I’ve always liked Christmastime. I know everyone has different impressions of this season, but for me it was always one of peace. Still, this year, like every other year, we also come to a heightened culture war. Target doesn’t like the Salvation Army, Macy’s is leaving out the Christ part of Christmas, and Barnes and Noble isn’t exactly plastering Luke’s Christmas narrative on their walls. So, Christians respond. These politically correct snobs are giving us their collective middle finger. We’ve got to hit back, right?
I really don’t know that we must or even that we should.
I was in the “big town” of Oklahoma City this past week listening to a local talk-radio host, and he said something to the effect of, “When I go to meet my Maker, I will face Him knowing I was not ashamed of the Gospel!” The context in which the host made this remark was within the discussion of Christian symbols being removed from public places. I hear statements like that and I see people boycotting stores because they’re not supporting Christian rhetoric during the Advent season, and it all comes across to me as what I did when I was 6 years old: I took my ball and walked off the court when things didn’t go my way.
Sure, you’re right about what’s true on Dec. 25, but do people deserve such scorn when they don’t endorse religious rhetoric? Because that’s all it really is: rhetoric. It’s just lip service and slogans; it’s not going to change anyone’s heart. “We’ve got to stand up for the truth and stop this liberal meltdown of Christmas!” But, in the process of “standing up for the truth” we’re turning into those relatives no one likes. You know the kind. The people you dread seeing at family reunions because they’re stuck up about their own righteousness and how you don’t live up to it.
And if we want to look at this whole Christianized political movement objectively, that’s our only job: to criticize. We’ve got FCC fines everywhere, we’re attacking the entertainment industry any way we can, we’re making sure the Ten Commandments are where they should be, and we’re going nuts when the word “God” is stripped away – and rightfully so in some places. However, a lot of this discussion is silly – “under God” in the pledge, “God Bless America” on school signs – it’s not that important. Overall, what’s taking place here is not really that radical, either. It’s simply an ongoing shift in America’s national identity.
If Jesus showed up in flesh again here during the Christmas season 2004, I don’t think he would be too concerned with what Macy’s Department Store is doing. I’m sure he’d be loving people and gently walking people in to faith – taking them from death to life – just like he’s been doing since we landed ourselves in this predicament. Of course, my first reaction is, “Well, even though Jesus didn’t do it, someone has to.” And in some practical areas of life, there’s a lot of validity to that reaction, but in the overall picture of life, do these things matter? Does it really matter if not everyone is gung-ho over American Christian culture? More than that, does it really matter if some people hate us or even our spirituality? I don’t think it does.
The only alternative to love and peace is dividing everything into an “us vs. them” argument again. It’s easy to label people and treat them like second-class citizens. It’s easy to boycott everything (though the Southern Baptist Convention showed it’s not always easy to be successful at it). And, if we divide everything into “us vs. them” and take our ball and walk off, we come across as jerks. No, love isn’t efficient, but at least it’s relevant – political battles aren’t.
We, as Christians, should be much more concerned with what’s going on with the people around us. In this time of shallow culture and cheap sensations, the heart responds to love. And, if that’s what people desire, if that’s what allows people to open their eyes and walk from death to life, what’s the point in seeking validation for religious ideas from a culture that we’ve condemned in the first place?