HAPPY HOLY DAYS

Get a cup of coffee or some hot chocolate and get comfortable…this is a little longer then usual.

You know it was bad enough that I had not even got Thanksgiving fully into my mind, had not gone through my annual cry of, “how much weight will I gain this year?” When I started receiving e-mail alerts from the American Family Association shouting there was a “war on Christmas”. Now folks this is “Thanksgiving weekend”. Did anyone note a lack of Christmas?

I mean we barely finished with Halloween and Christmas decorations started popping up in all the stores. My favorite radio station has been playing Christmas music since the beginning of November, and I don’t mean just holiday music, I mean Christmas carols and songs.

Then I start getting lists of stores that we should shop at or not shop at based on if the use the words Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas. Excuse me? Who is sitting down and counting all the words in advertisements? Further, isn’t one of the definitions of holiday “Holy Day”? Is not the celebration of Jesus’ birthday a “Holy Day” even if we celebrate it on the wrong day? I may get flamed here but Jesus was not born on December 25, 0.

People need to stop and read a little of the history of Christmas controversy at Wikipedia.

Let’s be real here, we live in a capitalistic country where if there is a way to make money, it will be done even if we have to make up a war. Think I am kidding? Take a look at the letter I got from self-proclaimed leader of family morals and values Don Wildmon:

“It’s hard to believe that there are companies which ban “Merry Christmas” and replace it with “Holiday Greetings” because, they say, they don’t want to offend anyone.

It’s time Christians take a stand and proclaim to our communities that Christmas is not just a winter holiday focused on materialism, but a “holy day” when we celebrate the birth of our Savior.

This year you can remind your community of the true meaning of Christmas by taking a vital leadership role in AFA’s “Project Merry Christmas.”

Here’s how. AFA is making available an attractive button and magnet that carry this thought-provoking, Gospel-focused message: “Merry Christmas. God’s Good News.”

I am asking you to purchase enough buttons for each member of your church and enough magnets for each family to have one. Urge your fellow members to wear their buttons and display the magnets during the entire Christmas season.

If you are unable to sponsor your church yourself, ask your Sunday school class to make it a class project. You can even order buttons and magnets to share with co-workers, children in Christian schools, customers, etc.
I know that some might think simply wearing a button or displaying a car magnet is a small thing, but God can use small things to make a big point, and to create opportunities to share the Good News. And what a great time to do that at Christmas!

I’m asking individuals like you in thousands of communities across the nation to head up this project in their local churches. Your willingness to underwrite the cost for your church and enthusiastically promote this project is the key to making an impact in your area.

Click Here to Order

Sincerely,
Donald E. Wildmon, Chairman
American Family Association

Don, did you run out of people to judge, companies to boycott? Do you have some memos stating these companies will “ban” the use of the word or phrase “Merry Christmas”? Or wait…maybe nobody is paying attention to poor Don. After all how many ways can you say America is going to hell in a hand basket before people start turning you off?

So I guess you need to do your annual fundraiser Don. It is the same every year; you start by saying Christmas is at risk. Then you start making buttons you can sell and yelling for boycotts of all those who don’t fit your brand of Christianity or definition of Christmas. Hey Don how much money does your “non-profit” (I use that term loosely) make off Christmas?

These businesses sell their goods to all people Christian and non-Christian alike. They will use words in their marketing that will bring in the most people and the most money, it is not their job to explain, teach or support your brand of Christian theology.

Alas if it were just Don who was looking to be on the front page but no there are other lunatics out there.

I have taken to reading a blog called “The Carpetbagger Report”, a commentary and analysis on politics in America. By Steve Benen. Here is the latest entry by a person called Morbo.

I hate to keep carping about the “War on Christmas,” but there have been major developments, and I believe you need to be informed.

The Liberty Counsel has issued its annual “Naughty and Nice List.”

This legal group, associated with Jerry Falwell before his demise, puts out a helpful list (.pdf) advising you which retailers to avoid and which to patronize. The criterion is simple: whether the word “Christmas” is used in sales material and on websites.

Unfortunately, the list does not address every issue that might confront zealous fundamentalist Christians, Bill O’Reilly and various other Christmas Nazis over the next six weeks. I want to help the Liberty Counsel in its quest to force Christmas down the throat of every American, so I’ve compiled a list of some specific situations and questions that the list fails to address:

* Unnamed Retailers: A lot of retailers aren’t even on this list. I need to know if I can patronize Meineke Mufflers next month. Little help, please!

* Mixed Messages: Some businesses are clearly trying to play both sides. Every week the gang at the Vermont Country Store sends me a catalog. Some mention Christmas on the cover, some do not. Worse yet, some use the term “Holiday” on the cover but say “Christmas” inside. Does that count? What am I to do? This list provides no guidance.

* Type Games: This list says nothing about the always-crucial issue of font size. What if the catalog uses both terms, but “Christmas” is in smaller type than “Holiday”? Is that insult to our Lord and Savior big enough to trigger a boycott?

* The Greater Good Conundrum: Here’s one for all of you Jesuits out there: Let’s say I can achieve greater good by buying something from a merchant who uses the term “Holiday.” Is it ever morally licit to do so? What if an item I want to buy is 50 percent off from a store that uses the term “Holiday”? Can I take the money saved and give it to a TV preacher — or is the money saved ill-gotten gains that would be rejected by any morally upstanding television evangelist? (I think I know the answer to this one. Operators are standing by to take your check.)

* Suspected Tricks/Clarence Thomas Factor: What about retailers that use the term “Christmas” but don’t really mean it? If the local adult DVD store is having a “Christmas Sale” on sex toys, whips and dog collars, can I buy some? If going into such a shop is considered a sin but Clarence Thomas is hanging around outside, can I give him the money and ask him to pick the items up for me since I wouldn’t actually be entering the store?

* Exploding Head Paradox: Let’s say my local bookstore is having a “Christmas Sale.” Is it permissible to go there and buy something that makes fun of Christmas or the faith that spawned it, like a Christopher Hitchens book or this horrifying Billy Idol CD?

I’ve heard that in the Middle Ages, learned theologians spent hours debating questions like how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. We’re not getting that kind of attention to detail from today’s religious fanatics. To Liberty Counsel, I can only say that the list is not enough. Next year, send some instructions as well.

P.S. This week, Pat Robertson said on “The 700 Club” that Christmas trees are not worth making a fuss over because they “come from Teutonic Paganism” and “are not an integral part of Christianity.” You know things are getting bad when even Robertson starts making sense.

I do not know who this person is but with good use of satire they have hit the nail on the head.

So Don and all the others who think there is a “war on Christmas” what are you doing for Advent this year?

Our church is collecting stuffed animals which will be hugged and lovingly held during worship over the next 4 weeks in preparation of being delivered to AIDS hospices, to children’s homes, and kids in the hospital who desperately need something to hang onto.

Our bible study over the next 4 weeks will attempt to get folks ready to welcome the Savior into their everyday lives. Along the way we will continue to feed the hungry, try to find housing for the homeless. We will continue to advocate for those caught in the hell of addiction. Yes Don, we will also continue to clean up the mess you and your kind are making of the church daily.

Oh yea if it is exceedingly cold on any of the nights this winter, I and an army of volunteers will drive around the city picking up the homeless and getting them to a shelter.

We will come together with another congregation and worship together with a “candle light service” Christmas Eve. We will do our best to make sure that anybody who wants company or someplace to be will have that happen.

Sorry to say we will not be making buttons or helping your marketing ploy…instead we will do our best to live out the true meaning of the season, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that they lay down their life for their friends.” John 15:12-13 (New International Version)

I guess that is why the birth of Jesus is a holy day.

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at http://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.