Is Christmas Under Attack?


Christian Club speech, 12-11-05, Eric V. Snow, Ann Arbor, MI—UCG



Right now, there are some conservative Christians exercised about the attempt to delete “Christ” from “Christmas,” such as by calling Christmas trees “holiday trees.” Wal-mart and Target, among others don’t advertise much about “Christmas,” but do about the “holidays.”  Some can be cute about this, such as the car company having TV commercials promoting “Honda Days.”  Some conservative Christians have battled back, and have complained, for example, about the current President Bush wishing people holiday greetings but not “Merry Christmas” in the over 1 million Christmas cards he had sent out.  The Speaker of the House, Hastert, got one “holiday tree” called a “Christmas tree” again.


First of all, from our Church of God perspective, do we think relabeling the Christmas party a “holiday party” really changes anything?  Would you go to a “holiday party” during this time of the year, but not a “Christmas party”?  Why or why not?  Email about suggested employee departmental lunch, not paid by company or official, “inclusive to all belief systems.”


Since we’re one of those small groups that doesn’t celebrate Christmas in modern American society, does relabeling something from “Christmas” this or that to “holiday” this or that really help us any?  Are we “offended” any more or less if someone wishes us “happy holidays” than “Merry Christmas”?  Why or Why not?


Novi family situation, vs. neighborhood association, about lawn ornaments.  Threatened with fine of $25-$100/week.  Needed to get prior approval from board of directors.  Letter then said:  Please remove the nativity scene display from your front yard.”  Legally, under Michigan law, supposed to obey such associations after agreeing to when purchase property in such areas. (Detroit News article, Nov. 29, 2005).


“Asked why the letter specified that only the nativity scene be removed when several other objects stand on the lawn, Williams said the complainant -- another neighbor in Tollgate Woods -- complained only about the nativity scene.

"As a management firm, we do not go out and police. The community will decide what will be allowed and won't be," Williams said. "It's a community decision. It's not a management decision."

Williams would not reveal the identity of the complaining homeowner but read a portion of the complaint: "Although I'm not offended by it, I take issue about advertising personal beliefs and interests by putting them on display whatever the belief or interest may be."


They then did back off (Dec. 30, 2005):


On Nov. 21 the family received a letter asking them to remove the nativity scene but said nothing about the other numerous figures on the lawn, including a holiday Minnie Mouse and Winnie the Pooh along with a Santa and Mrs. Claus.

The letter from Williams on Tuesday said the intent of the regulation is to control permanent statues and is not intended to apply to temporary holiday decorations.


So then, from our Church of God viewpoint, what should we think of this battle?  Was this neighbor, well, tolerant of his neighbor’s expression of belief?  Should this family have the right to put their nativity scene out on their lawn?  Is the neighborhood association doing “God’s work” by attempting to censor it?  Doesn’t this display include an idol set up to celebrate a pagan holiday?  Compare to Communists in Russia ripping down idols in the Orthodox church as closed and/or converted church buildings.


Wal-mart was threatened by a boycott last year by the Catholic League for the company’s Web site supposedly treating Christmas differently from Hanukah and Kwanzaa, and “because an employee's e-mail to a customer called Christmas a mix of world religions.”  But was this employee basically stating the truth?  Wouldn’t the Catholic League’s members be in a better position than most to figure this out?


"It seems, in the past few years, people have noticed how much Christmas has become so secular and they're reacting to that, and we're seeing more and more people making a point to ask that stores mention Christmas," said Kiera McCaffrey, a spokeswoman for the Catholic League. 


Consider Paul’s statement about zealous Jews in this context:  “have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge” (Romans 10:2).  Can sincere people be dangerous to others?  Was Torquemada sincere, as he tortured heretics during the Spanish Inquisition? 


Target was in American Family Association’s crosshairs.  It aimed a Thanksgiving weekend boycott at the discount chain for, among other things, selling holiday trees.  They said Target banished “Christmas” from its advertising and store displays.  Let’s look at something a spokesman,  Randy Sharp, special projects director, said in two parts:  "It's part of a big picture to de-Christianize America and secularize it as much as possible.”  Could this be said to be true?  Is it a case of right principle, wrong particular?


Sharp:  "People are more aware that the retail industry is trying to do away with Christmas. If they were trying to make their customers happy, they'd use the word 'Christmas.' I think that's pretty obvious." Does it make us “happy” when we hear a store employee mechanically say “Merry Christmas” rather than “Happy Holidays”?


Diversity & multiculturalism:  Used to attack Christmas or as way to protect it? Sheryl Walsh, community relations manager for Novi, said the city does not have a local ordinance against holiday decorations and has not received a complaint about a homeowner's nativity scene display in the last decade. "We are a multicultural community and we afford everyone the opportunity to celebrate the holidays.” 


Can multiculturalism and diversity be used as excuses to attack one religion from expressing its beliefs?  The chancellor of the New York City Department of Education did ban nativity scenes in the city’s school system, but did permitted displays of the Islamic star and crescent and the Jewish Menorah.  Turning Orwellian, they call Christmas “the winter holiday.”  One principal in that school system told teachers to bring Jewish, Kwanzaa, and Islamic symbols to school, but avoided saying anything about Christian symbols.  David Limbaugh, Persecution:  How Liberals Are Waging War Against Christianity, p. 41: “Again, the celebrated virtues of tolerance and diversity are accorded to all but Christians.”  William Donahue, Catholic League President:  “It is outrageous that New York City public school officials allows some religious symbols in the schools every December while banning others. . . . Catholics are sick and tired of being discriminated against by bureaucrats who tell us we should be satisfied with a Christmas tree in the schools.” 


At the present time, is the secular state more a threat to freedom of religion for true Christians, as used by liberals, agnostics, atheists, and various  religious minorities, especially Jews?  Or should we fear more down the road conservative Catholics and Protestants using the government to persecute us?


Christmas activities in public schools problem:  According to a 2000 Gallup Poll, some 96% of Americans celebrate Christmas.  Using Tupelo example, p. 42, Persecution.  Basic problem:  As strip out Christian references from Christmas, it makes the season more pagan, worse, from a Church of God viewpoint arguably.  For we’re in the unusual position of being Christians who don’t celebrate Christmas, although we aren’t totally alone, for Jehovah’s Witnesses agree with us, among others.  Christmas trees, mistletoe, and Santa Claus really worse than traditional Christian songs that discuss Jesus explicitly, for example.  Pondering the singing of traditional Christian songs as a substitute music teacher in December:  Words not bad, except for saying “Christmas” or “Noel.”  Right idea, wrong time of year.  “Joy to the World” example.


Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love


To substitute “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “Have a Jolly, Holly Christmas,” or “Here Comes Santa Claus” makes things worse, not better, frankly.


As true Christians called to come out of this world, we know we shouldn’t celebrate the world’s holidays that use pagan customs that were used to worship false gods.  But we should be alert to trends in the world around us that attack Christmas celebrations for the wrong reasons, or wish to promote Christmas celebrations for the right reasons, but out of zealous ignorance.