Papal Bull

Kirby, you drunken, illuminated soul — I salute you.

As you well know, Customer Support is a cruel mistress. I imagine you sitting in an impersonal cubicle, fielding calls from irate hillbillies over underwear elasticity or answering e-mails about the scarcity of cheap room deodorizers. It would drive me insane, particularly if I worked alongside you at Wal-Mart, where prices are always low and wages and benefits are even lower.

So I applaud your stoicism. Facing an unrelenting tide of idiocy is a thankless task, but you fought the good fight and dispensed knowledge to an America that all too often fears it. When someone complained that the Q-Tips they bought aren’t working, you advised them to place them in their ears and not their nostrils. And when bitter Catholic shrews wrote to Wal-Mart complaining about a company policy changing holiday decorations to read “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” you casually and politely give them a lesson on Christian and pagan symbology.

But Kirby, bro, as someone who betters himself by understanding the religious iconography permeating society, you know hardcore Christians couldn’t care less about the basics of their own faith. Telling a Catholic woman that many Christmas traditions are derived from a number of pagan sources? That’s career suicide.

Wait, why am I telling you this? You already know — you were fired for it!

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Should the Catholic League truly wish to halt the corporate bastardization of Christmas, they should protest putting up decorations in October and the associated greed and consumerism of the holiday, learn about the origins of their own traditions and stop defaming faceless corporate cogs as drunken fools.

Kirby’s e-mail was simple and non-inflammatory:

“The colors associated with ˜christmas’ red and white are actually a representation of of the aminita mascera mushroom. Santa is also borrowed from the Caucuses [sic], mistletoe from the Celts, yule log from the Goths, the time from the Visigoth and the tree from the worship of Baal.

“It is a wide wide world.”

“When I read [the above statement], I thought [Kirby] might be drunk,” said League president Bill Donohue. “But I was wrong.”

Of course you were, you pompous blowhard! Kirby’s statment was simple — Christmastime isn’t just for Christians. Accept it, live it, love it. Oh, and please accept some small facts that might help broaden your horizons.

Kirby’s revelations are hardly new. Even the laziest reader of The DaVinci Code knows many bits of Christian folklore come from earlier sources. The Roman government under Constantine adopted Christianity as the state religion, but the grafting of pagan rites and holidays onto the faith Jesus built began long before. Hence the Sabbath moving to Sunday (a day of worshipping the sun) and the movement of Christ’s “birthday” from springtime to the middle of winter solstice celebrations. Facts like these don’t damage church doctrine the way only a Dan Brown Grail quest can, but it is the truth and it would behoove followers of Catholicism to understand that. There’s nothing wrong with gaining a fuller understanding of the belief system that guides one’s life — and ignoring said understanding certainly shouldn’t result in the dismissal of a man from his job.

But that is what happens when you pit a self-righteous religious organization against a skittish multinational corporation. The already ridiculous situation then spiraled into the realm of pure nonsense when the Catholic League began a boycott because Christmas wasn’t shown the same deference as Chanukah or Kwanza.

“Go to [the Wal-Mart] website and search for Hanukkah and up come 200 items,” asserted Donohue. “Click on Kwanzaa and up come 77. Click on Christmas, and here’s what you get: ˜We’ve brought you to our Holiday page based on your search.’ In other words, Wal-Mart is practicing discrimination.”

Should I get out the violin?

While I agree with religious equality, I only extend that courtesy to public and federal institutions. If it’s of the people, by the people and for the people all religion should be revered or ignored. With the plethora of beliefs out there, it doesn’t make sense for a government organization to play preference.

But a private company? Maybe I’m a throwback to an earlier era, but I believe a company should be able to attract whatever business it wants and shouldn’t be penalized for being discriminating with its clientele. And Wal-Mart wasn’t even trying to do that. Given the sheer abundance of Christian denominations, it makes sense to craft propaganda that appeals to as many people as possible. The only time Wal-Mart erred during this debacle was in firing good ol’ Kirby. He did nothing wrong and serving him up on the sacrificial altar of religious activism is pathetic.

Nonetheless, the League’s boycott worked. Now when you visit the Great Satan’s website you can click on “Christmas” and you’ll get a Christmas page! Forget the fact that Jesus was historically born months earlier, that Christ eschewed a policy of poverty, not materialism and that he fought for truth much like Kirby did — Catholicism needs the same kind of name-brand recognition on web portals as Kwanza and Judaism.

“This is a sweet victory for the Catholic League, Christians in general, and people of all faiths,” concluded Donohue. “And it means that Wal-Mart can now enter the Christmas season without this cloud hanging over it.” The cloud of horrific labor standards and price gouging remains and pregnant teachers are fired from parochial schools while rampant child molestation continues, but Christians now have their own speciality web page on a consumer portal!

You know what? Bah humbug.