Is There Really a War on Christmas?
Anyone who lives here in America surely has heard the term "War on Christmas". It's all over FOX News and Christian radio programs. Books have been written about it, and it's the new bandwagon to jump on. Well, maybe not so new. It seems to come up each year. This year, though, it seems more pronounced.
Now, it will probably strike some as really odd that I'm not going to jump on the bandwagon. (Then again, maybe it won't, if you've been reading this blog!) But I have some points that I want to make about this whole thing, as well as some commentary about the larger picture.
First of all, is there really a war on Christmas? What defines this war? What are the sides, and who is winning?
It seems that the "war on Christmas" is identified by Bill O'Reilly, James Dobson, and others as a push by "secularists" for retailers in particular to use a phrase such as "Happy Holidays", rather than "Merry Christmas". If a retailer opts for the more generic phrase, Dobson recently said on one of his broadcasts that he would refuse to shop there. Not only that, but the President of the United States has been soundly criticized for not saying "Merry Christmas" on the White House's annual holiday card.
Now, let's pull back for a moment and see what we really have here. There may, in fact, be some legitimacy to the idea that Christmas is not as publicly accepted as it once was. But what is the issue at stake? This seems to go along with Dobson's idea that we must legislate all of our Christian beliefs in order to save this country. This assumes that God is pleased with outward symbols of faith, rather than a heart that is set on Him. And if you read the Old Testament prophets, you'll find that this is entirely not the case at all! God is no more pleased with America's fake Christianity (I'm talking culturally here, not the individual hearts that may be sincere) than He was with Israel's ritualistic continuance of sacrifices.
There seems to be an underlying set of presuppositions at play here:
- America was, is, and must always remain a "Christian" nation
- Because of the previous point, Christian holidays must be observed by everyone, regardless of their own personal faith.
- If a retailer does not recognize my personal faith and holiday, then that retailer should be boycotted and, by extension, put out of business.
- If the Republicans want "the Christian vote" again, they must specifically support Christian holidays.
Now, this whole logic seems flawed on many levels. Consider this:
- President Bush is president of the United States of America, not the National Association of Evangelicals. As such, he is the president for Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists, Buddhists, etc., etc., etc. So, why should he wish all those other people a Merry Christmas? If Joe Lieberman were President, would we expect him to wish the country a Happy Hannukah? And would it be acceptable to Dobson if he did? Instead, President Bush gave a greeting that is appropriate to the various groups of people over whom he has his position.
- Likewise, if a retail establishment is owned by a non-Christian, does it make any sense for them to wish us a Merry Christmas? If James Dobson owned a restaurant, would it make sense for him to wish people a Happy Kwanzaa?
My final thought in this rambling reactionary post is this: Does my culture's rejection of Christmas (if indeed, that is what is happening) diminish Christmas at all for me personally? No! This is where my frustration really comes into play. The idea seems to be that, in order for Christmas to be considered valid, it must be recognized by all.
Now, I do concede that sometimes, there appears to be a move toward a "freedom from religion" in our culture, but the solution is not public expressions of Christianity. The proper perspective on this country's history is that we should have freedom of religion. And there is a big difference! I still have the freedom to worship as I please and to celebrate Christmas. Why should it make a difference to me if someone who does not know Christ personally wishes me a Merry Christmas or not? I don't need them to wish me a Merry Christmas in order for me to have a merry Christmas! In fact, to go a step further, their greeting would really not mean anything if it doesn't come from the heart.
Once again, I find myself at odds with the way in which "Christian leaders" are presenting their arguments. Dobson actually was encouraging his "army" (his word) of listeners and supporters to boycott stores that would not use the word "Christmas" in their holiday decorations. Again, I have to ask, if the store is owned by a Jewish person, does it make sense to boycott them for not saying "Christmas"? And a follow-up question: would Dobson boycott this store at any other time of the year since they did not share his religious beliefs? What about a store that is open on Easter Sunday? Or what about a store that does not put a cross in their window on Good Friday? Where does it end?
Freedom of religion is a wonderful thing, and as long as we have it in this country, we are fortunate. But I will continue to state that I do not need the government's endorsement of my beliefs in order for me to celebrate those beliefs. And to try to force others in our country to celebrate, participate, or in any other way endorse my beliefs is to put the cart before the horse. That is not evangelism, and it is certainly not doing anything to advance the kingdom of Christ.
I hope some of this makes sense. I realize I'm ranting a bit, and I have not taken the time to form a very cohesive, logical progression of arguments here. But I do feel that the point needs to be made, and I did not want to delay posting any longer on this issue.
Until next time,