Christmas movie, but with 100% more Ted McGinley. If you’re craving a feature-length film premised on the notion that every American has an inalienable right to continually badger people who don’t celebrate the same holidays they do, then this is the Christmas film for you. And if you loved the scene in “A Christmas Story” where that kid got his tongue stuck to a frozen flagpole, you’re in luck—because sitting through this movie feels exactly like that.
A filthy secular humanist lawyer named Mitch Bright—played by one of the lesser Baldwins, though not the one who played Barney Rubble—returns to his bucolic Alaskan hometown after 20 years to discover Christmas shit everywhere. He doesn’t like it because, as noted, he’s a filthy secular humanist, and atheism has made him grumpy. So he tries to get the town nativity scene removed from public land. Meanwhile, Mitch’s old high school rival, Mayor Dan Reed (McGinley), really loves Christmas and wonders what happened to Mitch to make him so unreasonable about using tax dollars to elevate one particular faith above all others.
Of course, while Dan is fairly politic in his dealings with Mitch and the rest of the town’s Christmas haters, his brother Greg (played by Christian comedian Brad Stine) is up in everyone’s face about it. At one point a coffee shop employee wishes Greg “happy holidays,” and with the way he reacts, you’d think she’d written “Hail Satan” in his latte foam. Throughout his subsequent “comic” tirade, Greg makes it abundantly clear that Christmas is the only winter holiday worth celebrating—but thanks for playing, dirty infidels.
In other words, this is a movie about cultural supremacy. Mainline Christianity is what December is all about, not any of these other so-called “beliefs.”
By the way, the movie—and especially Greg’s coffee shop freakout—is based on the song of the same name by Go Fish. You can watch that masterpiece here:
“Christmas with a Capital C” is available for free on Tubi.
My War on Christmas rating: three candy-cane shivs.
“Last Ounce of Courage”
Before you’re finished with this one, you’ll dimly wonder why it wasn’t called “Last Ounce of Patience.”
Bob Revere, another small-town mayor, finds himself in a struggle with a secular humanist outsider for the soul of his town, which has been irretrievably sullied by modern conceptions of fairness. Bob wants Christmas stuff displayed everywhere, not just in or in front of people’s private homes.
Political correctness is everywhere! The local school is putting on a winter pageant with a story about aliens instead of angels; we hear on the radio that the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce has stopped sponsoring its local Christmas parade; and we see a clip of former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, who’s so incensed about the serial depredations against Christmas that he’s bravely saying so to his almost exclusively right-wing Christian audience.
Years earlier, Bob’s son died fighting overseas, and when Bob’s grandson asks him what Bob is doing to make the world safe for excessive, often-gaudy monthlong celebrations focused almost entirely on conspicuous consumption, Bob has an epiphany. He’s going to save Christmas, no matter the sacrifice.
Here’s an actual Bob quote from the film: “Christmas is for everyone. If you’re a Muslim [and] you want to pray to Allah in the middle of the town square, by all means, please. It’s one of your rights. If you’re Jewish [and] you want to display your menorah and blow your shofar, go ahead, and accept my admiration for standing up for what you believe in. But don’t tell me and the majority of us that believe in Jesus Christ that we don’t have the right to celebrate the day of his birth, because it’s Christmas.”
And here’s another: “We’re not losing some endangered species of fish. Our freedoms are being taken away from us one by one. Now that’s how we’re taking them back—one at a time. We’re gonna start with Christmas. Now, if I want to put up a nativity scene on my front yard, I’m gonna do it. If I want to put a Christmas tree on the courthouse lawn, like we used to, then we’re gonna do it.”
Yeah, those two things—putting a nativity scene in one’s front yard and putting a Christmas tree on the courthouse lawn—aren’t remotely the same thing. The first is clearly fine, and something everyone should have an unquestioned right to do. In fact, we should all be willing to fight to preserve that right, regardless of our religious beliefs. The second is problematic only if it’s specifically intended to highlight the doctrines of a particular religion. So it’s interesting he didn’t use “put a nativity scene on the courthouse lawn” as his example. Maybe because most fair-minded people would have a problem with a local government favoring one set of beliefs over all others.
But without straw men—both to push down and, presumably, to direct the movie—this film wouldn’t exist, would it?
Near the end of the film, in a brave show of … something, Mayor Bob—who rides around town on a motorcycle flying an American flag the size of an infield tarp—hoists a “Jesus Saves” sign onto the side of the local mission in defiance of … something. It’s unclear if it’s an explicitly Christian mission. If so, no one in this universe (even a filthy secular humanist) would ever try to keep him from putting a cross on it. If it’s city-owned, well, maybe find an alternate spot for that big sign. Might I suggest a church? After all, the solutions to these “problems” are really, really simple when you think about it.
“Last Ounce of Courage” is available on YouTube, so you can watch it here for free!
Go ahead. I dare you.
My War on Christmas rating: two spicy-nog-filled balloon grenades.
“Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas”
It’s still unclear whether the title indicates Kirk Cameron is saving Christmas, or if “Saving Christmas” is the name of the movie and the movie is his. What is clear is that it received a rare 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Which presumably means even fundie Christian critics hated it. And it’s pretty easy to see why.
This is a movie for prosperity-gospel preachers, and the theology it’s predicated on appears to spring exclusively from the mind of Cameron, the Martin Goofer of a new, presumably very lucrative reformation. If you want a taste of his mind—be warned, there’s not quite enough of it to cover an oyster cracker—you should watch this Kirk Cameron Crocoduck video before you proceed. It’s truly something.
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In “Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas,” Kirk manages to save Christmas for his brother-in-law, who’s bemoaning the commercialization of the holiday much as Charlie Brown did in “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Except Cameron’s movie is far less respectful of Christian traditions than the cartoon was.
As Kirk’s B-I-L points out all the ways the secular world has encroached on the true meaning of Christmas—with pagan and popular innovations like the Christmas tree, Santa Claus, and commercialism all eclipsing Jesus—Kirk smugly looks on before explaining all that “commercial” stuff is actually biblical!
No, really. And he can prove it.
For instance, when Kirk’s B-I-L notes that the Christmas tree was originally a pagan symbol that had nothing to do with Christianity, Kirk lets him know this is all wrong because the trees God made in Genesis are just like Christmas trees: “When God created the world, he filled it with trees. He hung fruit on the trees. When it was time for him to build his house and make it beautiful, he brought trees inside,” Kirk says, bursting with theological brio. “And guess what he placed on the branches of the tree in his house? Lights. Beautiful green trees decorated with fruit, shimmering with lights, inside a house. That’s God’s idea, not the Druids’.”
And don’t worry about those gleaming boxes of “Grand Theft Auto” games and hard liquor lying underneath the tree. They’re not a bastardization of a sacrosanct holiday; they’re part of God’s plan! You see, those presents piled haphazardly under the tree look like a city skyline! And what city might that be? Only the best one ever! “Imagine the new Jerusalem, a heavenly city whose builder and architect is God,” Kirk says. “And what’s at the center of that city? A tree. The Tree of Life.”
Following a hip-hop version of “Angels We Have Heard on High,” complete with an auto-tuned “in excelsis Deo,” Kirk delivers the coup de gross: “Don’t buy into the complaint about materialism during Christmas. Sure, don’t max out your credit cards or use presents to buy friends. But remember, this is a celebration of the eternal God taking on a material body, so it’s right that our holiday is marked with material things.”
In other words, the true meaning of Christmas is having lots of toys and ham. And the god of the Israelites totally approves.
Of course, I considered the possibility that this movie was originally produced by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and that they eventually decided it was too gauche to use, prompting Cameron to slap his own name on it and release it as new content. But then I doubt Cameron is that savvy—or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that tasteless and greedy.
“Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas” is available on Hulu and Prime Video.
I don’t have any fun clips of this one or, God forbid, the whole movie, but here’s a Crocoduck for ya.
My War on Christmas rating: one giant spoiled ham and his brother-in-law.
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