Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Christmas War

I apologize in advance for the tone of this post, but I just got back from Crown Center and I need to vent all the frustrations that have been building up since the first Christmas commercial I saw last October.

I really get sick of hearing people complain about "happy holidays" vs. "Merry Christmas." I see very little connection between our culture's celebration of Christmas and the Kingdom Jesus was born to establish. And yet, we think we need to fight this "Christmas war."
On the news the other night, there was a story about a Christmas tree being taken down from the state capital in Madison, WI. Some groups of Christians will put up a big fight over a department store not saying "Merry Christmas" or a state building not have a Christmas tree, but they could care less that the average American family will spend $800 in gifts or that our government is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians. Why does that seem to be a complete reversal of the values of Jesus' kingdom? Nowhere in the gospels does Jesus call us to put up Christmas trees or condemn those who refuse to do so, but he did call us to love our enemies. But it's so much easier to get angry at "liberals" who take down Christmas trees than to ask tough questions about our governments use of military force.

I just read something in Robert Webber's book, Journey to Jesus that summarizes my frustration.
"We live in a time of the breakdown of Christian values. Values of personal morality and Christian virtue have been lost.
We live in a time when secular values of the American dream and of capitalism have been christianized. Ambition, success, thrift, wealth, being nice, dressing right and playing the political game are exonerated as characteristics of 'good' Christians."

There's a serious disconnect in the thinking of a lot of American Christians. We'll fight over things that really don't matter while completely ignoring Jesus' command to pick up our cross and follow him. It's a lot easier to think being a Christian is about saying "Merry Christmas" than to discipline ourselves to give to the poor. One of these doesn't matter at all, one seems to be the very criteria by which Jesus allows admittance into heaven (see Matthew 25).

For about 9 billion dollars, we could bring clean water to every person in this world. Americans spent 9 billion dollars shopping the day after Thanksgiving. And yet we put our energy into worrying about a Christmas tree, which was originally a pagan symbol anyway? This makes me so angry I'm not able to clearly articulate myself.

To follow the teachings of some dude named Jesus, you can support this organization. Instead of buying another piece of junk, how about loving Jesus? Yes, I got some pointless gifts for Christmas, but I was able to get some relatives to donate money to Water Partners rather than buying me gifts I don't need. It's not wrong to buy each other gifts, but there comes a point in which we must realize we're wasting resources on buying each other things we don't need while the majority of the world is struggling to survive each day.

You can blame some of these thoughts on this man. And his book will rock your world.


BillMarty said...

Our government is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians? I had no idea Operation Murder Iraqi Babies had been such a rousing success!

Are you basing this audacious accusation on anything other than general disapproval of the war?

BillMarty said...

Also, the "War on Christmas" does get to be a distraction. It is obviously overblown, but it is really just a major holiday bringing to a head a conflict that goes on in our culture year round.

I know of real living American people that think we be better off if all churches were done away with. There is a large contingent that would happily legislate to stifle all faiths - Christianity included. Just because it isn't THE most important thing doesn't mean we need to lay down and let them call the shots.

I won't lose sleep if a school somewhere doesn't have a Christmas tree, but I DO have a problem with lawyers swooping in on some community claiming it is illegal to have any expressions of faith on public ground. It is not. The Constitution doesn't say it - there is no separation clause.

The ESTABLISHMENT clause was designed to keep goverment OUT of the citizens business. There is no difference between mandating or prohibiting a ten commandments monument or a menorah. Free exercise is trodden upon in either case.

JeffSell said...

I agree with your post and your statements about giving to the poor. One of my friends wrote in my 18-month old's card, "A soccer ball and a basketball were donated to Toys for Tots in your honor." I thought this was a truely awesome gift for him.

I disagree with the comparison between consumer spending and clean water. You assume that all spending for Christmas is on junk. That the $800 Americans spend is on USB refrigerators or a combo TV-flashlight-swiss army knife that everyone "must" have. 80-90% of my Christmas's growing up were on clothes and shoes for school. My parents penny pinched and saved so that Santa could bring necessities to me. I would think/hope the majority of Americans try to do the same.

Donnie Miller said...

I guess to say hundreds (plural) is an exageration, but I heard an estimate from a year ago of over 100,000 Iraqi civilian deaths as the 'collateral damage' of the war. At that same time the Government had estimated about 50,000 civilian deaths and I'm sure their number is way low. It's a disaproval of the war or war in general because of the inevitable civilian causulties. Every war has resulted in the deaths of civilians which is why war should be waged only when absolutely necessary. While I'm certainly not any grand authority or expert, this war seems very unnecessary. I guess that what bugs me is that so many conservative Christians will worry more about the Christmas war than the Iraq war. Why don't more of us ask questions dealing with life or death issues? Jesus didn't call us to put up Christmas trees or condemn those who refuse to do so, but he did call us to love our enemies. I like that line, I think I'll add it to the blog post.

I also think it's going too far when lawyers witch hunt for Christmas trees, but I also think it's pathetic when Christians refust to shop at certain stores because they say "happy holidays" rather than "merry christmas." The establishment clause works both ways, government doesn't promote a religious belief nor can it stifle one. I think that's a big part of what makes our country so great, we're neutral in regards to religion. Before posting the blog entry, I deleted a diatribe about the goal of some Christians to return the US to it's "Christian" status, which was a phrase some ultra-conservative protestant groups starting throwing around in the early 20th century when Roman Catholics began immigrating into the US.

Again, it comes back to putting our effort into what's really important. What's the real morality issue, a Christmas tree (or lack there-of) or out of control consumerism or militarism?

BillMarty said...

So somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000? I guess Stalin was right:

"A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic."

Why are you so sure their number is low? Why not assume your other estimate is high? Why is it so hip anymore to assume everything about our government is an evil lie?

The Establishment Clause is for one purpose, and one purpose only: to protect the rights of the individual (and by extension the municipality and the state) from the federal government. The first five words are the key to the whole thing. "Congress shall make no law..."

That's all there is to it! If you aren't talking about Congress, the clause doesn't apply.

GROUPS of people came here because of the neutrality towards belief that we both agree is what has made our country great. They all WANTED to practice their OWN faith.

If a village nearby, following the will of its people, wants to pass a law mandating a menorah on every door, they are supposed to be able to do so. When a FEDERAL court comes in and starts messing with the rights of this COMMUNITY, thats restricting free exercise. That is when the Constitution is being violated - not when a kid prays during school.