Thursday, December 20, 2007

Win The War On Christmas By Losing



"Every time you say 'Happy Holidays,' an angel gets AIDS."– Jon Stewart, on the absurdity of the intense opposition to the phrase Happy Holidays over Merry Christmas.

For the last few years, accusations have been flying around (some legit and others fabricated) about how Christmas is under siege, slowly being banned from the public domain. There are claims of mega-chain store employees forbidden to wish their customers a Merry Christmas, signs displaying Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas, lyrics to Christmas songs changed, etc. etc. While its completely ridiculous to "ban" people from saying the phrase 'Merry Christmas,' I find the uproar, protests, and boycotts from evangelicals to"enforce" Christmas even more absurd, shallow, and frankly, extremely illogical. Focus on The Family has done several shows about the "attack on Christmas" and how good Christians can "fight" it. The American Family Association is leading boycotts on stores that say happy holidays. Other religious right groups are encouraging boycotts, protests, congressional intervention, and letter writing campaigns.

First off, I don't really believe that Christmas, as we know it, is going anywhere, based solely on the money-making aspect of the holiday. Secondly, the move to the more vague, inclusive 'Happy Holidays' greeting adopted by many stores is not so much of an attempt to ban Christmas, but an attempt acknowledge the other holidays celebrated during the same season...(Chanakuh, Kwanzaa, and New Years).


However, pretend for a moment that there is a diabolical plot among politicians, the ACLU, secularists, the liberal media, and businesses to "do away" with Christmas (there ARE people who despise any public recognition of anything even remotely religious). Pretend businesses would actually be stupid enough to take down the biggest money making holiday of the year and all "traditional" Christmas decorations, songs, and rituals were removed from the public square. If this happened, Christians should be thrilled! That's right, THRILLED.


Aren't these the same groups that we have been accusing of hijacking Christmas FOR DECADES, reducing the birth of Jesus to a materialistic, decadent, consumer-driven, self-indulgent extravaganza about who can buy the most crap, put up the biggest tree, string the brightest lights, and display the tackiest plastic reindeer, Santas, and snowmen on their lawns? Haven't evangelicals resented the fact that Christmas has been secularized, commercialized, and focused on a chimney-invading fat guy in red suit, instead of the celebration of our Lord's birth? Didn't we gaze condescendingly at all those 'heathens' that took their kids to see Santa at the mall, who were obviously deceived by those money-hungry businesses trying to make a quick buck off the birth of our Savior? Christians should be ecstatic to reclaim this beloved holiday, make it ours again, transform it into a season that truly inspires the celebration and honor of our Lord. And how did Jesus say those who love him would truly honor him? They would keep his commands. And what were those commands? Loving God and our neighbor (enemies included) with everything within us. So, does it honor Jesus when Christians force THE WORLD to adhere to God's standards? Or, even worse, OUR STANDARDS in the name of God? Or trying to conform the world to an outward appearance that is more convenient FOR US, instead of demonstrating concern for the heart? Does it honor Jesus when we selfishly demand and economically blackmail secular businesses to recognize our precious holiday and meet our needs? Is our faith so fragile, that we need THE WORLD to validate it by continuing to water-down a Holiday they don't fully understand, nor should be expected to understand?

It's not a biblical mandate to celebrate Christmas, but it is a mandate to honor Jesus by living out his teachings. We could flex our religious muscle and force worldly institutions to half-heartedly recognize Christmas to appease us, make our lives easier and more pleasant, but would our victory for "Christmas" be a loss in honoring Christ? Would our victory be just one more terrible witness to the world, where we exert domination over the world through force, condemnation, and judgment, instead of reaching the world with sacrificial love, service, kindness, and compassion?

Why are we so intent on cleaning up the world's outward image, instead of reaching hearts? Are we like the Pharisees, who care only to clean the outside of the cup, while leaving the inside filthy and empty? What difference does it make if the secular leaders and businesses recognize Christmas in name to appease us, only to remain inwardly unaffected, confused, and resentful? These outcries to "restore" Christmas will only ensure that we Christians can stroll through the mall hearing OUR favorite Christmas music, enjoying OUR favorite man-made traditions, and hear a "Merry Christmas" from a minimum-wage-working cashier after overpaying for stuff we don't really need.....wow....I can hear the "well done, my good and faithful servant" now!

Ah...but there is hope! What if we took the teaching of Jesus seriously? What if we saw this "ban of Christmas" as a unique opportunity. What if we overcame evil with good? Turned the other cheek? Loved those who hate us? Blessed those who curse us? Lose our secure, comfortable lives, so we might save it in the end?

Wouldn't it come as a baffling shock if Christians everywhere put down their picket signs, ceased the boycotts, dropped the Christmas lawsuits, and instead, showered politicians, business owners, and ACLU workers that show disdain for Christmas/Christians with thoughtful gifts, invitations to OUR Christmas celebrations, letters of prayers, (not condemning ones), asking nothing in return? What if Christians took all the money they are spending on lawsuits over Christmas and used it to serve the poor, the marginalized, and sick? What if we stopped courting the approval and recognition of the rich and powerful and focused on the least, the lost, and the last of this world? What if Christians recreated our Christmas celebrations and invited the world, instead of demanding the world get it right and include us? How much harder would it be for the world to label us as judgmental, condemning, intolerant, superficial hypocrites, if we actually lead by example, by service, by radical, ridiculous, unconditional love? See, Jesus is no naive optimist, He is a genius! By responding to cruelty with kindness, insult with blessing, neglect with service, rejection with embrace, it proves our opponent wrong. It shows their true colors. It halts their accusations. It could inspire a rethinking of their assumptions. It makes us a people separated unto God. It clears the way for reconciliation, healing, renewal, forgiveness, and transformation. When we take the bait and repay evil with evil, eye for eye, dollar for dollar, insult for insult, when we demand our DUE, we not only lose in the end, but we become our "enemy," for we are guilty of the same offenses, tactics, and attitudes. For what good is it if we only show love to those who love us? Do not even non-christians do this? Aren't we called to a higher standard?

So let's do what Jesus would have us do on the day we've chosen to celebrate his birth: lose our holiday to save it after all. Lose the war on Christmas to truly win it!

18 comments:

joey said...

While I do feel there is an underlying spiritual battle to do away with what we know as the true Christmas and our faith in general, this is some good insight. I feel similarly about the Christian legal organizatons out to fight for our "rights" as Christians. Um, doesn't the Bible say we would be PERSECUTED for our faith? Wasn't Jesus hung unjustly and when Peter said he would never let Jesus die, Jesus rebuked him.

Jeff Gill said...

Brilliant! You've put into words part of what I have been feeling but haven't really processed because I've been so busy running around _doing_ Christmas.

musicmommy3 said...

I LOOOVE IT!

Not only that, but really, there are so many pagan roots to Christmas traditions that I find it surprising we think we "own" the holiday as Christians. (I wish we could celebrate it another time of year quite frankly. That would end a lot of arguments. ) I think it's all well and good to celebrate Christ's birthday and call it Christmas. However, due in large part to research I've been doing for several years, I find it strange that we are trying to force Jesus to fit in a secular holiday. You made some great points about forcing the world to do things our way. You should email this one to Focus on the Family. I'm serious. It wouldn't hurt anyone to look at it from a different perspective.
:)

Tia Lynn said...

Thanks Ang, you are too kind.

I mean, I don't want people to think I hate Christmas. After Halloween, Christmas is my favorite holiday. All my sisters and I did the sitting on santa's lap thing, decorated beautiful christmas trees every year, picked out thoughtful gifts for friends and family, and have great family parties. While Jesus' birth is the main event, I enjoy and love all those aspects of Christmas. But none of those activities are dependent on forcing other people or businesses to participate.

musicmommy3 said...

I didn't get that you hated Christmas- AT ALL. What you just reiterated was what I got out of it. That's the part I liked. :)

Even though there are pagan roots, Michael and I still celebrate because we feel that since we are no longer practicing nature worship, etc., and it is now associated with the birth of Christ, that there is redeeming quality in it. :)
I don't hate Christmas either. I do have a hard time with lots of things but I can remove those and focus on what I feel is important.

musicmommy3 said...

Oh, Michael said that it's our right as American to boycott stores we feel are being detrimental to America. (aka- removing Jesus from everything.) I told him that, yes, it was; but your ideas seemed to ring true somewhere in me. I think it was the idea that on some things we tend to be way to unloving, forceful, and on others we aren't vocal enough (IMHO).
My husband said that he wasn't boycotting any of those stores because he's trying to force them in a hateful way. He said it depends on how you do it. (but I didn't get a chance to read the whole thing to him so I'll let you know what he thinks later)

DeeAnn said...

We've been fighting this battle on our homefront. Emily (8yo) is a big advocate for telling her friends that Santa and the tooth fairy are not real. I have had christian parents come to me and ask me to tell her not to be telling their kids these things. A few weeks ago we were at the NGTC lights thing with some friends that go to our church. I knew that they did the Santa thing so when Emily said something about not standing in line to see Santa because he isn't real, I realized that one of the friend-parents was within earshot so I told her to keep it a secret because their family did that tradition. I have felt horrible ever since then because I don't want her to think later on that she should keep from sharing the Gospel in order to not offend someone. Now she says that she feels like she is lying if someone asks her about her santa wish list or if santa is going to come see her and she thinks she has to go along with it. So we came up with a compromise. I told her that no matter what anyone asks her about santa or she thinks they want her to say, she should just keep saying, "Christmas is Jesus' Birthday." That way she's telling the truth and not being defensive at the same time.

from Christy Fritz said...

really glad you did this one.
i can respect, on a certain level why people do fight though. i'm not saying it's right, just the american way.:) i'm not saying its wrong either, just not my personal choice on how to do battle. i think each individual has to examine their own heart about the issue and ask for guidance. and fear of losing anything (especially rights) needs to get far, far out of the picture...IMHO.:)
i think the "idea" that we are a nation rooted in christianity, and that america is not a "heathen" country like so many others, fuels the fire when it comes to the fights for these kinds of rights. i think many feel that in fighting for the right as christian americans to keep god, christ, jesus, etc... on public display, whether it be the ten commandments, prayer in school...evolution out, or christ in christmas... that they are taking america back to it's "true" heritage, and that of our forefathers who were so very christian. i'm not so much about reclaiming the past good, as i am about imagining and fighting for a new and better tomorrow. i can learn from the past, yes, but not have to fight for the good parts to be in place again, just as they were, to give me a semblance of a better time. god gives a new word and a new song every morning, and i am learning to listen and not be afraid. i think getting americans to give up any fight like this is a long time coming. americans will fight for their rights, especially their christian ones. i'm not sure how christian it is, as we are not to have any rights, but i respect those who seem to feel it necessary to defend god,even though i've never understood why he needs to be defended. for some reason i feel the need to clarify, that i'm not being sarcastic, i really do respect them and i think they feel they act out of pure motive. i disagree with alot of what they do though... and agree that alot of energy and resources spent in that direction, seems meaningless to me. i wish i could truly understand the motive. i think wanting to tell the truth may be part of it, and that is a very good motivation.
what we've always told the kids is the santa claus character is based on a real person called st nicolas who had a loving heart and gave gifts to children. (feel free to tell me if i'm wrong:) that person isn't alive anymore but people remember him at christmas time. we've taught them to respect other families traditions, if they play the santa game. some family things are just private. we've always encouraged giving during this season, and going through the advent stories this year has prepared them in a new way for what caleb calls "the mystery of christmas":)
as for what josh thinks. i told him about the old navy ban and his quote, as he was walking out the door for work...
"how does that advance the message of christ?, that is not what jesus told us to do"
he's kinda black and white and very direct...hehe:)
thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

Tia Lynn said...

Thanks everyone for weighing in, lots of great thoughts and stories!

Just so everyone knows, I am not necessarily against all boycotts and protests, as long as they remain peaceful, respectful, and relevant. During suffrage, civil rights, and even vietnam, I probably would have been part of those boycotts and protests (the peaceful ones). REAL rights were being violated, women were taxed without representation and couldn't vote, african-americans were treated like animals, and needless death and corruption went on during the war. These are all instances when the foundation of the protests is love for our neighbor, love for the least of these, in pursuit of justice. But these Christmas protests ring self-indulgent, superficial, and not really accomplishing anything worthwhile. Our "rights" aren't violated when secular businesses with a freedom of speech of their own don't recognize Christmas.We are free to celebrate however we want, when THAT right is questioned for ANYONE, I'll lead the protests myself. :)

Even the demands of these protests are lame: call the tree a christmas tree, display signs with merry christmas, allow santa, and greed and red decorations. Does any of that sound relevant to the true meaning of Christmas in the first place? There are no demands for nativity scenes or anything. So, we are encouraging businesses to continue with the commercialization and secularization of Christmas. It just strikes me as bizarre and a tad desperate, that ultimately makes Christians look like whiny, spoiled, alarmists. We are missing a unique opportunity! Now, if CHRISTIAN stores and churches were banning Christmas, I wouldn't shop or attend because they bear the name of Christ and know better. Paul says we shouldn't judge the world or hold them to the same standards, because they have not yet come to know Christ. How can we expect the WORLD to accurately represent and cater to our beliefs and traditions? We're suppose to be reaching out to them, not the other way around.

Anonymous said...

I use "happy holidays" and "Merry Christmas" interchangeably. I don't think it makes me any less Christian. Can I help it that I like variety in what I say? This debate should not exist. I think we tend to overthink these things.

Tia Lynn said...

I hear ya anon. When people wish me a happy holidays or merry christmas, I respond positively to both, because the intent is well-wishing! It's a very silly thing to get so worked up about.

Tonya said...

Hapry Chistidays!:):):)

MOM #1 said...

This is such an excellent post!

I agree 100%. I think in life there will be plenty of battles that legitimately need to be fought hard and won at all cost.

This is not one of them.

Happy Holidays!

April said...

You preach it, sistah! What mom #1 said!

Hope your holidays were and are bright!

Jeremy Myers said...

Tia,

Fantastic post. I found your blog through your comment on my blog. Thanks.

I have been thinking for a few weeks that something is not right with all this Christmas-bashing by Christians and the big worry that we are going to lose Christmas to materialism, but have not been able to put my finger on what made me uneasy. Your post was like that "lightbulb above the head ah-ha!" moment for me.

We shouldn't be fighting the stores over who gets to define Christmas. Let them have it! Instead, let's be incarnational just as Jesus truly was when He came to earth.

I will be adding your blog to my bloglines. Thanks!

April said...

Tia... I was thinking about this more and wondering do the anti-Happy Holidays folks realize that "holiday" etymologically comes from "holy days"? Probably not, eh?

Tia Lynn said...

April, that is hysterical! :) Thanks for pointing that out!

Daniel said...

do you still update this page? daniel.sims@fulbrightmail.org