Bill O’Reilly doesn’t understand Christianity.
Two weeks ago, O’Reilly said, “It is a fact that Christianity is not a religion. It is a philosophy.” Now he’s questioning why so many Christian leaders have stayed silent about the “war on Christmas.”
The reason, Mr. O’Reilly, is because it’s not that important.
Years of being away from home during the Christmas season have taught me to appreciate the continuity of traditions that are shared across America. I’ve learned to appreciate Christmas lights hung hastily along roof ledges, grade school pageants, watching It’s a Wonderful Life on TV, and the skirmishes in the War on Christmas.
While this last tradition is the newest, it’s already firmly established across the nation. My generation and those that have followed have never heard a “Season’s Greetings” that wasn’t followed by a season of protest. Yet every year I’m baffled by the animosity toward Christmas symbolism. The same secularists who think that playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City while listening to gansta rap has no affect on children act as if hearing “Merry Christmas” will turn little Johnny into a Pat Robertson clone.
Try as I might, I can’t comprehend what could cause such a reaction. What is it about seeing a plastic baby Jesus lying in a manger on the public square that inspires such passionate outrage? Are they afraid it will lead to intolerance, religious bigotry, or—even worse—voting Republican?
But almost as peculiar is the counter-reaction of my fellow Christians, like Mr. O’Reilly. Tales of religious persecution told by returning missionaries lead to earnest prayers and the passing of the offering plate for a religious freedom fund. But an announcement by a senior deacon that the ACLU has caused the cancellation of the Christmas pageant will have the senior ladies auxiliary ready to march on Washington.
Naturally, we have an obligation to defend important cultural traditions. But could we be taking it too seriously? We act as if the struggle over holiday symbols will inevitably lead to intolerance of religion (“First they came for the plastic magi, and I did not speak out . . .”) or that the slightest retreat will lead to the cancellation of Christmas. Yet when we encounter true threats to religious freedom—like the recent HHS mandate requiring employers to pay for abortifacients—evangelicals merely shrug.
While we must always be on guard to protect our most cherished freedoms, we could use a little more discernment in choosing our battles. We must prayerfully choose both our campaigns and the rhetoric we employ. And sometimes we should admit when an issue isn’t necessarily worth the fight.
Such is the case with the “war on Christmas.” Perhaps we should let the forces of secularism have this one, let them win this skirmish. After all, wasn’t it Jesus who said, “. . . and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well.” When some group sues to remove the Christmas tree let’s give them the nativity scene as well. When the secularists fight to stop the Christmas pageant let’s let them have the caroling too.
Let them have X-mas—and let’s focus on showing them Christ.