Saturday, December 11, 2010

We Need an Exit Strategy

I love the season of Advent. I love the days leading up to Christmas. I love the candles being lit on the Advent wreath and the soft glow of lights displayed in the darkness. I love the season of contemplation and preparation. It always seemed like such a calm, peaceful, and hopeful time of year. But little did I know there was a war raging.

Or at least that's what many I met in my time in American Evangelical Culture (AEC) would have me believe. That was the first place I ever heard that there was a "War on Christmas." (Insert dramatic music here.) Sometimes it cracks me up to try to envision elves defending the North Pole by shooting candy canes at invading hoards, but I digress. The actual "War on Christmas" is an idea perpetuated in AEC that everyone else to trying to destroy Christmas as we know it by utilizing generic greetings such as "Happy Holidays." And boy do they feel strongly about it.

They seek to defend themselves in this war primarily through boycotting any retailer that doesn't explicitly mention Christmas in their ads or stores, expressing outrage at city council/school board meetings if they don't feel public displays/pageants are Christian enough, and by wearing buttons that say things like "It's okay to wish me a Merry Christmas," "I don't celebrate 'the holidays'" or "Merry CHRISTmas"

Here are the issues I have with this war. First of all, if we truly want to honor the real meaning of the season, wouldn't we reject the mass consumerism and expensive needless gifts altogether? Wouldn't we focus on service and charity rather than putting a giant bow on the Lexus in the driveway? Wouldn't we focus buying gifts that aren't produced through the exploitation of impoverished communities throughout the world? Wouldn't that honor God much more than refusing to shop at stores with "Happy Holidays" signs in the windows?

Secondly, there are more holidays than just Christmas being celebrated this time of year. And some, such as Hanukkah, come from religions that predate Christianity. It also neglects the fact that many aspects of Christmas tradition (the date, trees, etc.) originated with Pagan practices. Overall, regardless of what is printed on the sales fliers, the one thing retailers care about is making money. They will market their sales however they need to in order to increase their profits. If that means exploiting your religious beliefs, so be it. They aren't seeking to honor any particular faith, but rather their bottom line.

Finally, how in the world does picking fights with people over their choice of terms and constantly playing the victim express the radical hope of God wrapped in human form entering our world?

So, wage this war if you must. But I hope you'll at least consider a few of these questions before reminding your co-worker that "Santa" and "Satan" consist of the same letters.

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