A War on Christmas?
I’ve been reading a lot lately about the “War on Christmas.” You know the issue. It is now politically correct to say “Happy Holidays” (aren't most holidays are happy?) or “Season’s Greetings” (aren't winter, spring, summer and fall all seasons?) rather than “Merry Christmas” (which has somehow become offensive to some). Calendars all label December 25 as Christmas, and most folks aren’t so offended by that that they refuse to take the day off. Is that consistent?
That reminds me of Eric Vann, a guy who used to work for my Dad years ago. Eric was a Jehovah’s Witness and didn't believe in celebrating Christmas. So he always politely refused to contribute to boss’ Christmas present fund-- that was against his religion. But Eric always politely accepted the Christmas bonus that Dad always gave his employees. Consistency is indeed a rare jewel indeed.
I've been intentionally listening and taking note this year while in stores, the bank, doctor’s offices (I’m seeing a lot of those lately) and the like. Frankly, I've been hearing as many or more greetings of “Merry Christmas” as its more politically correct cousins. So what's all the hoopla? So maybe Newport News isn’t much of a battlefield in the war on Christmas.
Is the "War on Christmas" one battlefield in a growing "War on Christianity?" Is our culture slowly but surely seeking to chip away at our faith and make being Christian unacceptable? I think the answer to that question is "Yes" and "No." I think that Christianity's favored status as part of our historical heritage is indeed being chipped away. Remember the "Blue Laws" where they used to (by law) close all stores on Sundays. When I was a kid, they didn't have school activities on Wednesday nights (so that kids could go to church). Those tips of the culture’s hat to Christianity are gone, and others may follow. More and more, we can longer display Christian symbols (crosses, nativity scenes, etc.) on public buildings. But then, neither can display a menorah or Star of David. That’s not a war on Christianity but a diverse culture seeking to treat all religions the same. It is likely that one day, churches will have to pay property and sales taxes on like everyone else. I’m not happy about that, but that doesn't really strike me as an attack on my faith.
I think Christians need to get more and more comfortable in recognizing what has really always been true. When the Christian faith is consistently and persistently lived, it is never at the center of the culture; it is always a counter-culture. We live as people follow Jesus in this world but never part of this world (John 17:15-17). We follow Jesus outside the gate of respectability as we bear the scandal of the cross which He bore for us (Heb. 13:12-13). When we live by Christian principles, we will seem different from the world around us and people who are differently are routinely mistreated.
13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” 15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (1 Peter 3:13-16)
The way to combat anti-Christian sentiment and behavior is to live so thoroughly and completely like Jesus that the slanders are silenced. We are to respond to the opponents of our faith with gentleness and respect. We are to be ready to give an answer to those who ask us about our faith, but we must not run recklessly into the midst of the culture wars. It is still true what G. K. Chesterton a generation ago, “It is not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting; it is rather that Christianity has been left untried.” If we show people a Christianity that looks and feels more like Jesus, we won’t have to defend ourselves nearly as much.