October 20, 2017

Christian Protection Racket

“I heard you had a really big Christmas parade in Tulsa.” I was enjoying a few days this past week with my parents in Ohio when Mom shared this with me.

“No, Mom, it really wasn’t that big.”

“Well, I heard something about it on the news.”

“Ah, well, what you heard was that our senator, Jim Inhofe, decided not to ride his horse in the parade this year because the name was changed from Christmas Parade to Holiday Parade.”

“Oh. Well, I knew it was something.”

It was something, all right. Something else to bring ridicule to our state. The city councilors even took up a vote to see if they would still issue a parade permit since the word “Christmas” was dropped from the event. Just one more instance of the Christian protection racket practiced this time of year to try and force businesses—and parades—to “put the Christ back in Christmas.”

It used to be in the old days that businesses needed to pay protection money to organized crime figures to keep anything bad from happening to their stores. By “anything bad,” I mean their stores going up in a ball of flame in the middle of the night. Or middle of the day, for that matter. Now it is organized religion that is forcing businesses to submit to their form of protection.

“If you say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas, we’ll put you on our ‘naughty list.’ We’ll boycott you. We’ll mention your business in a sermon saying that you are the reason our country is going to hell on greased skids.”

Merry Christmas, indeed.

Tell me, is your faith really so shallow that a clerk at Target saying Happy Holidays is going to make you rethink your salvation? Is that grocery bagger wearing a Season’s Greetings button causing you to falter in your beliefs?

Or perhaps you think that by forcing businesses to put up Jesus Is The Reason For The Season signs they will win souls. Forcing employees to say “Merry Christmas” will bring a great revival throughout the land. (By the way, you and I—and our sins—are the reason for the season. But that is another story.)

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Except for that single mom working two jobs—ringing up groceries during the day, and waiting tables at night—who gets stiffed a tip because she didn’t say Merry Christmas to that lovely “Christian” family with three out-of-control kids and a husband who complained loudly that the chili wasn’t spicy enough.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, except to that man putting up lights that read Season’s Greetings in his yard who hears, “It’s Merry Christmas, you jerk!” from the family driving by on their way to church.

The Christmas mafia is once again out in full force, doing its job to protect us all from the evils of the Happy Holidays gang.

Tell me, just how is Jesus lifted up by forcing one to accede to your holiday demands? How is the Son of God glorified in putting a business on the naughty list because they don’t put up a Christmas tree? Is our God any less of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords because we aren’t greeted with carolers singing O Holy Night when we run into the convenience store to get a gallon of milk? Do I represent Jesus well by verbally assaulting you because you have an inflatable Santa instead of an inflatable manger scene in your front yard?

Ok, maybe I shouldn’t be ranting this close to Christmas. After all, it is supposed to be a happy time, a time of enjoying the season with your friends and family. If you can find it in your heart, take time to smile at an overworked clerk in the next store you visit. Ask them if you can pray for them about anything. Maybe even make a point to get to know them. And relax. As a recent commenter said, “If Christianity survived the persecution of the Roman Empire, it can probably handle the Gap offering generic holiday greetings.”

Happy Holidays from your friends here at Internet Monk.

Comments

  1. Thank you for the “rant” and for pointing out, once again, how far off-base many in American Christianity are about what constitutes the essentials of our faith, and what we are to be witnesses for (1 Peter 3:15). Happy Holidays!

  2. Glad to see my American Evangelical brothers have found yet another reason to be paranoïd and obnoxious in God’s name!!

  3. George in AZ says:

    Jeff, where do you come up with these — these — whatever? Did you really hear someone say that “a clerk at Target saying Happy Holidays is going to make [someone] rethink [his] salvation? Is that grocery bagger wearing a Season’s Greetings button causing [someone] to falter in [his] beliefs?” You’re just making this up, right? What happened to make you belittle those who strive to promote a Christian confession of Christmas?

    • If their faith (or anything else) is not harmed when a cashier says “Happy Holidays”, then why the boycotts? And why would you want to promote a Christian confession of ANYTHING from a non Christian?

    • “What happened to make you belittle those who strive to promote a Christian confession of Christmas?”

      Honestly, Georges, who prevents you or your church to make a Christian confession this Christmas???
      What do you think about the consumerism attached to this season? Does it reflect Christian values?

      Another take on the issue: http://www.simpleliving.org

    • George, have you seen this?

      http://www.blog.repentamarillo.com/2010/12/21/repent-amarillo-executes-santa-firing-squad/

      Granted, this is a small group from Texas, so they’re not representative of all non-denominational small ministries, but the attitude that Jeff is describing is out there.

      As for myself over here in Holy Catholic Ireland, I’m sorry, Jeff but when you mentioned something about a politician and his horse I was very forcefully reminded of a pungent American phrase regarding a wish for one and the equine one is using as a means of locomotion.

      (Politicians at the moment are not at all popular over here due to their mishandling of the economy).

      Happy Christmas to all!

      🙂

      • Martha,

        Completely off topic.

        And you may not know the answer.

        But what is the best Irish Whiskey I will be able to get here in the states?

        Any recommendations.

        I need to get a bottle for a friend for a gift.

        • The best Irish whiskey is like the tallest dwarf.

        • I’m not Martha, but Jameson is a popular brand amongst the Chicago Irish.

        • Bushmill’s also has its fans. Unfortunately there are differences of opinion on “the best”…

          • A top 10 list from Irish whisky drinkers that actually drink/taste & publish their favs:

            1. Michael Collins Single Malt Whiskey
            2. Jameson 18 Year Blended Irish Whiskey
            3. Bushmills Black Bush Blended Irish Whiskey
            4. Tyrconnel Single Malt Madera Cask Finish Whiskey
            5. Tullamore Dew 10 Year Blended Irish Whiskey
            6. Wild Goose Soldiers and Heroes Rare Irish Whiskey
            7. Connemara Peated Single Malt
            8. Kilbagen Blended Irish Whiskey
            9. Knappogue Castle 1994 Distillers Private Select Single Malt Irish Whiskey
            10. Bushmills Blended Irish Whiskey

        • http://www.tullamoredew.com/

          this is THE best Irish whiskey hands down. period. get it and I promise that you will not be disappointed!

          • Jason,

            I got a bottle of this myself as a gift last night. Haven’t opened it yet. May try to get my friend the same thing on your recommendation.

            thanks,
            Austin

        • Not a whiskey drinker, but I hear good things always about either Bushmills (Black Bush)or Jameson’s.

          In the spirit of ecumenism, Bushmills is located in Northern Ireland:

          http://www.bushmills.com/Whiskeys

          and Jamesons is in Midleton, a little way away from me:

          http://www.jamesonwhiskey.com/home.aspx

          Of course, there are always the more ordinary whiskeys such as Powers, Paddy’s, and the like, but going a bit fancier (for a present) I would say either Bushmills or Jameson’s.

          And of course, if you really want to splash out on the more expensive Limited Reserves and the like, the sky is the limit on spending (this site which gives American locations for buying whiskey says it runs from $75-114 per bottle for Jameson’s 18 Yr Old, which I think is iniquitous, but blame it on the Revenue!):

          http://www.wine-searcher.com/find/jameson+18

          I hope that helps?

          • Martha, I went to wikipedia to read about “uisce beatha” and I see it is “whiskey” in Irish. But I have to say that the pronunciation guide there does not help me AT ALL!

          • JoanieD, the pronounciation would be something along the lines of “ishka bah-hah”, if that’s any help?

            Ah, just call it “a drop of the craythur” or “a ball of malt” and that’s good enough.

            Happy Christmas to all!

        • I don’t know anything about whiskey, but I just opened up a bottle of Gritty McDuff’s Christmas Ale, brewed and bottled in Portland, Maine. It’s quite good. I was afraid it would have a bunch of non-beer flavors in there…cinnamon, ginger and the like which are great in cookies, but I like my beer with a more classic taste, but it just tastes like a slightly bitter ale, I would say.

          Well, I just decided to internet search on Gritty’s to see if I am correct that this is just a good, basic ale and I find: “If it looks like Ed just got merrier, you’re right. Every November heralds the return of our holiday seasonal, Christmas Ale – available on draft and in six-packs. Our Christmas Ale is a robust E.S.B. (Extra Special Bitter) full of holiday cheer. Christmas Ale has a lovely, dark red/amber color and a rich, full-bodied, malty taste with a slightly roasted undertone. We brew our Christmas Ale to an original gravity of 1064 (about 6.2% alcohol by volume) using only the finest English Pale and Crystal Malts, with a touch of Roasted Barley as well. A blend of Clusters, Styrian Goldings, Saaz and Yakima Goldings leaf hops round out this hearty brew. Gritty’s Christmas Ale has no additives, fruits or spices. It’s just a good honest ale, perfect for the season. And to top it all off, it’s already gift-wrapped! Happy Holidays!”

          I often get off-topic, but not THIS far off. Oh well, back to are regular program.

          • One thing about being Lutheran–beer is never off-topic!

          • When in Maine (the state CLOSEST to Martha’s green isle) try these dark beers/ales that rival Ireland’s Guinness Stout: Atlantic Brewing Company’s “Bar Harbor Real Ale” or its “Coal Porter”. They may not be better than the genuine Irish Guinness brewed over there, but as for the Guinness brewed over here, stand aside.

            Merry Christmas, all you Lutheran wannabees.

          • Ted, I like Bar Harbor Real Ale. I haven’t had it in a while, but I remember it was very good.

          • Crystal Malts
            Roasted Barley
            Clusters
            Styrian Goldings
            Saaz and Yakima Goldings

            These all sound so…pretty!

        • I spend the day traveling and the iMonks go on a drunk. Sigh…why am I not surprised?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        George, have you seen this?

        http://www.blog.repentamarillo.com/2010/12/21/repent-amarillo-executes-santa-firing-squad/

        I think the T-shirt on the shooters says it all.

    • Why is it a retailer’s job (or any business’s) to make a “Christian confession”? I thought that was the church’s job and that we are to do it in the world amid sinners who by definition don’t follow Christ.

      • chaplain mike: YES! well said!! i think that you hit it right on the head. the fact that there is such outrage over this issue is more indicative of christians forgetting that espousing ‘merry christmas’ is a profession of faith than it is an assault on all that is good, holy and pure in this world.

      • On the flip side, why shouldn’t a clerk be able to wish someone “Merry Christmas” if they feel so led?

        Do we leave our Christianity at the door when we go to work?

        For awhile there, some retailers didn’t allow their employees to use the term.

        I think it is nice that clerks, on their own accord, may share kind words of the season with others.

        Most of those dealing with the public aren’t making big bucks. I think most of the words coming from their mouths are genuine.

        I’m glad that most retailers have pulled off restrictions on saying “Merry Christmas” to the public.

        There are two sides of the coin on this issue. I think you guys have only covered one side.

    • I think you make a good point, George.

      As I do very little shopping since it is something my wife likes and I can do without, I had few experiences with employees working behind the counter this Christmas.

      I did have to run into the grocery store for something, however.

      As the clerk handed me the bag, she stated with a large smile and friendly tone, “Merry Christmas.”

      How could I not return the good wishes? Her statement was obviously genuine.

      Yes, this was one incident. Maybe there are many employees out there who have been trained to use the term to promotes sales. I doubt this type of influence is the norm.

      I found the clerk’s freedom to express her feelings a wonderful thing. It wasn’t long ago that employees were being trained not to say “Merry Christmas.”

      I’m glad those days are over for now.

      That an employee is able to wish someone a “Merry Christmas,” without ramifications, is a good thing.

      God’s blessings and Merry Christmas…

  4. Beelzebub's Grandson says:
  5. This is quite the refreshing post, Jeff. To make us think and steer away from straining at gnats and swallowing camels at Christmas. A recent post by Chuck Colson did the opposite, implying that God’s Kingdom was going to collapse if we let those overworked cashiers say anything but “Merry Christmas” while suffering the abuse of the customers with buttons advertising “the reason for the season,” etc.

    It’s amazing. Some people’s god is too small and helpless, that he needs us to defend him. The God of the Bible doesn’t need that. See Psalm 2.

  6. So weird, I just had a conversation about this with my wife yesterday. This is the most egregious aspect of the culture war. Instead of taking this holiday as the one time year when we are almost given a free pass on sharing the gospel, we instead spend all our energy demanding that non-christians and businesses share the gospel with us. What a way to do the very thing that is being protested, and take Christ out of Christmas.

  7. I am fine with Happy Holidays. Lots of people other than Christians are celebrating this time of year. No greeting at all is fine with me too. I do like this song called “Where’s the Line to See Jesus” at http://biggeekdad.com/2010/12/becky-kelley/ because I think it is sung beautifully and it does seem important for Christians to remember Jesus at Christmas time (!!) but other than that, people can say or not say what they darn well please and they won’t be getting any boycotting from me.

  8. The whole “war on Christmas” issue is incredibly shallow and silly and has become the latest way Christians can perennially embarrass themselves at a time they oughtto be the light of the world.

    http://disjournal.blogspot.com/2010/12/tis-season-to-get-even-last-minute.html

    • Yes, and sadly it gets such publicity that this is what people will now think about when they hear about Christianity.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      You can tell it’s December when the Christians(TM) start mobilizing for the “War on Christmas”.

      Just as you can tell it’s October when they start mobilizing against Halloween.

      It got to the point that there was a proverb going around local fandoms years ago: “It’s gotta be good! All the Christians are denouncing it!”

  9. This is where you guys are often a little too smarny by half. Yea were not all going to hell b/c the pimpled face kid at Target doesn’t recite the Chrismas Story in the KJV when we check out. But if you think that there is not a concerted effort by Chamber of Commerce types and certain groups in politics to be politicaly correct to gloss over what this time of year actually is then your head is either stuck in sand or a worse location.

    I don’t think it is radical for Christians to think that an employer should not be telling their employees to not say Merry Christmas and subsitute some generic American culturaly plastic slogan.

    We, or rather most of you, can scoff and laugh at folks who get offended by this and deride them as simpletons or all record burning fundies but that’s not been my expereince. My expereince is that folks see this as one more example that the country they used to know is slowy starting to disappear. Does that create paranoia in some? You bet. Do some overreact? Sure.

    I mean I get it, I cringed the other day when a large chuch in town had a sign deriding the use of “x-mas” obvioulsy not knowing its history, but I’d rather have those well intentioned folks than whoever the wacko commie who keeps putting up the kwanza candles on the local tv station commercials each year.

    • Kwanzaa doesn’t have anything to do with Communism at all. And it’s pretty uncharitable to say that people who get offended at not hearing Merry Christmas are simply well-intentioned, but others who celebrate holidays like Kwanzaa are wacko commies. Why give one group the benefit of the doubt but not the other?

      And I think you’ve said it yourself why we have a problem with it. People think the country they used to know is disappearing, you said. In other words, it’s not about Christianity, it’s about America. Nothing wrong with being patriotic, or fighting for a certain vision of our country, but there is something troublesome when the reason we’re fighting for some part of Christianity is because of what we want our country to look like. There’s some syncretization going on there that shouldn’t be, I think.

      • I simply think the whole issue–on all sides–is silly. But I’m not going to spend a lot of time criticizing a sinful world for being sinful and acting foolishly. It’s kinda what I expect. I don’t expect equivalent silliness from the church.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Kwanzaa doesn’t have anything to do with Communism at all.

        But when you look at Kwanzaa, it IS kind of silly — a lightweight as holiday seasons go. A holiday invented out of whole cloth some 30 years ago, mostly by taking secular Christmas traditions and giving them an African (reminiscent of Roots) coat of paint, with an African-sounding name. (I do not know if “Kwanzaa” is an actual word in some African language or was coined afresh like a trademark name.) With a distinct vibe of “Christmas be for Whitey.” I doubt anyone could have come up with it (and made it stick as a respectable holiday) outside of the attitudes of The Sixties (which actually peaked in the Seventies).

        And if you want a holiday specifically for Black Americans, there’s one with a 150-year historical track record. Not Kwanzaa, not MLK Day, but Juneteenth — the 19th of June, celebrating the end of slavery in the USA.

        • But what’s wrong with a holiday that was made up 30 years ago? I don’t understand this giving a pass to items just because they’re old. Hanukkah is a largely silly holiday and celebrated that way. Heck, it largely depends on the current zeitgeist of Judaism where one is whether it’s celebrated as a civil war victory or as a miracle of the oils kind of thing. So why not celebrate the themes of Kwanzaa? Self-determination, Unity, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith in ones own people.

          Remember, African-Americans are the descendants (by and large) of those who were ripped from their native lands and had their cultures forcibly stripped from them. To this day, many don’t know whether their family originally hailed from Western Africa or Southern Africa, to say nothing of which nation or ethnic group. This holiday was intended to create a celebration that would be theres to replace the festivals they might have had if they had been able to hold on to their cultural heritage.

        • It means “first fruits” in Swahili. The names of the days are all Swahili as well. Why Swahili? Even though it is an East African trading language, while the ancestrors of American blacks were mostly from West Africa, Swahili was important during the 1960’s because of its connection with the African socialism of Julius Nyere of Tanzania. Some contemporary Western intellectuals admired the Uhuru movement (e.g. Gene Roddenberry, who named Star Trek’s “Lt. Uhura” after it).

    • An employer does indeed have the right to require an employee to stick to a script. If he wants you to start every order with Thank you for stopping at McCheeseburger stand what is your order, he can.

      As for what you perceive as making your country disappear, it’s cultural change. The US is not as Christian (or Jewish) as it once was. It is also not as European derived as it once was. And we have the instantaneous communication so that everyone can see this is so.

      • In fact an employer is very limited in their rights to govern an individuals freedom of speech rights, especially if the speech in question is not related to the “work script.”

        But if we want to go back to a Consitutional understanding that an employer has unfettered rights to run his business as he sees fits then I guess we will be seeing some more Lester Madox types with thier axe handles on standy by

        • An employer cannot impinge on free speech rights when the speech does not involve serving customers. For instance, if an employee wants to speak Czech to his co-workers, that’s OK even if the employer is rabidly anti-Czech. But when it comes to customer interface (which is what the season salutary is all about), then that can be determined by the employer.

      • Every Best Buy employee seems to be required to ask you, “How are you doing?”

        Whatever happened to, “May I help you?”

        Usually I say, “Fine,” but I’ve been tempted to say, “Not so well,” and if they’re foolish enough to take the bait and ask, “Why’s that?” I’d recite a litany of personal or health or political or financial or family woes.

        Just kidding.

        Sort of.*

        Merry Xmas, y’all!

        * I actually did it once, but I don’t remember what I said to the poor kid.

    • But if you think that there is not a concerted effort by Chamber of Commerce types and certain groups in politics to be politicaly correct to gloss over what this time of year actually is then your head is either stuck in sand or a worse location.

      I don’t think there’s a concerted effort like this in any way shape or form. There may be a few business owners who are militant about it, but most business owners are simply trying to be all things to all people, and they are worried about losing customers for any reason. If they think that saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” will help them in that effort, than they’ll do it.

      If anything, the “issue” shows that Christians still bow to the idol of consumerism. You have to admit that’s a grand irony in a Christian getting upset that the clerk at target didn’t say “Merry Christmas” to him while he was purchasing that new 50″ LCD TV…

      • Phil,

        I do see the irony there but if you think that the Chamber of Commece types wouldn’t sell there mother to keep down any controversy, b/c controversy is bad espeically for international business then i suggest you take another look.

        • This is totally off topic but the Chamber of Commerce suffered a rare loss when the 9/11 Responders act passed. They opposed it because it was paid for by a tax on corporations outside the US.

          I’m really tired of my tax dollars being taken by the gov and then routed to the Chamber of Commerce so it can lobby against my interests. It’s one of those big government tax-and-spend items that you rarely find a conservative seeing a problem with.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            You rarely find someone seeing a problem with something where they personally benefit.

  10. should be “we’re”

    it’s early

  11. I’m on the side of Christmas, whichever side that is!

    ‘Twas Christmas broach’d the mightiest ale;
    ‘Twas Christmas told the merriest tale;
    A Christmas gambol oft could cheer
    The poor man’s heart through half the year.
    ~Walter Scott

    I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that – as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.
    ~Charles Dickens

    As long as we know in our hearts what Christmas ought to be, Christmas is.
    ~Eric Sevareid

    Roses are reddish
    Violets are bluish
    If it weren’t for Christmas
    We’d all be Jewish.
    ~Benny Hill

  12. “Our church, which has been fighting in these years only for its self-preservation, as though that were an end in itself, is incapable of taking the word of reconciliation and redemption to mankind and the world. Our earlier words are therefore bound to lose their force and cease, and our being Christian today will be limited to two things: prayer and righteous action among men.”
    Deitrich Bonhoeffer
    from Letters From Prison

  13. I agree with you Jeff up to a point.

    But I got really annoyed when…

    1. I got told by an employer that I couldn’t say Merry Christmas to our customers. (Chain policy.)

    2. I was told by another employer that we couldn’t do a holiday gift exchange because someone might be offended.

    3. I was told by one employer that I couldn’t put up Christmas decorations in my cubicle unless other non-Christian faith groups were also included. (That was illegal by my employer to say that, but do I want to rock the boat and get on bad terms with my employer?)

    • Reread my statement.

      #3 should read “…unless I included symbols from other non-Christian faith groups.”

      • Is it terrible of me to be strongly tempted to plaster the cubicle with things like photos of statues of Priapus in response to that kind of noodle-headedness?

        After all, you would only be doing exactly as instructed by your superior – including a non-Christian faith group!

        Okay, I wouldn’t do it in reality, but the impulse would certainly cross my malevolent little mind 🙂

        • What a sheltered life I have lived. I had to google Priapus to find out who he was. And immediately wished that I hadn’t.

          • So, I was going to google him… but now I think I won’t.

          • I did say my mind was malevolent 🙂

            I apologise for any shock, distress, or inducement of What The Heck? moments suffered by you. But you know, when people go on about Christianity being kill-joy or repressive or anti the body, there’s a reason behind all that and it’s not just because our ancestors in the Faith wanted to stop everyone having fun.

          • The Indianapolis Museum of Art has a startling Priapus figure — especially startling when you’re shepherding your young daughters through the Classical section.

        • “Give me that old time religion, and that’s good enough for me.”

          Martha, I think Pete Seeger is with you. I couldn’t find a YouTube of him singing his parody of “Old Time Religion” (which came right out and PROVED that he was a commie to many of the aforementioned Christmas police, though I think he should have won the Peace Prize by now, but I’m rambling…), but here at least is a link to the lyrics:

          http://www.justsomelyrics.com/792793/Pete-Seeger-Give-Me-That-Old-Time-Religion-Lyrics

          To go along with your statue of Priapus, you could sing, “Let us pray with Aphrodite/Let us pray with Aphrodite/She wears that see-through nightie/And that’s good enough for me.”

          But I think you’d appreciate this verse:

          “We will pray with those old Druids
          They drink fermented fluids
          Waltzing naked thru the woo-ids
          And that’s good enough for me.”

          Irish whiskey, anyone?

          • I love it, Ted! Thank you for posting those lyrics. That song’s a keeper.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            “We will all be saved by Mithras
            We will all be saved by Mithras
            Kill that bull and strum that zithras
            On that resurrection day…”

            In SF fandom’s Filksinging tradition, “Gimme that REAL Old Time Religion” used to be one of the staples, with each filker encouraged to add their own new verses. Just like “La Cucaracha” or “Ball of Ballymore(?)”, it ended up growing into at least dozens of verses from ALL religious and mythological traditions.

    • That is silly. Unless you were planning on putting up a manger scene, most Christmas decorations (lights, trees, Santa, elves, snowmen) are decidedly either pagan or generic. If you were planning on putting up a manger scene, surely a tree would have sufficed as a non-Christian faith item and I suppose you could have claimed the lights were representing Diwali!

    • I think *everyone* of every faith enjoys a gift exchange. 😉 But as members of the majority religion we do have an extra responsibility to look out for those in the minority, and not create a workplace environment where they feel like they are outsiders. That would be unloving. Different workplaces solve that problem in different ways–some want every holiday noted but none celebrated or condoned by management, others want nothing special for any holiday. Etc.

      • MelissaTheRagamuffin says:

        Actually, in my world, Christmas is a very private family affair with each of us giving fairly token gifts of affection to one another. CDs used to be huge gifts in my family, but now we’re leaning more toward movie theater gift cards. No member of my family has ever received a gift costing more than $50 unless several of us went in together to get it. Part of the reason we do it that way is because my family is huge. Buying token gifts of affection for 20+ people adds up fast.

        Therefore, I always request to be left out of holiday gift exchanges in the work place. I don’t need the extra stress of having to buy a gift for someone I might not even like all that much.

        Of course, in my current work place candy is a popular gift – nice and affordable. 😀

        • Sigh. I suppose it’s an occupational hazard, but when I was first reading your post, when you said you guys exchanged CDs I thought, wow! They must be rich! Of course I was thinking Certificates of Deposit, not Compact Disc.

      • >> But as members of the majority religion we do have an extra responsibility to look out for those in the minority, and not create a workplace environment where they feel like they are outsiders. <<

        As members of the majority religion we have an extra responsibility to make outsiders feel welcome, and to share with them what we love for ourselves.

        I have the experience of being the outsider — seven years of muslim Central Asia. And I can assure you that my muslim neighbors always wished me a happy Nooruz or a bountiful Kurman Eid or what else was going. They knew full well that I was Christian and that these holidays were not my own. But their focus was on sharing their best with me and my family.

        (Textjunkie, I agree with you that there should be special rules of the workplace. There ought to be no office celebrations at all.)

      • @textjunkie- that’s no Christian precept, that we are unloving if we practice our religion openly on its second-greatest holiday. Sure sounds like holding your light under a bushel basket. Actually, it just sounds PC.

  14. David Cornwell says:

    As Christians we bring dishonor to Christ with this kind of behavior. Forcing others to accept what we value as Christians has never worked. We ourselves have fallen to the Gods of capitalism and now try to ease our guilt by forcing others to say certain words. Maybe we can solve the problem by kidnapping their children and baptizing them.

  15. Not one thing that anyone has mentioned prevents us from celebrating Christmas — and celebrating it more freely than people in many other times and places were able to do. We can feast and exchange gifts and sing carols with our families and friends, we can go to church, we can have a day off work — what more do we need? Yes, our country (world) is going to hell in a handbag — or maybe a huge runaway freight train — but not saying Merry Christmas is not the cause of our cultural degeneration, nor even its most important symptom.

    As far as businesses restricting their emplyees’ freedom of expression, that’s always been the case. Most businesses forbid employees from swearing at customers, and I don’t know any business that allows employees to kiss customers. Not that kissing is wrong, it’s just appropriate in some places and not in others. Same with Christmas celebrations. If people are concerned that the changes in the winter holidays limit their opportunity to evangelize, then I direct them back to Chaplain Mike’s post on St. Paul’s advice.

    I’ve celebrated many Christmases in a Muslim/Communist country and felt the same joy at Christ’s birth there that I have anywhere. Whether I was in a minority or a majority in the country I was in didn’t matter. God relates to me, personally, whether I live in a “Christian nation” or the back of beyond.

    Happy holidays, everyone, including cermak, Donalbain, and others!

  16. I may not agree with everything on IM – but that is what makes life interesting – but this artilcle is absolutely fantastic. I heard Dobson’s naughty list for the first time several years ago and it never sat right with me. Why would the world celebrate the birth of Christ? I do long for a bit of honesty at times – especially when I hear that Christmas isn’t a Christian holiday – then what is it? If you don’t want to celebrate Christ that is your choice but at least be honest.
    I wish every Sunday bulletin would publish this article to put back a bit of perspective. Thank you for this article!

  17. I think Jeff Dunn or Chaplin Mike made this rebuttal in a previous post regarding the so called War on Christmas. Christianity survived the Roman Empire I think it will survive a frazzled overworked cashier at Target saying Seasons Greetings as you pay for your over priced stuff that will eventually turn to dust.

    • Christianity survived the Roman Empire…

      Not only survived, but thrived. Not only thrived, but literally impacted that culture/society so dramatically it should be taught & remembered more. Salt & light in the midst of the most dominant, civilized, advanced, truly global human institution on earth. Yet within that very elitist/privileged setting Christianity gave worth & dignity to the least of these. There were no political movements to enact political changes. No anti-Caesar petitions to curb pagan feast days or parades. I think our wonderful political system of participation & liberty a license to encourage Christians to behave badly more than to be salt & light to a needy world. Maybe I am just becoming more cynical with each news report like this. There is so much wasted money, time, effort, emphasis, posturing in the name of God that is anything about Him, His kingdom & the gospel. Lord have mercy… 🙁

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Next time some Christian Culture Warrior comes to you about subliminals or Backwards Masking or Bible Prophecy Codes or Spiritual Warfare or Demons hitching rides on the pictures on your wall, remember that one of the Roman complaints about Christians was they weren’t superstitious enough to be a real religion.

        And when your pastors’ widows have to eat out of dumpsters (while hearing “We’ll Pray for You”), remember a Roman complaint that “These Christians not only take care of their own, but they take care of OUR poor and destitute!”

        And when your singles have to stay on the outside looking in at all your Family Christian Celebrations (like I end up doing every Christmas), remember how the Romans remarked on how those Christians cared for one another as if they were blood relatives (to the point that incest was a common rumor about them).

        • Thanks for that, HUG!
          “These Christians not only take care of their own, but they take care of OUR poor and destitute!”
          These things are what I want to emulate.

  18. Good points so far – but I do wish to pint out that Happy Holidays means, in the original sense, Happy Holy Days, so I think that is just fine 🙂

    In reality the “War on Christmas” is all about keeping the troops under siege. It is like the politician looking for an enemy, aand if none suitable are found, inventing one, so as to keep everybody in that siege mentality, which in turn leads to carte blanche and open wallets….

  19. Amen and amen to this posting!!

  20. This type of approach far too militant in its ‘spirit’ even if the observation of our culture/society becoming more sensitive to the plularlsm of its citizenry really a show of respect. But that does not imply a singular attack on Christian traditions. The re-Christianization (if that is a word) approach by some that attempt to elevate America into the neo-theocracy stratosphere perceived more as a bully tactic totally devoid of any Christian charity by those of non-Christian persuasion. The posturing more an indication of misplaced priorities which does not bring glory to God but only derision to the concept of what a Christian is in this country.

    We have met the enemy and he is us ~Pogo

    • Actually it’s become quite the joke. Hey, has the War on Christmas started yet? I can’t really get in the spirit until it does! It’s all over the blogosphere and radio stations to which I listen.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      The re-Christianization (if that is a word) approach by some that attempt to elevate America into the neo-theocracy stratosphere perceived more as a bully tactic totally devoid of any Christian charity by those of non-Christian persuasion.

      It’s Power Struggle with a Christian coat of paint. And Power Struggle only has two end states, the only difference between the two being whether it’s Me or You on Top or Bottom.

  21. anymore, whenever i hear christians getting all out of control about what words are used or not used to express celebrating this time of year, i just laugh and shake my head. it is such a distraction, such bread and circus, from issues that truly matter; i don’t think that i need to list any of them – pretty self-evident.

    it always makes me think of the argument that, ‘the erosion of our country can be traced back to prayer being taken out of our public schools. once that decision was made the flood gates were opened and our country rejected God.’ really!? REALLY!? o.k., so let me get this straight. prayer was taken out of public schools in 1962. so according to the logic of this argument, everything should have been paradisiacal before then, right? so is that why black people were segregated from the larger, more powerful white population in the good ole’ u s of a before prayer was taken out of public schools? is that why, virtually at the same time, the usa was engaged in an absolutely abhorrent conflict in southeast asia where the greatest casualties of war (as it always is) were innocent civilians? i could go on and on, but i won’t, and hopefully the point is made. america has never encapsulated the kingdom of god and it has never been a christian nation. period. the founding fathers were coming from europe, where religious wars sponsored by theocracies had torn apart countries for centuries. do you really think they wanted to repeat that? no, they did not, which is why they intentionally did not endorse any one expression of faith in God when they created this country; they borrowed a page from rome’s handbook, namely, inclusion of beliefs.

    seriously, i digress….. to anyone who gets offended or feels threatened by the words, ‘Happy Holidays’, get over it. your mind and emotions are being co-opted by power seeking/hungry institutions who couldn’t be further from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    • Jason,

      Your arguments and what passes as logic for you are so tired and over used. So because there was racial inequality in our country we should tear down all institutions and remake our culture.

      No, I’m not buying that bill of goods. That sort of cultural self hate leads to the French Revolution. And the argument that you make is exactly why folks were so worried about the civil rights ,movement which was legitimate at first beign hijacked by leftist radicals.

      Seems they were right.

      • Austin,

        there was much more than mere ‘racial inequality’ preceding the civil rights movement:

        http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ec/Duluth-lynching-postcard.jpg

        i’m sorry that you reduce a very real and human struggle to political mis-considerations of left vs. right, and that you seek to belittle the logic of a fellow human being made in the image of God for disagreeing with you. in a multi-cultural society EVERYONE deserves to participate in the shaping of the culture of that society, left and right alike. culture is an organism that is ever developing, kind of like a snake shedding its skin to make way for the new. in other words, culture is always being torn down and rebuilt.

        peace be unto you.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          i’m sorry that you reduce a very real and human struggle to political mis-considerations of left vs. right…

          Doesn’t mean Left or Right can’t take advantage of that “very real and human struggle” for their own self-serving ends.

          …culture is an organism that is ever developing, kind of like a snake shedding its skin to make way for the new. in other words, culture is always being torn down and rebuilt.

          That sounds WAY too close to Citizen Robespierre or Comrade Pol Pot or Trotsky’s ideology of Continuous Revolution. All were about tearing down culture to Make Way for the New (and Perfect). What’s the body count in the shed skin cells?

          • “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”
            — Thomas Jefferson

            hug – i think you forgot to include jefferson in your list above. look, all i am saying is that culture is not static, it is fluid and ever-developing. WE are developing it – always and continually. is it wrong wrong to use love, tolerance, compassion and mercy as a rubric in that development?

      • David Cornwell says:

        And our more sane Revolution left slavery in place and had nothing to say about the citizenship of Indians. So we had free labor and land we stole and kept stealing while we sent the rightful inhabitants off in death marches.

        But… this is way off the subject at hand isn’t it?

      • Yes. The civil rights struggle did pretty much tear down an awful lot of our institutions and rebuild them. And I’m mighty glad it did! I’m glad that people noticed the amendments of the Constitution and started demanding their rights instead of just passively waiting on them.

    • Andrew Zook says:

      Amen! The ‘war on christmas’ and ‘prayer in school’ — part of whole laundry list of american christian stupidity IMO. I laugh but mostly weep at this stuff…it’s such a waste of time, emotion, money etc — I suspect God’s sick of this stuff too…I just hope and pray I have the courage to do more about it (live differently) than just posting my rant online…

  22. Richard Hershberger says:

    This post is decidedly on point, but it doesn’t go all the way. There really is a War of Christmas. It is being waged by the people promoting the culture wars. Remember back when people lamented the commercialization of Christmas? No? Go back and watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas” or “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Identifying this commercialization and rejecting it is the theme of both. (Not coincidentally, these are the only two Christmas specials I actually like.)

    The expression that Jesus is “the reason for the season” was originally meant to contrast the celebration of the birth of our savior with the celebration of material goods. Nowadays it is used to assert that we celebrate material goods because of Jesus: a claim at once blasphemous and absurd. This is what the culture warriors are reduced to.

    • Wow — good point.

    • Anti-commercialism is indeed the message of the Grinch story, but the Charlie Brown special seems more about restoring the centrality of the religious element.

      Interestingly, in a Comics Journal interview, (“Peanuts” creator) Charles Schultz revealed that in fact, he opposed prayer in school. When the interviewer reacted with surprise, he went on to point out the fact of religious diversity, and ask how would we like it if somebody else tried to impose their religion on us?

  23. Both sides have gone too far, the strict fundamentalist liberals and the strict fundamentalist Christians. One side appears threatened that a Christian greeting can be allowed in public (embarassed by the faith of their grandparents, and so trying to protect our culture from all oppression), and the other side appears so weak in their faith that they’re trying to protect their rights, as if the baby Jesus couldn’t come into the world without the proper greeting.

    A couple of anecdotes:

    1. My wife and I had lunch at a Pakistani restaurant while Christmas shopping a few years ago. They were playing Christmas carols, and had a large nativity scene in the window. After the meal I asked the waiter/cook/owner (it was a small restaurant) if his family were Christians. “No,” he said, “We’re Muslims, but we love the Christmas holidays!” (They are, after all, good for business.) Hey, he didn’t feel threatened, I didn’t feel threatened, and the food, as usual, was terrific. Better than Christian.

    2. The other day I said to a friend & colleague, “Well, if I don’t see you before the next meeting, have a nice Christmas.” She gave me a great big smile and said, “Happy holidays to you, too.” I gave her a little slack because she is a school principal, and we were in a school building during school hours. I think she handled it very diplomatically.

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      Who are these “fundamentalist liberals” who are threatened by the words “Merry Christmas” being allowed in public? The world includes all kinds, so perhaps there really is such a creature, but I have never run into one. I cannot help but notice that your exemplary anecdote was not of someone objecting to the words, but rather choosing to use some other words. This is hardly the same thing.

      • To be honest, I’ve thought about snapping at a clerk that I don’t celebrate Christmas a time or two, mainly in response to Dobson and the Christian Industrial Persecution Complex that gets on my last nerve at times. But I don’t because I don’t want the clerk to feel bad, she, too, is a human being, who maybe doesn’t celebrate Christmas either, or maybe she does and wishes me well, or maybe she’s just tired of the whole maddening crowd and is just awaiting her time to go home and be with her family. It’s certainly for her sake that I don’t snap and not the group of loudmouths.

      • My friend the school principal is fairly innocent of all this, but as I’m a parent and member of the local school board, I’ve noticed some pretty freaky gyrations in order to protect children and the public from anything religious. If you’ve lived in New England, perhaps that will help explain.

        At this time of year, it’s understood that schools shall use NO use of the word “Christmas” in holiday or “winter” pageants, nor singing or traditional carols. In fact, some schools, including my local one, have abandoned the activities altogether and given them over to local community centers, where we can once again sing the carols and use the offending words. And these are all the same people involved! But it’s a constitutional matter, so this satisfies all. So far.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Both sides have gone too far, the strict fundamentalist liberals and the strict fundamentalist Christians. One side appears threatened that a Christian greeting can be allowed in public (embarassed by the faith of their grandparents, and so trying to protect our culture from all oppression), and the other side appears so weak in their faith that they’re trying to protect their rights, as if the baby Jesus couldn’t come into the world without the proper greeting.

      And if things keep going the way they’re going, it’ll be a moot point in a couple more generations, when our descendants (at least those permitted to live) will celebrate Ramadan and Eid under pain of death.

  24. Here’s my policy:

    I always take a sincere, warmly given greeting of any kind in the spirit in which it was intended and reciprocate with good humor, good cheer, and good manners. Conversely, when confronted with a bellicose, hostile greeting intended as a club to beat me with the greeter’s sense of entitlement as being a chosen member of the “big kid on the block” religion, I take that in the sprit it was intended, too. The reciprocal greeting is much less nice.

  25. The fundamental error of the culture war approach to Christmas (and many other issues) is that it’s coercive in nature, and that never works terribly well for the furtherance of the gospel. So it’s popularity has always puzzled me.

    • I’d submit that’s the dividing line between Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism – the willingness to cross over to the use of coercion or force.

  26. It’s a sad tactic but an effective one for firing up the conservative base.

    My facebook was overrun with Christians all worked up because someone somewhere wasn’t using Merry Christmas. “I don’t care what the ACLU says, I have the right to say Merry Christmas!” kind of thing.

    The largest Bible Mega-Church in town is actively engaged in this culture war. If you don’t use Merry Christmas, you’re denying Christ, basically. I guess saying “Happy Holidays” is now like saying “I believe in Evolution” or “I was married by a female pastor.”

    • fish,

      that was awesome!

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I guess saying “Happy Holidays” is now like saying “I believe in Evolution” or “I was married by a female pastor.”

      Add “I’m Gay” and you’ve got a New Trinity of the Other.

    • go for a two-fer:

      I was married by a liberal and liturgical female pastor who is evolved, some say, from an acient hominid. This can be followed by “and can I get you more non-alcoholic punch while I refresh my micro-beer ?? “

    • If the day of Christ’s birth was so important, why didn’t the early Christians get it down right or make the two nativity stories more congruent with each other? Why did their gatherings more remember His death than His birth?

      Just askin’….

  27. A long time ago I concluded that however I might feel, my country is now a multicultural one. One of our values is supposed to be pluralism.

    I have not a problem with that. But a good pluralism requires that we give room to one another and show respect. So we have the Sikh community that has successfully won the right to have its members who are also part of the RCMP keep their turban instead of RCMP headgear. It offended me at first. I got over it.

    Canada may have been mainly Christian in the past, but is not necessarily now. In a pluralist society there is something to offend everyone. Unfortunately, in Canada, to many of the white Europeans in the West of the country, it feels like we are always apologizing. It feels as if we are being told that we have forget our cultural/religious roots because we have allowed someone who is different to immigrate to the country. This is a wrong headed approach that will lead to strife and division.

    A true pluralism should permit me to continue to celebrate Christmas (and I can). If people want to be exchanging Christmas greetings it should be taken as a sign of goodwill. So when employers and governments get involved and try to ban it, it reeks of secularist fundamentalism.

    The secularist to religion is as the couch potato is to sports. You have a room of 10 people, 3 like baseball, 3 like football, 1 likes basketball, 2 like hockey and one likes watching TV. So the couch potato says ‘Since we can’t agree on sports lets just ban them all.’ And he likes to grin and say ‘the US constitution backs me!’

    Here is the clincher…I have no problem at all wishing a Jew happy Hannukah publically. Or a Muslim Ramadan Karim, or happy duwali to an Indian. Those are expressions of their culture and I want to know about them. So what I am saying is what is good for the goose is good for the gander. If Christians are going to insist on the right for Christmas, we need to allow others their expressions as well. And I personally would welcome it.

  28. Thank you so much for putting my belief into words. Thank you.

  29. Randy Thompson says:

    When it comes to God and holy-days, American business, like American politics, is about the lowest common denominator god imaginable. Wishing someone a “Happy Holiday!” is like a politician saying “God bless America!” at the end of his or her speech. It’s stupid and generally harmless. I’ve decided I’m going to wish all and sundry a Merry Christmas and let them wish me whatever they want.

    I liked what somebody said above about greetings being an exchange of good will. Too many people are caught up in holiday verbiage and have lost sight of simply sharing social and seasonal pleasantries, like wishing others a happy (generic) holiday and airing grievances around the Festivus Pole.

    Come to think of it, this whole line of discussion is an airing of grievances, so it’s not about Christmas at all; it’s about Festivus!

  30. I’m taking a leaf out of Stephen Colbert’s book and think we should have more Krampus in our Christmas celebrations 😉

  31. Well. someday people who own businesses may tell their workers not to say “Happy Holidays” because the Holi really means “Holy” which refers to something religious and not all their customers may be religious. Thus, you can say, “Have a happy day” and you may be OK. BUT…someone may be depressed and telling them to have a happy anything could make them feel more depressed. So, you could say, “Have a day.” But that’s silly so then the owners will tell them to say, “Thank you for shopping at ______.” 😉

  32. Late in this but the stupid thing is that it was never called Christmas. It was the PSO parade of lights. I think the dude just wanted to mess with folks.