02 January 2010

Reverse Discrimination of Christmas


With Christmas slowly fading from your memory, did you find yourself this year taking a stand for Christmas? I'm not talking about stealing the stand beneath the Christmas tree. Perhaps you missed it but 2009 was the year of sticking it to retailers who refused to display or say "Merry Christmas!" Boycotting secular businesses because they aren't promoting Christmas: righteous or ridiculous?

I'll vote for both.

American Family Assocation instructed supporters to boycott Gap and its sister stores due to their lack of Christmas spirit. Shortly thereafter, Gap revealed their releasing of a new Christmas-themed commercial. The ban is lifted. But isn't it conceivable Gap already had this Christmas-themed commercial ready to roll-out and slapping a ban on them was a bit premature?

"We’re in this fight because we are disturbed by the increasing secularization of our culture in general and Christmas in particular," said AFA president Tim Wildmon in a statement. "We're gratified that Gap has responded to the thousands of phone calls, emails and petitions from Americans who share our concerns."

"Because of the importance of Christ’s influence on the world in general and America in particular, celebrating His birth should be in a class all by itself," said Buddy Smith, executive assistant to AFA president Tim Wildmon. "We are pleased that Gap is apparently beginning to agree." The conservative pro-family group warned, however, that the boycott could resume if the new ad is not “respectful” to Christmas and Christian shoppers.

"Every consumer should make a list and check it twice, stop patronizing retailers which are naughty and shop at those which are nice," commented Mathew D. Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel and dean of Liberty University School of Law.

AFA, Liberty Counsel, and Focus on the Family - you each do great work and have many great Kingdom-building campaigns. However, this one was absolutely silly! Having a "Merry Christmas" banner in a store doesn't make that store any more supportive of Christmas or Christ than someone going to church makes them a Christian!

But I get it. This is war after all. You feel that if more and more stores say "Happy Holidays" then that will become the norm and Christmas being banned from stores will become commonplace. And if employees can only say "Happy Holidays" then they won't be exposed to the real reason of Christmas, right?


Learning the real meaning of Christmas in a store? With Christ, nothing is impossible, however, I question the human allocation of attention and energy on this one. Instead of pressuring stores to say Merry Christmas, why not be an advocate for songs that some person or group tries to remove the word "Christmas," encourage schools and other public places not to ban Christmas decorations or celebrations, and promote Christian-owned businesses as alternative shopping destinations?

By not properly focusing our efforts, websites such as Stand For Christmas

generate comments such as this: "I'm a manager at a Gap store. As a Christian I feel condemned by reading some of your comments. We're allowed to say Merry Christmas. Please understand that Gap is a business not a church and we have Jews, Muslims, Atheists, and Christians who come into our store. I cannot assume everyone are Christians. The Sunday "church crowd" that comes in is so much more rude and mean than any other time of the week. Please use courtesy and know that you are a representation of Christ even when you shop. Please be nice, retail workers need Christ too!"

How revealing is this paragraph. By boycotting Gap (or other stores that are "offensive" by not saying Merry Christmas), some Christians working at those stores feel judged. And lest anyone states a Christian shouldn't work in such stores, I challenge not only do they have the right to work there but retail stores are places with people needing the love of Jesus Christ. Besides the seemingly mean-spirits of this campaign, the comment above reflects how some Christians act in public.

The "church crowd" is more rude and mean than any other time of the week.

That should be a slap in the face.

Please use courtesy and know that you are a representation of Christ even when you shop.

Slap! Reality check: is all of this really about shopping? After all, Christmas isn't about shopping. As Christians, we should know this better than most. No, it's not about shopping. I think we're feeling a bit "cornered" when it comes to Christmas.

Most of us from this generation and the previous, grew up with Christmas being a wonderful, magical time of the year where family, food, and frolicking were always the focus. Anyone who didn't celebrate Christmas had their reasons but were often viewed as in mourning or just a sour-puss, a Scrooge of some sort, who needed to be shown the magic of Christmas.

But that's changed over the past decade or so.

Americans seem increasingly pressed to avoid anything relating to Christmas in public. Corporations and government officials bend over backwards to not offend those who do not celebrate the holiday. Yet, in the process, they're ignorant of their trampling of the First Amendment.
  • Teachers at a Connecticut school changed the words of "Twas the Night Before Christmas" to "Twas the Night Before a Holiday." The same school went from Christmas Parties to Winter Parties to banning parties all together in fear of anything resembling Christmas.

  • A West Virginia's town manger scene included shepherds, camels and a guiding star, however, Jesus, Mary and Joseph were removed over concerns about the separation of church and state.

  • In Chicago, organizers of a German Christkindlmarket were informed that the public Christmas festival was no place for the Christmas story. Officials were concerned that clips of the film "The Nativity Story," which were to be played at the festival, might offend someone.

  • In Delaware, a Girl Scout troop was prohibited from carrying signs reading "Merry Christmas" in their town's annual holiday parade.

  • A Virginia high school principal was uncertain whether his school could mention Santa or distribute candy canes after a Muslim family objected to them as symbols of Christmas.

  • A public school principal in Minnesota won't even allow "Season's Greetings" to be used in school publications.
Thankfully, there are some good news blurbs such as Principal Michelle Zundel of Bellview Elementary School in Ashland, Oregon, reversing her decision banning Christmas trees and Santa Claus from her school. Principal Zundel had removed a "holiday giving tree" from the school over Thanksgiving break and replaced it with two snowmen. She said a few parents had complained about the tree, which displayed tags suggesting gifts to donate for needy children, but Principal Zundel's actions upset dozens of parents and people from around the country who called and expressed concern with the decision.

Also, an order to remove angels and stars from Christmas trees in all government buildings in one California county has been rescinded following the uproar that ensued over the decision. Acting County Administrator Chris Thomas in Sonoma County informed the heads of all 26 county departments to disregard his previous order, which was made in response to the complaint of a disabled atheist veteran, 65-year-old Irv Sutley, who claims to have been an atheist all his life and regularly files complaints about religious symbols in public places, complained to Sonoma County officials after seeing an angel on top of a six-foot Christmas tree in the lobby of the county recorder’s office and later a star ornament in the office of the county Board of Supervisors.

In all of these cases, the wishes of the few or the one out weighed the wishes of the many. Shouldn't tolerance and acceptance be shown by trying not to offend others? That's the Christian thing to do, correct? Perhaps, but many simply wish to avoid confrontation and thus Christmas has become a time of controversy over what can or cannot be done in terms of celebrating the holiday. In order to clear up much of the misunderstanding, here are 3 of the 12 rules relating to Christmas in the public arena:
  • Neither public nor private employers may prevent employees from decorating their offices for Christmas, playing Christmas music, or wearing clothing related to Christmas merely because of their religious content so long as these activities are not used to harass or intimidate others.

  • Public school students’ written or spoken personal expressions concerning the religious significance of Christmas (e.g., T-shirts with the slogan, “Jesus Is the Reason for the Season”) may not be censored by school officials absent evidence that the speech would cause a substantial disruption.

  • Public school teachers may send Christmas cards to the families of their students so long as they do so on their own time, outside of school hours.
How sad is it that we have to focus on such things? How sad there has to be a war on Christmas. It's hard not to view it as a war when songs, traditions, and celebrations that are decades old are threatened because someone of a differing or no faith shares their objection and rules are decreed that ban some aspect of Christmas.

The funny thing about Christmas is it's a holiday with two sides. I could have a Christmas tree with an angel on top in my den, a wreath on my door, candy canes and lights all over the place, attend Christmas Eve services, and have no clue about Jesus or the real meaning of Christmas. Or I could have all, some, or none of those things, recognize Santa or not, and celebrate my Christian faith daily.

Faithless people who call themselves Christians because they're "good people" celebrate Christmas every year through decorations, traditions, and giving gifts. Yet, many of opposing faiths feel anything relating to Christmas are offensive for religious reasons. I suppose they take issue with the risen Savior at Easter and think that the bunny and his candy should be banned too?

So, what's the solution? Simple, stop being so sensitive! Both sides!

For those of differing and no faiths, you are free to have that choice and free to not participate in activities you don't support. However, it's a bit selfish to enforce your beliefs on others who enjoy them. If something offends you, don't drive, walk, or shop there. Would you walk into a friend or coworker's home and start demanding they change decorations or the layout of their home? If so, don't count on being invited back. If not, then why make demands on a store or other public displays?

Stop wearing your feelings on your sleeve! Have a bit more patience and bite your tongue.

Someone might say, 'Oh, but how would you feel if everyone around you celebrated Christmas and said Merry Christmas but you didn't celebrate it. How would you feel?' I would put aside my selfishness. Instead of not saying anything to those celebrating Christmas or telling them, 'I don't celebrate Christmas,' I'd tell them "and peace to you" or some other warm greeting.

With all things, there is a choice. I can show love or be lazy. It's more difficult to be loving and share a peaceful response than to be lazy and share the feelings on my sleeve.

Also, when I say "Merry Christmas" to someone and they reply "Happy Holidays" - that's perfectly fine. Smile and walk on. If they say "I don't celebrate Christmas" - there's no need for you to apologize. Smile and tell them they don't know what they're missing. 

Some Christians spend so much time wanting to announce Jesus is the reason for the season, CHRISTmas, and keep CHRIST in Christmas...that what's forgotten is showing Him to others. It's easy to look like a bully trying to announce your message over others. It's just as easy to keep your mouth shut. The challenge is to stand firm while showing love.

AFA, Liberty Counsel, and Focus on the Family - please consider changing your approach in 2010. Take a stand for Christmas but not at the expense of bullying businesses or making employees feel condemned.

After all, Jesus is the reason. Not just for the season. It's all about Him and our challenge is to show His relentless love to others.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for this post - well-reasoned, insightful, and challenging.
    Just one question, can you let me know more about the Delaware girl-scout story, I don't recall seeing that in our local news coverage, just want to make sure I'm not missing anything around here. Thanks!

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  2. Ken, thanks very much for the comments here. The incident was mentioned here: http://www.rutherford.org/articles_db/commentary.asp?record_id=626 although my attribution was a Christian Post article where the story had been reprinted.

    I sought a source from The Rutherford Institute and they explained, "The referenced incident was reported to us by a member of the public who became aware of it. To our knowledge, the incident did not receive any other media coverage such that it might be found using an internet search."

    Seems like an isolated incident that received no media attention, although it should have.

    ReplyDelete