Friday, December 17, 2010

The War on Christmas

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’”
Matthew 7:21-23

In other words, maybe saying “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays” is not as important as living out the Gospel message.

The Puritans were first responders in the War on Christmas. And they were against it. Their influence was strong enough to minimize Christmas celebrations until well into the middle of the 19th century. Apart from their general (though overly stereotyped) opposition to anything that might seem like fun, they were against it because they believed it detracted from the real issues of the Gospel.

There is a Lexus ad which says, “No one ever wished for a smaller holiday gift.” Apparently, the best Christmas present anyone could ever have would be a Lexus. Can you hear Cotton Mather saying, “I told you so!”

But in today’s controversy, the pro-Christmas side would be happy with the Lexus ad if it said “Christmas,” instead of “Holiday.”

The best thing about the War on Christmas is that although many may claim psychic wounds and battle scars, at least so far there have been no reported deaths. The worst thing is . . . well, actually there are too many to name. But somewhere near the top of my list is that it is not the right argument. And somewhere else at the top of the list is that it does not bring out the best in Christians or in our interpretation of Christianity.

It reminds me of Gandhi’s famous quotation, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians.”

In New York City, the American Atheists paid $20,000 for a billboard showing a Nativity Scene and displaying the message, “You know it’s a myth. This Season, Celebrate Reason!” The Catholic League responded with a sign of their own at the other side of the Lincoln Tunnel that declares, “You Know It’s Real. This Season, Celebrate Jesus.”

Can I declare myself a conscientious objector?

Doesn’t God want us to celebrate reason? Isn’t it a gift? And isn’t that how we understand faith? (And science, and philosophy, and everything else?) Faith and reason are not natural enemies.

In Tulsa there is a parade sponsored by a downtown pub that includes all sorts of holiday decorations and (if stories are to be believed) many Santa Clauses. What is does not have, is “Christmas” in its name. And some folks have been appalled at this latest assault on our sacred Christmas traditions. They argue that if there is to be a parade it should be officially called a “Christmas Parade.”

Allow your mind to range for a moment over all of the problems confronting our world, especially those that relate directly to the Gospel messages about peace and justice.

Decades ago when the great Methodist preacher Henry Hitt Crane spoke on college campuses across the country he reminded his audiences of the danger of “majoring in the minors.” And this is what he was talking about.

As Christians, there are lots of things that ought to keep us up at night. And there are plenty of real wars in the world, but the so-called “War on Christmas” is not one of them.

1 comment:

  1. Saw the following in a comment section on someone's blog - unfortunately unsigned so I can't attribute it - but I think it's pretty wise. -- It's always funny to me how worked up people get over Christmas, when it isn't the slightest bit biblical. I'm not saying it's wrong or sinful to celebrate it. But it really is just a made up holiday. Most people know that Jesus was not born on December 25th, and nowhere in Scripture are we commanded to celebrate his birth at all. Also, I feel like I'm beating a dead horse here, because I see this all over the blogosphere every year, but most of our Christmas traditions came out of paganism. I remember Focus on the Family getting all up in arms one year about some store advertising "holiday trees" instead of "Christmas trees." Why is that an issue? Christmas trees have nothing to do with Jesus. Sure, you could find some roundabout way to tie it in with Christianity, but ultimately, it's completely pagan in origin. Now, I am not of the mindset that because something has pagan origins, then we shouldn't have anything to do with it (otherwise, I'd have to get rid of my calendar). But let's not pretend that Christmas is some sacred religious holiday, and "they" want to secularize it. It's the opposite. It was a pagan, worldly holiday, and Christians Christian-ized it. If someone wants to celebrate and remember Christ's birth at this time of year, more power to them. If they want to celebrate it as a secular holiday (much like Thanksgiving or the 4th of July), or if they want to ignore it altogether, that's great too. There is absolutely no biblical instruction for how one should or should not celebrate Christmas, other than to follow the two greatest commandments, which we should be doing every day. Kathryn Johnson