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How Aunt Susan may quell the “Christmas Wars”

Note: Beginning after the New Year, Public Religion Research Institute CEO Robert P. Jones will launch a new “Faith in the Numbers” column at the On Faith section of the Washington Post. Stay tuned for more.  Read today’s full article on the Washington Post here.

New research suggests that the end of the so-called “Christmas wars”–battles over how exclusively Christian public greetings or holiday displays should be–may come from a surprising place: Aunt Susan.

The “Christmas wars” seem this year to have been limited to a few smoldering skirmishes. The flagging enthusiasm for a 2010 holiday fight at least in part stems from worries about gifts and tight budgets, and a weariness with political divisiveness in the wake of one of the most divisive and negative campaign seasons in recent memory.

But it also reflects a more enduring trend: the increasing diversity of American families and social networks. In their recent book American Grace, researchers Robert Putnam and David Campbell have recently described the effects of these trends as the “Aunt Susan” and “my friend Al” principles: as more Americans have diverse families and friendships, they have warmer views of other religious traditions.

For example, here are just two examples of Putnam and Campbell’s findings on the diversity and churn in the American religious landscape:

  • Between one-third and one-half of all Americans are in interfaith marriages;
  • About one-third of Americans have switched religions at some point in their lives.

In a recent survey conducted by Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with Religion News Service, we also found evidence of a diverse America navigating Christmas celebrations in complex ways….

Read the rest of today’s full article on the Washington Post here.