It’s not even Advent yet, but the annual silliness about the so–called “war on Christmas” has already begun. This war seems to consist of such nefarious practices as people saying “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas”.
At least two organizations have posted their “Naughty and Nice” lists. Both Liberty Counsel and the American Family Association list stores which publicly mention Christmas (nice) or not (naughty). The purpose of this list is to encourage Christians to shop at stores that wish them a Merry Christmas and boycott the rest.
Rather than reaching out in love with the good news of healing and grace and compassion which is at the heart of the Christian gospel, they are acting as if they have to circle the wagons in the face of what they perceive as a threat. It makes me wonder how strong their Christian identity really is. Do they really want Christians to form a “holy huddle” or live in a Christian ghetto which they organize for themselves?
In my opinion, this goes against one of the most important goals of Christian faith. Followers of Jesus are called to be in the world, reaching out to other folks, living out God’s gospel values, and leavening life with their presence. Instead, these organizations try to encourage Christians to surround themselves only with other Christians, exchanging Christian greetings with one another. As a result, they ignore the world which the Bible clearly says “God loved” so much.
It’s not the world that censors their so–called right to say ‘Merry Christmas’. They censor themselves as they gather only with like–minded people, and shop only in stores which share their beliefs and boycott other stores.
But is it really the responsibility of stores and retailers to promote Christ? I don’t believe it is. That is the work of those who profess to follow Jesus.
This list, problematic as it may be, is not nearly as bad as the email I have received from over half a dozen people with a link to one of the silliest songs I have ever heard in my life. It features Carrie Rinderer and the American Christian Life United Choir, neither of which I’ve heard of before.
The song begins, “If you don’t see ‘Merry Christmas’ in the window, No! You don’t go in that store. If you don’t see ‘Merry Christmas’ in the window, Yes! You walk right by that door.”
The song continues to tell Christians to avoid any store that doesn’t proclaim the message that the only reason for the season is the birth of Jesus.
While they may see this as persecution, I fail to see how hearing someone say ‘Happy Holidays’ is oppressive. By the same token, I’m not quite clear on how anyone can force someone else to say something they don’t wish to say.
The song gets sillier. I can’t help but giggle when, in the middle of this song about the birth of Jesus, Ms. Rinderer proclaims a list of “What would be missing, now let’s see, if not for Christ’s nativity”.
The first thing on the list is “No ‘Silent Night’ or ‘First Noel’.” Fair enough. Were it not for the birth, there would be no carols.
The song continues with an irony I find to be hilarious, “No Santa’s sleigh or Jingle Bells, No star atop the Christmas tree, No special day for family, No bells that ring for angels’ wings, No dolls and trains that Santa brings.”
The list goes on to include Scrooge, Tiny Tim, Christmas lights, stockings, Santa (again), and the climax of the list, “No partridge in a pear rum pa pum pum.”
On the one hand, she wants to promote a Christmas that is only about Christ. On the other hand, the things she values and would miss are the very commercial things about which she complains — Santa … and bells … and lights … and trees loaded with presents, and other things which would make for a happy holiday.
Seriously? This kind of nonsense is profoundly anti–Christian.
I would hope that anyone who is a Christian and takes his or her faith seriously would oppose it. We are called not to withdraw from the world, but to be in it as people who live with compassion, grace and justice.
And maybe, perhaps someone should warn Liberty Counsel and the American Family Association that they might just be on Jesus’ “Naughty List”.
Yme Woensdregt is Pastor at Christ Church Anglican in Cranbrook