Last month, it was everywhere. Hundreds of people from all walks of life, in hundreds of cities all over the country, setting up tents in public places and digging in for the long-haul. Camping for a cause. A cause so important- so wholly American -that its true believers would willingly face the biting winter cold and the scorn of their fellow countrymen head-on and held high, unflinching. They would go without the simple amenities the rest of us so often take for granted. They would take on anyone and anything to achieve their righteous objective. Nothing would stand in their way.

But the fervor and excitement soon took a dark turn. Assaults, shootings, clashes with police. A line of unarmed people pepper sprayed without provocation. A full-scale riot. People were beaten, bloodied and hauled off to jail. And the country watched in horror, disgust and disappointment as spectacle after brutal spectacle unfolded in major cities across the continent. We the People, all of us, shook our fists and shook our heads as a paramount institution and guaranteed right of our country turned into a violent travesty.

The day was Black Friday and the cause was a heavily-discounted, name-brand waffle iron. But this wasn’t an isolated incident. Only three years ago, a man was crushed to death on the job by a horde of rabid Day-After-Thanksgiving shoppers hell-bent on scratching items off their shopping list without breaking the bank. Breaking anything else was nothing more than collateral damage. A few years before that, any mild-mannered middle-class soccer mom would have gleefully taken 75% OFF the person in front of her just to get her hands on a Trample-Me Elmo. Consumerism is as American as AR-15s and just as likely to rack up a body count. Clean up on aisle five.

But the most disturbing of all is the motive behind this mad dash for discounts: Christmas. The holiday of joy and family and charity. The celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ and a holy day in America in every sense. Seventy-five percent of Americans are self-proclaimed Christians and even more than that celebrate the holiday as a secular one. So how did this become the Season of Misgiving? For a nation so determined to “keep the Christ in Christmas” we sure are quick to forget the so-called Reason for the Season in the face of a $200 TV at Walmart. The spiritual hypocrisy in our material obsession is becoming a serious and confounding problem. Our thirst for hot products and hot bargains has turned us into the land of the Red, White and Blue Light Special, and though the economy is in desperate need of a cash injection, I think there might be better ways of going about it than macing your neighbor for an X-Box.

This collective sickness of American conscience isn’t just a problem of Discounts Over People. It’s a political malady as well. I don’t have to remind you of the close relationship between God and Country-Religion and State -here in America. Patriotism and Faith have become part and parcel these days in a way not seen since the McCarthyists slapped “In God We Trust” on our money to blow smoke under the Iron Curtain. (Yes, In God We Trust wasn’t adopted until 1956. Under God, 1954. Listen to the only good advice Glenn Beck ever gave and look it up for yourself.) And it’s so sadly fitting that we would tie together cash with the Almighty in a country that credits shopping with societal progress and exceptionalism. But with this overwhelming trend of Practice Nothing That Was Preached, I have to ask: When Jesus returns, will they give him store credit?

The Voting Bloc Formally Known as the Moral Majority holds serious sway in this country, despite their emphatic, borderline-obsessive insistence that they are persecuted at all turns. Their Trail of Tears includes holding nearly every single elected office in America, decisively selecting every single GOP candidate, and making homosexuality something other than None of My Business. No Republican has a chance in Heaven of getting the nomination if they don’t pander to the masochistic delusions of the people who would rather believe the President is a secret Muslim than believe in basic biology.

Despite this incredible amount of political control, they still believe they are the victims of a witch hunt not all that dissimilar to those carried out by their ancestors against women with herb gardens and men who didn’t hate Indians. If you still find it hard to swallow that they are the control group in the American experiment, please tell me the next time you have to pretend NOT to pray to avoid offending the sensitive sensibilities of a dinner table full of atheists.

This brings me to the alleged War on Christmas. Every year in mid-November, like clockwork, the media is awash in stories of the secular conspiracy to ruin Jesus’ birthday party. This is generally spurred-on and inadvertently validated by the actions of well-meaning but misguided Political Correctness hounds who are absolutely terrified of accidentally offending anyone. Their irrational eggshell walking results in schools and businesses banning everything from gift-giving to the colors red & green. Their desperate attempt to avoid litigation from the one Jehovah’s Witness in the accounting department is perceived by the Persecuted Majority as an all-out atheistic assault on “their” holiday. In most cases, the PC Police are Christians themselves, as the atheists are too busy blacking out the word “God” on their dollar bills and posting the pics to Reddit.

Attention, shoppers. I’m confused. Can you please do me a solid and fill me in on the religious significance of the following so we can all be on the same page? Thanks. Here we go: Socks hanging over fireplaces, pine trees indoors, lining houses in colored lights, talking snowmen, a labor force of elves, flying sleds, a judgmental fat man in bizarre clothing, kissing someone you encountered beneath a poisonous plant hung over a door- okay, you get the idea. Christmas, as we know it, is a secular holiday. It has quite a bit more in common with the practices of ancient pagans than it does with the birth of anybody’s lord and savior and even more in common with the marketing campaigns of Montgomery Ward and Coca-Cola. (Glenn Beck sez: LOOK IT UP.)

Taking all that into consideration, why would anyone be offended by the colors red and green or a picture of Santa Claus? I’m not saying they should put up a cross in the court house, but there’s no reason to fight tooth and nail to “keep the PC in Pagan Celebration.” But that’s enough (Anti)Devil’s Advocate for one article.

If you have more than ten friends on Facebook, you’ve probably been bombarded by grammatically atrocious copypaste statuses regarding the highly offensive phrase “Happy Holidays.” Apparently it’s a very serious affront for the zit-faced bag boy at the Piggly Wiggly to robotically wish you a pleasant day without explicitly specifying which day that might be. Despite the obvious desire of a business to not alienate any of its potential customers, I can’t possibly imagine that any Christian shopper would appreciate being wished a Jolly Ramadan when they buy their Lean Cuisine. It’s a silly non-issue, as far as I’m concerned, but the Oppressed Majority sees it very differently.

The Happy Holidays fiasco is just one of many non-issues the Evangelicals and paranoid Fox News acolytes like to drum up this time of year, every year. And somehow, perhaps by Christmas miracle, the holiday always survives its annual battle with the heathens. But why do they spend so much time fretting over nomenclature when the greatest attack on the religion is so much more omnipresent and threatening? Is the War on Christmas really fought over a self-imposed tax requested by tree growers, or is it the mobs of selfish, violent consumers choking each other to death for the privilege of buying Chinese toys made of lead? Where is Gretchen Carlson and Laura Ingraham’s rage and disgust when a church-going American steps over the body of a dying elderly man to get 20% off an iPad? Is Christmas really about the birth of a guy who preached selflessness, voluntary poverty, sharing and love for all mankind? Or is it about stuffing a fireplace sock with gadgets and lottery tickets? Jesus wasn’t exactly subtle about being anti-materialistic and charitable. This is the worst birthday ever.

I read that mall Santas are being instructed to lower kids’ expectations for presents this year. That saddens me, but it also makes me think. In this time of economic distress and uncertainty, the last thing we should be doing is turning on one another and clamoring to get the latest, greatest robotic vacuum cleaner. Given the spirit of the season- for all of us, believers and nonbelievers –shouldn’t we strive to make the best of a bad situation? Wouldn’t it be so much more special, significant and economically feasible to give each other gifts that mean something? A handwritten card expressing just how much you love your family is infinitely more precious than an electronic coin sorter or camouflage Snooki slippers. You may not be able to return it for beer money, but Christmas isn’t supposed to be about stuff. It’s about people. So hang up the mistletoe and do your best not to choke on your eggnog when someone wishes you a Happy Holidays. That said, this heathen would like to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas.