Saturday, December 17, 2005

Weighing in on "Merry Christmas"

I've read articles here and there about the "Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays" debate. I've seen web site claim greeters at Target can't even say "Merry Christmas" when in all reality , it is only a matter of them choosing to advertise the "holidays" instead of "Christmas" to appeal to a wider range of consumers.

I wasn't particularly surprised that this was somehow "exaggerated" by Christians. I find it particularly disappointing how "we" pass along false information like this without checking it out first. But what surprised me even more was the response from some in the Christian community on this issue.

One Christian blogger wrote, "
That said, if stores don't want to recognize Christmas, I really don't care one way or the other. Have we as followers of Christ became so frail and victimized that we need the mall to validate our faith?" Another was speaking of, "the "proposed agenda" to take "Christ" out of this season [and went on to say] (think through that statement by the way......Can you really take Christ out of any place? It in the same vein as thinking you can take prayer out of school, isn't it?)" A follow up comment to this post stated, "I think some people are having difficulty facing the fact that we are a post-Christian society, so they end up lashing out over silly issues like this."

Before I share my opinion, I would like to stress:
  • What I am sharing is just opinion. I do not claim to speak for God on the issue, although I have tried to discern how Christ would have me respond.
  • I consider the bloggers quoted above to be my brothers in Christ although I disagree with them on this issue.
As I read these blog posts, I asked myself, "What would Jesus do?" And I considered the fact that Jesus lived in a nation similar to ours in that it was once considered godly (the Jews were God's chosen people) and in a culture quite similar to ours today where not many people were living godly lives. And I thought about those around Jesus who wanted to see him rise up and overthrow Rome for the Kingdom of God (more likely for the Jewish people, but in the name of God nonetheless). From what I read in the Gospels, Jesus was more interested in changing people's hearts than he was in overthrowing governments. So on that hand, I can see where my brothers are coming from.

On the other hand, I wonder how Jesus felt about Jews who let God be taken out of their culture and a pagan lifestyle infiltrate their culture. For those who like a chapter and verse for every opinion, I'll admit I do not see in the Gospels where Jesus addressed this issue. But perhaps America is in a situation similar to that of Israel in the time of Rome...a nation that was founded by God's divine providence who once recognized Jehovah as 'their God' and later sat idly by while "culture" kicked God out of public life.

I guess I could summarize my concern with this issue (i.e. Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas) into three areas:
  1. Being a good steward of God's blessings on America
  2. The flawed logic in the argument that says 'shame on Jerry Falwell for trying to make all of America observe Christmas like he does'
  3. The book of Revelations tells us what the world will be like at the return of But does that mean we should just sit and let it happen?
Being a good steward of God's blessings on America:
The parable of the talents teaches us that we should be wise stewards of that which God has given us. It is clear from the writings of our Founding Fathers that they believed it was God's divine hand of Providence that helped form our great nation. John Witherspoon preached a scathing sermon around 1777 asserting that clergy should be involved in government (in response to a provision in the Georgia constitution that clergy should not be involved in running for office). One reason I believe Christians should make a public statement about Christmas is because we are to be good stewards of God's blessings on our great nation. Yup, if Target wants to celebrate the holidays instead of Christmas, that is their right. But it is also my right to let them know that, as a Christian, I prefer to support a store who recognizes Christmas rather than 'the holidays'.

Flawed logic
You have probably heard the story told by Martin Niemoeller talked about after WWII:

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me--
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

The 'logic' Niemoeller spoke of was the same that says today it is wrong for Jerry Falwell to 'make everybody celebrate Christmas like he does'. This is also the exact same logic that would say,"I can't say anything against abortion because what right do I have to try and force my pro-life beliefs on everybody else."

Living in a post-Christian society
I believe the person who said we are living in a post-Christian society is right. Revelation tells us what the world will be like just before Christ But does that mean we just sit by and say, "I'll just love my culture and not do anything to stop us from turning our back on God"? Where do we draw the line?...taking prayer out of school (technically refusing to publicly acknowledge God in our schools)? allowing our culture to celebrate the "holidays" instead of the day set aside to recognize Christ's birth? allowing our culture to redefine God's definition of marriage? allowing our culture to make it against the law to preach what the Bible says about homosexuality?

To the comment that some of us are having a hard time dealing with the fact that we are living in a post-Christian society...YES, I'm having a hard time dealing with that. Is it being a good steward of what God has given us to sit idly by while our culture gives God the boot?

As to whether Christ can be taken out of the season (or prayer be taken out of school), of course not. But does that make it a good idea for us as Christ's ambassador's to sit idly by while our culture decides it doesn't want to recognize God in America anymore?

And lastly, have I become so frail and victimized that I need the mall to validate my faith? If this is a real question and not a "shame on you" tactic, no I am not frail and victimized, but I don't think I should sit by while my country, here by the grace of God, slowing (starting with a small but vocal minority) decides we don't need God anymore...that this is no longer one nation under God.

I have to admit it is odd for Christians, who should be against the commercialism of Christmas, to be so adamant about stores saying "Merry Christmas". And then we could bring up the whole issue of celebrating Christ's birth on December 25th (to coincide with a pagan holiday), but the issue that most concerns me is Christians not taking a stand. When terrorists attacked my country in the name of their god, I wanted to stand up and say, "You know what, you just go ahead and try. See if your god really wants to take on my God." I can only do that if America still wants to be a Christian nation. There are some of us who are not yet ready to throw in the towel.

Yes, we live in a post-Christian era, and
I believe Christ was more about changing hearts than he was about setting up an earthly kingdom. But I also believe that America was founded as a God-fearing nation and because of that, we have been soverignly blessed. If my culture is not going to recognize and honor God, I am going to take a stand. Christians in the coliseum took a stand for Christ as the lions devoured them. I pray that I would be strong enough to do the same, but I'm just not convinced God expects me to sit and watch my culture take me one step at a time closer to that point.

- Rob


stephen said...

Good thoughts Rob.

When you mention you can't sit idlely by, I totally agree. In fact all three of the bloggers you mentioned are NOT sitting idle, but instead we are planting Christ-centered churches in this very post-Christian/post-modern/post cereal (and any other "post" you can think of) age. That's a joke!(I can't imagine a more noble or difficult task). If all I was doing was "speaking" but not backing up my words with actions then I could really sense how this would be an issue. I don't think that is the case, do you?

Here's to the hope that is found in a person/baby/God and not in a holiday (no matter what we call it or even if we recognize it....our good friend Greg's denomitation doesn't even recognize the day as Christ's birth and they seem to be doing okay, eh?)

Hurts said...

Hey Bro,

Thought I had too much stuff just to comment on your blog, so I put it on mine. Remember I prefaced my comments stating that I considered all three of you brothers and that I simply disagree on this issue. I did not mean that you were sitting idly by and not doing anything for the Kingdom. You are doing much more than I have even attempted and I honor you for that. You definitely back up your words with actions.

I also mentioned at the beginning of my post that this was my personal opinion. Yes, our hope is in the person of Christ, not in any holiday...but for me (personally) to let it go and label it a "silly issue" would be sitting idly by.

Guess that's one of the cool things about being part of God's family...we don't have to agree on every little issue but we can still love each other and on Christ being our only hope at this, or any other, time of the year.

Love ya bro,