“War on Christmas” Post-mortem: Do Christians Have a Persecution Complex?

Like megachurches, homeschooling, and Tim Tebow, “Merry Christmas” has become a religio-cultural Rorschach test.  If you prefer that department stores greet you with a “Merry Christmas,” or at least wish they didn’t feel compelled to adopt the anodyne “Happy Holidays,” chances are good you’re a conservative Christian of some stripe.  If, on the other hand, you prefer to talk about how ridiculous it is that anyone should care how a department store greets them, or if you prefer to mock that concern and say that people who feel that concern should (a) get a life or (b) stop trying to impose their religion or (c) remember the true meaning of persecution, then chances are that you belong to that coalition of groups that tend to feel scorn for conservative Christians — which is to say atheists, progressive Christians, and other liberal religious groups such as New Agers, Neo-Pagans or “Nones”.

There were a couple examples of the latter at Patheos over the past month.  James McGrath, a progressive Christian academic who blogs at Exploring Our Matrix (often a very funny blog), thought he’d flip the script by posting on “Christmas: The Christian ‘War on Solstice‘”.  McGrath explains that he devoted a recent Sunday School class discussing “one of the great Christmas miracles: the fact that long ago Christians managed to ‘hijack’ the already-existing solstice festival, and turn it into a Christian celebration so thoroughly and so effectively that, more than a millennium and a half later, cultural Christians can complain about the ‘hijacking’ or ‘secularization’ of Christmas without any sense of irony.”  (Apparently, the co-opting of a religious celebration by a very different set of Christians over 1500 years ago means that American Christians cannot show concern about the co-opting of their religious celebration today.)  Since the Bible neither provides the date of Jesus’ birth nor enjoins the commemoration of it, and (McGrath says) Christmas is the result of taking a pagan holiday and transforming it into a Christian one…

…I find the complaining of cultural Christians in the United States about their beleaguered or persecuted status at Christmas time not only ironic, but tedious and even offensive. The earliest Christians lived in a world where the issue was not the failure of salespeople to wish them a merry Christmas, but rather their own failure to participate in dominant cultural and religious rituals. The issue for the earliest Christians was not whether one could display a nativity scene on government property, but that every city where Christianity spread featured prominent displays of deities whom the Christians would refuse to worship, sometimes at the cost of their lives. That was persecution, not the fact that someone wishes you “Happy Holidays” – especially when that person would probably not be considered a true Christian anyway by born-again believers.

Further swipes at “cultural Christians” and “born again Christians” are scattered throughout the post.  He recommends “ceasing the ridiculous habit of complaining about what others do or do not wish you,” and condemns these same cultural Christians for (he assumes) indulging in the same consumerist, materialistic frenzy that Christmas has become for the culture as a whole.  In fact, he issues a pretty sweeping judgment on this score: “If your Christian faith is about what you wish others and what you demand that they wish you, and not also about what you spend and what you spend your money on, then I would suggest that you have only a veneer of Christianity spread over cultural values that are not specifically Christian, and which you share with most other people in your historical and national context.”  He closes with another judgment upon the banality and superficiality of such cultural Christianity.

Putting aside for the moment the superficiality of McGrath’s own rendering of the origins of Christmas–there are various theories on the origins of Christmas, and the solstice (as well as various other pagan festivals that have been suggested) quite possibly had nothing to do with it–what concerns me more is the absence of any attempt to understand the concerns of his more-conservative brethren charitably.

Ironically, a Neo-Pagan author named P. Sufenas Virius Lupus shows more sympathetic imagination, although it’s wrapped in the same bitter scorn sandwich.  When the ancient pagans persecuted the early Christians, this conferred upon us a “persecution complex” for the ages.  [If you'll pardon a digression: Lupus says Christians were put to death for being "unpatriotic" and refusing "to participate in a token fashion in the rituals of state."  I'm not a specialist here, but this seems absurd.  Christians were persecuted for many reasons.  They were blamed (almost certainly falsely) and treated monstrously for Nero's fire (Lupus suggests that, even if they did not start the fire, they probably did nothing to stop it because all they cared about was heaven, or something), they were attacked by rival sects, clergy were imprisoned or put to death for promoting a forbidden religion, and Christian practices were outright banned.  They were beaten, flogged, imprisoned, stoned, crucified, even roast inside a giant bronze bull (an imitation of Phalaris' legendary instrument of torture, for classical history buffs).  Yes, Christians refused to offer sacrifices or burn incense to the Roman gods for the sake of the Emperor, but that's because they understood the seriousness of worship and fealty.  Lupus suggests that what Christians refused to do was basically the same as "standing with one's hand over one's heart during the Pledge of Allegiance."  But covering your heart during the Pledge of Allegiance does not require Christians to recognize or honor other gods, and thus betray their most central beliefs.]

Yes, the Christians who were once persecuted by pagans and Jews became the persecutors of pagans and Jews.  This was common in the ancient world, but still shameful.  Lupus finishes:

You cannot rightly claim to be in the position of a persecuted minority any longer; you have, more often than not, been the persecutors for the last 1650 years or so. For those of us who are not of your belief system, we have no interest in “dying for” our religion, because we value life and wish to have it in abundance, here, in this very good and beautiful, though flawed, world. For us, martyrdom is not a virtue nor an ideal. For us, who are now in the position that your spiritual ancestors were when your religion emerged, would you act in ways towards us that you still execrate the Romans for nearly two millennia later? “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” indeed…

I don’t know if I would liken the present-day circumstances of American Neo-Pagans with those of the early Christians who were slaughtered in arenas, but, again, there’s more than a whiff of mockery for Christians feeling “persecuted” by the mis-appropriation of one of their holiest holidays.  Is this fair?  Four thoughts:

FIRST, If Christians complaining about “Happy Holidays” have likened this to persecution, I’ve never seen it.  There may be outliers.  But as a general rule, we know very well the difference between hearing “Happy Holidays” and being thrown to the lions, thank you very much.  I imagine that Professor McGrath, in his classes, would encourage his students to take on the strongest representation of a viewpoint they want to critique.  (I know I did with my students.)  But McGrath, Lupus and their ilk are taking on a weak, caricatured version of this concern.  Note that they do not cite an actual Christian leader making this argument, and lay out the argument; they just head straight for their caricatures and proceed to mock and lecture them.

SECOND, if conservative Christians who lament the displacement of “Merry Christmas” and other trappings of traditional Christmas celebration are not claiming that they’re being persecuted, what exactly are they claiming? Well, you wouldn’t know it from McGrath’s or Lupus’ entries, but the concerns are generally (1) the eviction of the sacred from the public square and (2) the marginalization of Christianity in a nation that was built upon it.  For example, I posted a guest post from Ravi Zacharias on Christmas Eve.  Zacharias explains that he takes no offense when he visits a Hindu, Buddhist or Muslim nation — even if its form of government is secular — and finds the people celebrating their religious holidays in public.  When he came to the United States, he was “thrilled to see Christmas celebrated and the reason for the season so obvious: the birth of Jesus Christ.”  He knew not every American was Christian, but “expected the charitable heart of even the dissenter to allow that which has been practiced in this country historically and traditionally to continue.”  Alas, however, it is no longer so.  Now the Judeo-Christian “worldview, on which our systems of government and law are based, is expelled from the marketplace.”  This concerns Dr. Zacharias, because “Democracies that are unhinged from all sacred moorings ultimately sink under the brute weight of conflicting egos.”

THIRD, in other words, this is not about persecution.  This is about the wrong-headed notion that a form of government that honors the non-establishment and free exercises clauses requires us to eliminate any signs that Christianity is somehow exceptional in American history, society and culture. The soldier in the “War on Christmas” is less concerned that he hears “Happy Holidays” than he is by the fact the department store feels compelled to avoid “Merry Christmas.”  Put differently, this is about the secularization of something Christians consider holy (and yes, Christians protest the commercialization of Christmas just as much, in fact far more), and the militant expulsion of robustly Christian elements of American culture, elements that were long celebrated in this country, from the public square.  These are legitimate concerns.  Most Christians believe that seeding a culture with teachings and traditions and stories that uphold what is True and encourage what is Good and Beautiful will have a nurturing, restorative effect upon that culture.  And many American Christians believe that a Democratic system of government, and even a free market economy, built upon the principles of God-given rights and freedoms, necessarily rests upon, and flourishes with, the principles and virtues those teachings, traditions and stories confer.  Withdrawing the “salt,” the preservative power of Christian teachings from the culture, will only hasten its disintegration.

FOURTH, however, I wonder whether we’ve reached the point where the pretense that America is still a Christian culture, or the attempt to conserve it as such, is better let go. To be honest, I go back and forth on this.  I believe in being a Christian conservationist, in preserving and nurturing within our culture and society the things that are good and true and redemptive.  The trappings of Christian faith can have a beneficent effect upon the culture when they spring from communities devoted wholeheartedly to the essence of Christian faith.  There are places (I would define them quite locally) where this is still the case in America.  But it’s hard to say anymore that mainstream American culture as a whole is Christian.  And when that’s the case, the cultural trappings are just that: trappings, the paraphernalia of a now-departed faith, and they’re generally conscripted into the service of idols.  When that is so, when the salt has really lost its saltiness, then it’s better dispensed with.

I sense that McGrath is trying to get to this point, but his prejudices get in the way.  It’s facile, and false, to dismiss conservative Christians or born-agains as “cultural Christians.”  That’s not the point.  The point is that cultural Christendom — by which I mean not a particular, political subgroup of Christians I dislike, but the cultural trappings of our Christian heritage — may have to die before essential Christianity can find new life.  When people go through the motions, when their faith becomes empty repetition, or if they reach the point where their faith is more about the cultural artifacts they surround themselves with — what they read or watch or listen to — and not a living encounter with Jesus Christ, then it’s better to give up the pretense that it’s “Christian” altogether.

Zacharias actually shares this perspective.  ”Maybe someday we will thank the rabid secularists as well,” he writes, “when ‘Merry Christmas’ will no longer be forbidden in our cities.  Exhausted and disappointed in self-worship, we may turn to God again and hear his story afresh.”  Maybe we have to become an un-Christian society before we can become a Christian one again — or maybe, at least, authentically Christian communities can best rise up and flourish in a culture that is clear again on what is Christian and what is not.

Maybe.  What do you think?

About Timothy Dalrymple

Timothy Dalrymple was raised in non-denominational evangelical congregations in California. The son and grandson of ministers, as a young boy he spent far too many hours each night staring at the ceiling and pondering the afterlife.
 
In all his work he seeks a better understanding of why people do, and do not, come to faith, and researches and teaches in religion and science, faith and reason, theology and philosophy, the origins of atheism, Christology, and the religious transformations of suffering

  • nathan

    To the question in the title:

    Yes.

    I’ve been to many conferences (especially for youth) over the last 20 years. There has been a consistent and increasing characterization of the post-Christian America as one that is “persecuting” Christians. (In light of real persecution elsewhere in the world, this is pretty offensive to me.)

    One particularly awful moment was when a certain Senator was asked to welcome youth to a very large conference held in his state. The main guy for the conference told us at greath length that we should all pray for the Senator because he experiences “persecution” on a daily basis in Washington.

    I thought blood would shoot out of my eyes.

    Personally, since “holiday” comes from “Holy Day” and I don’t think recognizing the pervasive plurality of religious experiences is a loss or something bad. If people and businesses feel like they should avoid “Merry Christmas” as an acknowledgement of the reality in which they live or the relationships they have, I have no qualms.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      I absolutely agree that American Christians should distinguish between the physical persecution many Christians around the world receive, and the sometimes-mistreatment or mockery or etc. that Christians (or at least certain kinds of Christians) can receive in the United States. I was addressing more specifically, here, the “War on Christmas” stuff. I haven’t seen serious Christian thought leaders calling this persecution.

      I never get upset over “Happy Holidays.” And some groups, like the AFA, have made a cottage industry out of their silly campaigns against department stores that use phrases they don’t like. But I just think there’s more to the complaint than many of the critics allow. Christianity has always occupied a privileged position in this country; that may or may not be wrong, but what I think a lot of Christians are responding to is the de-privileging of Christianity and the sense that their faith is being forced into the private realm.

      As for that Senator, I don’t know. At least he didn’t describe his own circumstances as persecution. I think some evangelicals tend to conflate “persecution” with “mockery” or “marginalization” or even “spiritual warfare” or any sense of suffering for your faith. I’m hesitant to judge the experiences of others without knowing more about their circumstances; I don’t think persecution must *always* mean that you’re beaten or stoned. There can be non-physical forms of persecution that are just as destructive, or even more so. But I share your general impression that most claims of persecution amongst American Christians are in need of some perspective.

      • http://sotonohitoblogs.blogspot.com sotonohito

        “Christianity has always occupied a privileged position in this country; that may or may not be wrong, but what I think a lot of Christians are responding to is the de-privileging of Christianity”

        There, I think, you’ve gotten to the heart of the issue and discarded the layers of obfuscation you engaged in during your original posting.

        As others have noted, all five of the points from your posting are red herrings at absolute best (Christianity being marginalized? Seriously, you guys are 80% or so of the population claiming that Christians are marginalized is as absurd as claiming that they’re persecuted). The real matter is that Christians are no longer quite as exalted over us non-Christians and America is moving (slowly, slowly) towards true religious equality.

        We’re seeing here, in small, the whole history of progress versus conservatism. Any time there has been an effort to make society more equal there are always cries of outrage and shock from those who were previously held up above their fellow citizens at the thought of no longer being legally enshrined as a superior class.

        There is one reason and one reason only why Christians insist on trying, year after year, to use public (ie: tax funded) land for displays of their particular religion. That reason is to remind all non-Christians of their lowly position in society, to grind our faces in the fact that you can flout the Constitution and force us to give our tax dollars to fund your religious displays.

        Simply put, tax funded Christian displays are nothing more or less than a display of Christian dominance.

        You tried to put aside the question of the rightness or wrongness of privileging one religion over others (or none). That’s dodging the most important issue. Do we have equality in America, or do we not? We can’t be legally equal if Christians are privileged over non-Christians by the government.

        I, perhaps foolishly, happen to think that it is the government’s job to treat all citizens equally. And that means legally privileging one religion is a violation on one of the most basic and important functions of good government.

        I would, should it be necessary, fight to the death to preserve your right to be Christian and to freely exercise your religion. I find it constantly disheartening to know that the overwhelming majority of Christians not only would not reciprocate but actively fight to deny me equality before the law on the basis that I’m not Christian.

        • Timothy Dalrymple

          Soto, I’m absolutely committed to your freedom to be an atheist (or whatever) and freely exercise your religion or non-religion. Neither I, nor the overwhelming majority of Christians, want to take away that freedom. Nor do I have any interest in reminding you of your lowly position in society. You’re imputing all sorts of motives here that are simply false. But it’s not at all clear that the non-establishment or free exercise clauses, or equal protection, should mean that Senators cannot say “Merry Christmas” in their official correspondence. Now it sounds to me like you’re the one claiming persecution because of what someone says at Christmas.

          If you did not catch on that I was referring to the “de-privileging of Christianity” in what you described as “the layers of obfuscation” in my original post, then you were not reading very carefully. Marginalization is moving something that was once at the center to the margin. And the fact that the majority of Americans are Christians does not mean that public expressions of Christian devotion cannot be *marginalized* in the sense that they are pressed out of the center, out of public, and into the private realm.

          • Steve Hansmann/East Central Minnesota

            Sir,
            As the atheist father of six atheist children, spouse of an atheist wife, a family of eight. who live on a small farm in MN, I can attest to the persecution I and my family have experienced, ranging from threatening phone calls over quite modest and rational editorials in the local paper, to my mailbox being destroyed at noon while I was up voting for Obama, or my children, in public school, being insulted, harrassed and threatened because they didn’t believe in the local deity, (very conservative, evangelicals). I’ve seen nothing, ever, that approaches this as far as christians go.

          • Timothy Dalrymple

            This is a good example. We cannot judge in sweeping terms whether Christians endure “persecution” in the United States. We need to be more fine-grained. Even in a largely Christian culture, or even in a largely Christian town, there may be pockets where there is genuine persecution that others should not discount.

        • Goldberg

          Soto: What do you think we’ve been fighting two wars for the past ten years if not to allow you to worship whatever it is you worship? And in what way has anyone denied you “equality before the law on the basis that [you are] not Christian?” I’m going to call a spade a spade and say that you are simply making that up out of your own anti-Christian bigotry.

          • http://sotonohitoblogs.blogspot.com sotonohito

            “What do you think we’ve been fighting two wars for the past ten years if not to allow you to worship whatever it is you worship?”

            We’ve been fighting two wars for the past ten years because George W. Bush knew that fighting wars was politically popular and would help him get elected in 2004. Cheney was part of the Project for a New American Century, a group that has been advocating for a war against Iraq since the 1990′s. I’d link, but that seems to get caught by the spam filters here. No conspiracy involved, just google “Project for a New American Century” and you’ll find their own website listing Cheney as part of their board, and their own position papers dating back to the 1990′s saying war with Iraq would be great.

            Our the endless wars of Bush and Obama have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with religious freedom, or any other freedom. None of our freedom was threatened in any way whatsoever by Saddam Hussein. Hussein was a tin pot dictator of a crappy third world country with a military that was utterly pathetic and had no capability to strike the USA.

            Usama bin Laden was a successful terrorist planner and recruiter, and while we certainly should have gone after him (a project Bush himself stated he was uninterested in. Direct quote: “And, again, I don’t know where he [Osama Bin Laden] is. I — I’ll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him.” But the war in Afghanistan had pretty much nothing to do with finding Usama, or protecting our freedoms. Do you think a bunch of fanatics squatting in caves have the ability to deny Americans their religious liberty? Really?

            Also, and this is also something of a side note, atheists don’t worship anything. That’s kind of the whole point of being an atheist. I don’t worship. The very concept of worship is confusing and alien to me. I’m aware that some Christians misrepresent atheism and claim that atheists must worship something, usually this claim is that atheists worship themselves, but that is simply not true.

            “And in what way has anyone denied you “equality before the law on the basis that [you are] not Christian?” ”

            Until very recently atheists were explicitly denied equality before the law in many states. My own state, Texas, has a clause in the state constitution forbidding atheists from holding public office. That clause was vigorously enforced until the Supreme Court ruled in 1961 that the US Constitution forbade that.

            More recently, in 2009, a group of Ashville SC Christians attempted to force Cecil Bothwell from his city council seat on the grounds that he was an atheist and the South Carolina state Constitution forbids atheists from holding office.

            A study of child custody cases found a clear pattern of discrimination against atheist parents when determining custody.

            I personally have been fired by a Christian employer when that employer learned that I was an atheist. It was perfectly legal too, the non-discrimination laws don’t apply to small businesses. Nor am I the only atheist to be fired on purely religious grounds. Amanda Donaldson was fired for being an atheist, which cut off her health insurance while she was fighting breast cancer. Again, I seem to be spam filtered when I link, but a quick google search on her name will turn up the stories.

            Moreover there exists a Christian Dominionist movement in the USA which explictly states, and I quote, “Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ—to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness, but it is dominion we are after. Not just a voice … It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time … World conquest.”

            That’s George Grant of Truth in Action Ministries. Again, google and you’ll find that he’s quite real and not a conspiracy fantasy.

            “I’m going to call a spade a spade and say that you are simply making that up out of your own anti-Christian bigotry.”

            I have no anti-Christian bigotry. I just want ya’ll to leave me alone and stop trying to force your religion on my country by law.

      • http://www.herenowkingdom.com Andy Catsimanes

        Re, Timtothy Dalrymple’s statement: I think some evangelicals tend to conflate “persecution” with “mockery” or “marginalization”..

        Fully agree with the above and would add that Christians who conflate persecution with marginalization are simply mirroring the larger culture, in which victim status seems to be sought at every turn.

        I expect the marginalization to continue, and further would not discount such marginalization could one day descend into persecution, but to look for persecution where none exists is foolish.

        • Timothy Dalrymple

          Good points, Andy.

          • http://frcblog.com Chris

            Let’s not forget Catholic Charities (MA, IL) and the pressure brought to bear on many non-profits to violate their Christian convictions or lose government contracts.

  • http://www.lambpower.net Steve D

    I agree with Nathan
    The answer to the title question is “yes”.
    First, there is at least one other holiday that occurs around the same time, New Years. I have always assumed that when people wished me “Happy Holidays”, they were referring to both Christmas and New Years. When I was younger another term was Season’s Greetings”. No one was offended if you were wished either Happy Holidays or Season’s Greetings.

    Second,unlike the lord’s Supper, there is no place in the Bible that we are told to celebrate Christ’s birth. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be celebrating His birth, however, it is not on the same level as Easter where we celebrate what he came to earth to do.

    Third, I could careless how some huge retailer chooses to greet me. I don’t care what they put in their ads or on their signage. I am getting offended that the season has turned into “Let’s Make a Deal” particularly the day after Thanksgiving.

    Fourth, this has really only become an issue since the advent of certain “family” based organization and some Conservative commentators have started harping on it. One organization has a good and bad list telling their members who is using the term “Merry Christmas” and who isn’t. What a waste!

    Fifth, for the most part, Christians really do not face persecution in this country. To my knowledge, no one has been put to death or tortured for our faith. We dishonor those in other countries who have lost life or limb because of their faith. We are self centered and clueless when it comes to our brothers and sister in other lands. I cannot nor will I be so impertinent as to worry what holiday greeting I get.

    Finally, I do not feel scorn for Conservative Christians. I feel that it is a shame that some (not all) get stuck on minutia. I understand that for some that this is a big deal. I wonder if their time wouldn’t be better spent dealing with real issues instead of made up ones.

    • Goldberg

      I guess what it comes down to is this. If you believe that a racial minority being upset over a racial perjorative is getting “stuck on minutiae,” I suppose you would at least be consistent. But be assured, the intention of the “Happy Holidayers” is not to wish you a happy anything, but to insult you if you’re Christian and give you a wink and a nudge if you’re not. It’s all about bigotry.

      • Kubrick’s Rube

        “But be assured, the intention of the “Happy Holidayers” is not to wish you a happy anything, but to insult you if you’re Christian and give you a wink and a nudge if you’re not.”

        Are you kidding? I assure you I (and most people) say Happy Holidays because most people celebrate one or more holidays in the winter (Hannukah and New Year’s for me). When I know someone is Christian, I say Merry Christmas. If I know they are Jewish, Happy Hannukah. If I don’t know what they celebrate, I say Happy Holidays. Not because I hope they are Christian and insulted. But because I hope that whatever their faith or lack thereof, their holidays are happy. And I know my holidays are that much happier when it isn’t taken for granted which one I observe.

        • Timothy Dalrymple

          This is a good illustration of how people on each side suspect the motives of people on the other. I think neither that people who say “Happy Holidays” are out to offend Christians nor that Christians say “Merry Christmas” in order to remind non-Christians of their second class status. We need to give each other more grace and more benefit of the doubt.

          • Kubrick’s Rube

            Absolutely. It would be exhausting to go through life thinking everyone we encounter is speaking in code to flush out our allegiance. Case in point: my mother-in-law got upset with my wife because she used the abbreviation “xmas” in a text message(!) about a gift, firing back, “It’s spelled Christmas.” It’s a minor incident, but that kind of sensitivity can trigger a cycle of suspicion between people that is not conducive to a merry or happy anything.

  • Kubrick’s Rube

    “If Christians complaining about “Happy Holidays” have likened this to persecution, I’ve never seen it.”

    It may not be feeding anyone to the lions, but what do you call the false assertion by Dr Zacharias- quoted in this post- that “Merry Christmas” is “forbidden in our cities”? This in comparing the situation to life in communist China no less.

    Also, I think the free market economy drives the prevalence of “Happy Holidays” and “Seasons Greetings” more than any other factor. There’s nothing more inclusive than the quest for my holiday spending dollars.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      He was noting the irony that what apparently raises no eyebrows in China raises eyebrows in the States. But he didn’t say that it amounts to persecution.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath
    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Thanks, James. I haven’t looked at your blog post yet (it’s late here), but I appreciate the collegial tone here. God bless.

      -Tim

      • Timothy Dalrymple

        Also, by the way, that was really quick!

  • Bill

    I was thinking about some of this after watching facebook explode with congratulations to Tim Tebow from many of my friends. They uphold his example and faith as a model for all. I’m just not sure what I make of it yet. Part of me is kind of sick of hearing it. I look at the SNL skit a few weeks ago and while some of their portrayal of Jesus was a bit irreverent. The portrayal overall of Christ seemed more biblical than the way they showed Tebow. Tebow’s portrayal was dripping with sarcasm, but it seemed accurate. Christ was portrayed as real and concerned and he recognized in Tom Brady natural talent that is inherent and part of common grace.

  • http://hecatr.livejournal.com/ Joseph Dooley

    I don’t mind “Happy holidays.” I prefer “Merry Christmas” myself, and reserve “Happy Hanukkah” for my Jewish friends. But it’s people saying “holiday tree” and “holiday gifts” that get my goat.

    Further, there IS a war on Christianity to delegitimatize belief in God and make public displays of faith passe. Look at the ire Tim Tebow has earned simply by thanking Christ during his interviews and praying on the sideline. The secular Left is “live and let live” except when it comes to religious worship, which they see as the ultimate bulwark against establishing their totalitarian Marxist utopia.

  • Megan

    First off, I think the “War on Christmas” is largely a media creation. I’d venture to guess if you asked them, the majority of, as you say, conservative Christians who hold this view are regular viewers of Fox News, which has beaten this dead horse for years in the hope of keeping its viewership numbers up.

    Second, “Happy Holidays” isn’t intended as a cut on Christmas. It’s shorthand for the comparatively wordy “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.” Laziness, maybe. Persecution, no.

    Third, Christianity is an evangelical religion. It’s the responsibility of Christians to share their faith with others, not the responsibility of secular culture to share our faith for us.

    To me, the whole thing smacks less of a persecution complex than a “bad report.” Unfortunately, there aren’t enough Joshua’s and Caleb’s left in the Church these days to convince their fellow Christians that Almighty God is more than mighty enough to protect them from the secular culture boogyman.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Love the email address.

    • Goldberg

      First, I think we can all agree that the activities described do not rise to the level of First Century persecution. Nonetheless, many of the responses and yours in particular perfectly epitomize the problem that the war on “the War on Christmas” is meant to fight.

      First, note the mocking contempt of “regular viewers of Fox” and of “conservative Christians.” Leaving aside the fact that Fox re-runs regularly eclipse the rest of its competitors combined, I somehow doubt the War on Christmas is what is keeping them afloat. Nonetheless, “conservative Christians” (that is, those rubes who believe that God sets the rules for Man, and not the other way around)feel set upon by secularists and “liberal ‘Christians’” (that is, those sophisticated enough to know that “thou shalt not” is pretty square, and God’s hip with that).

      Second, “Happy Holidays” is almost always intended as “cut on Christmas” (your phrase). Target did not begin prohibiting “Merry Christmas” to appease Muslims who felt left out–they did it to appease intolerant atheists and liberal “Christians” who wanted to make sure those “Fox viewers” were left out.

      Third, the use of “Merry Christmas” has never been about proselytizing, but “Happy Holidays” is certainly intended to proselytize for atheists and liberal “Christians.”

      Finally, while the Joshua/Caleb reference is cute, it’s also inapposite. If you wanted to be constructive instead of merely mocking of Christians, Matthew 5:38-42 would be more appropriate. Thus, when the atheists and liberal “Christians” get rid of Christmas, you offer to give up Easter as well.

      Anyway, atheists and liberal “Christians” have won this battle (didn’t hear “Christmas” mentioned even once on television or in a store), just like they’ve won every other battle. Is the little victory dance really necessary?

  • Deacon Jim Stagg

    I try to observe Advent and Christmas as I was taught as a child, and that includes the three “holidays” of St. Nicholas, Christmas and Epiphany. I really don’t care whether y’all celebrate the season or not, or come up with some other name to justify participation in a commercial season that pads many paychecks.

    Tim, your suggestion to “de-Christianize” the US has merit. By and large we don’t practice our faith anyway, and just think of the advantages of sharia law when that eventuality arrives.

    That being said, the “attacks” on observations, however innocent, of the Season grind me down. Just duck when someone wishes you “Merry Christmas!” (we don’t count responses). Get off the idea that you need to COMBAT the religious observance by making spurious arguments, or trying to IMPOSE your singularly mordant view of life (we won’t harm you for your silly beliefs). Lighten up on attacks on school plays, school choir recitals, nativity displays. This isn’t a popularity competition, it’s just a way many people, some Christian, some not, wish to observe this religious season.

    But, if you really want to be hard-core anti-Christian, I do invite you to push for federal legislation which will eliminate Christmas as a “paid” holiday (especially for all federal workers), or, for that matter, eliminate Sunday as a “day off. Just another day to work for y’all.

    Want to put your money where your mouth is?

  • tom

    It’s not Christians with a persecution complex – it’s people.

  • Kristen

    I don’t know many (read: any) militant anti-Christians who wish to scrub any and all expressions of Christian faith out of American life. Maybe they’re out there, but I’ve never seen them.

    I do have good friends who are Jewish who have told me that they find the December season exhausting because everywhere you turn there are various reminders that say “you’re not one of us!” And it may not be malicious, it may not be intentional, but that’s the message they hear.

    Richard Mouw tells a great anecdote about being in a shopping mall in December “when I was stopped in my tracks by the theological depth of Perry Como.” Perry was crooning O Little Town of Bethlehem and what stopped Dr. Mouw in his tracks was “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.”

    Most of us don’t notice things like that. This time Dr. Mouw did. I bet that if I were living in and trying to build a home in (not visiting) a culture that said “just keep in mind, you may live here and all, but you’re not REALLY one of us” I’d notice it too and it wouldn’t be as pleasant an experience as Dr. Mouw’s.

    I don’t claim that they speak for all Jews everywhere (nor do they), but they themselves regularly find this to be a trying and marginalizing time. And I will bet a cookie they’re not alone. (Historically most of the separation-of-church-and-state cases have been litigated by Jews.)

    I don’t hide being a Christian. We have would have “God-talks” all the time. But over time I could start to understand that things I wouldn’t even notice can be subtly grating and marginalizing.

    And, as a Christian, I don’t much want to participate in that.

    • Kristen

      Also, at one point I tried to say there are two “Christmases” (a Christian religious feast and a cultural winter celebration) happening simultaneously but they’re pretty separate.

      They weren’t buying it. At all.

      “Really, if anything the Christmas trees, etc., have more European pagan roots rather than anything specifically Christian.”

      “Fine. We aren’t supposed to do that either.”

      I’m not a Puritan, so I have no trouble including both a creche and a Christmas tree in my house, pagan roots or no. But I did come away with a sense that maybe they were taking Christian faith more seriously than I was.

  • Corey Mondello

    The Bible tells those who follow their god, should expect, actually welcome and honor persecution, in sort of a sacrifice to that god. The more they endure, the more they want, the more he will love them. So next time you hear them complain, which will be soon, they are just being good Christians. Just another reason why to help them out and follow through the path Jesus followed; Endure the nailing to the cross. This would be their greatest achievement, the fulfilling of their very own purpose of being born. What a great way to make their god happy.


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