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November 28, 2007

The End Is Near

Am I alone in thinking this is not of earth-shaking importance?

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Comments

CLH

Oh, yes. When capitalism doesn't acknowledge Christmas, the whole point of the, ahem, holiday is threatened. Alert God.

Speaking of "holiday," from the CitizenLink article: "...retail Web sites commonly insert “holiday” and other generic euphemisms ... " -- "holiday" meaning "holy day," I'd hardly say it's a "generic euphemism" (despite that anyone using it probably isn't thinking of the meaning of the term--if they are trying to be PC, the joke's on them).

Anyway, as discussed in an off-blog convo, generally, salespeople actually snort at the whole PC-approach to Christmas and say "Merry Christmas" anyway . . . and then there was that huge, can't-miss-it "Merry Christmas" banner in the front of my local SuperTarget. Way to thumb a nose at any supposed PCing of the day.

Brian

Nope, you are not alone. It breaks my heart when I see more concern focused on greeting cards, Christmas trees, and public decorations than on aching souls who need to hear the true message of Christmas.

This year I've decided to make it a priority to not just refocus "the holiday season" onto "Christmas" but also to refocus "Christmas" onto "Christ".

Gina Dalfonzo

What bugs me are deliberate attempts (to the point of awkwardness) to avoid the "C-word." But there does seem to be much less of that lately.

Lee

I understand Dr. Dobson's concern for Christianity leeching away from American society, and I agree with him, but I disagree that retailers themselves are the source of the problem. Retailers are entirely coin-operated; if people only shopped at stores that promoted "Christmas", they would all promote it. The fact is, though, retailers want to sell to Hindus, too - especially those here for high-tech work, who have large disposable incomes. Retailers want to sell to post-Christian Europeans. Retailers want to sell to anyone who just wants to give gifts at this time of year.

The end is near not because retailers have made it so, but because consumers have made it so. And that's the case because churches focus more on inreach than outreach. If we converted all those Hindus, post-Christian Europeans, and practical agnostics, this wouldn't be an issue.

The skunk died under our own porch; that's where the smell is coming from.

Brian

Agreed. If someone is buying a Christmas tree, an angel topper, and Santa wrapping paper "Merry Christmas" is probably the appropriate greeting. If they are buying blue and silver paper, "Happy Chanuakah". And if they're buying generic holiday cards, I'm not even going to be opposed to "Happy Holidays".

I think it all boils down to common sense.

Luke

DC Comics a few summers ago had a major event called "Infinite Crisis." That December, they previewed a special comic called "Infinite Christmas", riffing on their previous summer event. I laughed when it was released it had been renamed "Infinite Holiday."

It ain't just the stores. Although, as far as signs of the end go, I think it's pretty minor. Shouldn't the big holiday be Easter, anyway? Just that people start using the word "Christmas" again does not mean they are celebrating Christ.

It is well said above: Make the focus Christ, not the word Christmas.

Ken

Dr. Dobson and those sympathetic to the views advanced here are mourning the passing of a culture and the Christian-compatible consensus (like that alliteration?) in which Americans formerly lived. We are moving back from a Christ-drenched culture to a pre-Christian culture similar to that which our spiritual forebears experienced in the early years of the church; one prays we will not see a return to gladiatorial games, but we might in a different dress. Change of this type is never pleasant for those who liked the way things used to be. I'm not surprised they are complaining and upset.

jason taylor

Agreed. If someone is buying a Christmas tree, an angel topper, and Santa wrapping paper "Merry Christmas" is probably the appropriate greeting. If they are buying blue and silver paper, "Happy Chanuakah". And if they're buying generic holiday cards, I'm not even going to be opposed to "Happy Holidays".

I think it all boils down to common sense.

Agreed. It is not meant to offend people of other religions and indeed they usually don't get offended. They sometimes feel left out, and that is hard on them but we make do somehow(by doing things like putting Hannukah in The Season, etc). The main ones who object are people who are anti-christian, not simply from another religion.
As for Hindu's, it doesn't seem to bother them.
For one thing I think most people have the common sense to understand that in a country populated largely by Christians, Christian holidays will be a big deal. After all they know what it is like to be religious themselves. And most people have at least the minimal decency to understand that going out of one's way to ruin someone elses holiday is killjoy.
Most of the opposition comes from the type of secularist who fears religion because he can't understand it. Not all secularists are like that(we use the word "secularist" to often as a synonym for "ringwraith" and that is neither just nor merciful)but some are. Much of that is imported from Europe where sometimes the Clergy was just another tribe to have a feud with. But that is diverging from the subject.
To be fair we should at least look at it from the other side. We are not always overly charitable about secularist icons are we? While there are no secularist holidays as such, we would be rather annoyed if the country made a fuss about Darwin's Birthday.
Justice demands that the minority accept that what is important to the majority will be part of society. Justice also demands that the majority at least take the minorities point of view into account even if it is impractical to do anything about it.

Joel

I got a mailing from the AFA regarding their laughable concern over "the Gap censoring Christmas." I wrote back to not send me this stuff. In reply I got a thank you and pointers to their latest anti-Gay rhetoric. *sigh*

Steve (SBK)

Let's just agree to say "Season's Greetings" all year round. :P

Pat

I noticed a poll taken on FoxNews.com that most people preferred Merry Christmas, however the greeting on FoxNews was still "Happy Holidays" don't they want to do what the majority of people want.

Are they still polically correct?

anne morse

It just occurred to me....Maybe the clerk doing the holiday wishing is Hindu, or Buddhist, or Muslim....maybe he or she doesn't WANT to wish customers a "Merry Christmas." He or she just might find that a violation of his or her own religious/free speech rights....

Ralph

Here's a copy of an article on this topic I just wrote for our local weekly newspaper.

Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays

It’s time once more for the annual “What should we call it?” debate. Are we going to stand our ground and say, “Merry Christmas,” or are we going to give in to the PC police, hang our heads, and mumble, “Happy holidays”?

Let’s set aside the wrapping paper, shopping list, and Christmas cards for a moment and ask ourselves a question. “Which bothers us more, someone changing traditions or someone ‘taking Christ out of Christmas’?” Before answering, let’s consider what it means to “take Christ out of Christmas.”

Does taking Christ out of Christmas mean replacing wise men and shepherds with Santa Claus and reindeer? Does it mean replacing feelings of peace on earth and good will to men with supercharged commercialism? Does it mean replacing midnight Christmas service with camping out to get the best deals on Black Friday?

Or, might it be that Christ was gone long before these switches were made? After all, how can Christ be in December 25 if he’s not in January 1 or April 18 or June 8? If we don’t live January through November with Christ in our lives, can we really say we live December that way? Can Christ really be a holiday decoration we put up for a month?

What does it mean to live January through December with Christ in our lives? Let’s consider some familiar words from the Christmas story.

The angel of the Lord told Joseph, “You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). Putting Christ in my January through December means we admit that we are rebels against God and that reconciliation comes only because Jesus was willing to go to the cross to pay the penalty for our sins.

The angel Gabriel told Mary, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end" (Luke 1:32,33). Putting Christ in our January through November means kneeling before him as our king.

So this December, as we consider whether it’s “happy holidays” or “Merry Christmas,” consider January through November. Have we acknowledged our need for a savior to save us from our sins? Do we kneel before King Jesus as the one to whom we owe faithful obedience? If so, we can say joyously and unashamedly, “Merry Christmas!”

CLH

Again just an anecdote, but bet it's common with businesses, orders to greet a certain way come from management, not individual salespeople. (Anne, you'd love the salesmen in the men's suit dept. at Tyson's Macy's: It's all about 'Merry Christmas.') Maybe next time we're greeted w/ 'Happy Holidays,' we can smile and ask, 'Which one?' and be amused w/ the stammering that follows.

Beth

I admit that I recently mentioned to my husband how tired I was of what seems to be an overzealous focus on whether we (you and me, retailers, news reporters, etc.) say Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, or some other iteration of holiday glee. Arguably, there ARE more important issues to get our britches in a bunch about.

However, I have since relented a bit from my "ugh, enough already!" position. Language, and our choices about language are important. They're not just "silly" words, they have specific meanings and they send specific messages (often regardless of the intent of the sender. And so a retailer's choice to "say" Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas has the potential to send some very important messages (intended or not) such as "we are a post-Christian society", "we value tolerance above other values", "we believe that saying Merry Christmas is offensive", and so on and so on. Granted, as I've said, these messages may or may not be the intention of the retailer but they are possible interpretations.

Maybe even more importantly the choice we (again you and me, retailers, etc.) make about holiday greeting says something (again intended or not) about the larger culture and to some extent trains current and future generations about cultural values and mores. In essence, the messages we send (or don't send) say something about what we value and why we value it and teaches our children how to think about the world.

Is it the end of the world? No. Is it one more step on the slippery slope to remove faith from daily life? Maybe.

Beth

Anne,

I may be wrong but I haven't heard of any situations where a non-Christian clerk was forced to say Merry Christmas. Instead, however, I have heard about retailers prohibiting a "Merry Christmas" from Christian clerks. I don't think the argument is about forcing non-Christian employees to say something they are opposed to, rather it is about removing the appearance altogether of what is perceived as "offensive".

Brian

Anne: I certainly hope that a non-Christian employee isn't being forced to say "Merry Christmas" and I haven't heard of any cases such as that. As a Christian, I wouldn't WANT someone to be FORCED into wishing me a merry Christmas.

Beth: Props on your assessment of "words are important." I think it all goes back to common sense. My Jewish friends wish me Merry Christmas and I wish them Happy Chanukkah (and Rosh Hashana, Purim, etc). By tailoring our message to the people we interact with, we can send the message: I respect your beliefs even if I have different ones.

Lee

(I might gain a more sympathetic hearing for this in another thread, but oh, well...)

All of this reminds me of the experience of a Christian friend I'll call Rick. Rick was standing in the checkout line of a store when the guy behind him sneezed. Rick turned and said "God bless you," merely as a courtesy.

That provoked a tirade from this guy, who said he was an atheist and how dare Rick shove his "God" down other people's throats in a public place and on and on and on. Rick found himself apologizing profusely, and feeling embarrassed by the onlookers around them.

Rick then stood there in line, feeling foolish and unmanly, wondering if he'd actually betrayed his own beliefs by not standing up for them in the face of this unprovoked onslaught. At the very least, all Rick was doing was extending a common social courtesy to a stranger. And had he said "Bless you," without the "God", probably nothing would have happened, but why should Rick have to self-censor on something as trivial as this? All within a matter of seconds, Rick was upset and fuming.

And then the guy sneezed AGAIN.

Rick turned around and said "Go to Hell."

The guy looked stunned, and several people around them laughed out loud. The guy then apologized, admitting that he was having a rough day within a rough life.

Several months later Rick saw the same guy in a church service. The guy had come to the front of the sanctuary to demonstrate that he'd accepted Christ.

I doubt the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association will be recommending this as a technique any time soon, but it's worth remembering in the culture wars that a sense of humor coupled with a willingness to be flexible is attractive to seekers. You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, as Abe Lincoln supposedly said.

Allen

Lee,

Seriously, tell me you aren't a Certified Master Story Teller. I won't believe you if you do.

I can't say I saw the "Go to Hell" coming. I was too busy dreaming about delivering an Arm Bar Takedown to a whiney sneezer. But credit where due - Rick's the man.

Luke

Ralph-

Well said. The battle isn't for "Christmas"- at least, I agree with you that it shouldn't be. The battle is for Christ.

Anne, I agree with you in saying that words mean things- the problem is what they mean in common usage. For many, Christmas is as Christian a thing as Thursday is a day to worship a Norse god. Fighting for Christmas, the word, means next to nothing if it's not coupled with an explanation- which I will assume you use whenever you get into such a discussion. Otherwise, people just won't understand why you're getting so upset.

And Lee? Great story.

Jason Taylor

"It just occurred to me....Maybe the clerk doing the holiday wishing is Hindu, or Buddhist, or Muslim....maybe he or she doesn't WANT to wish customers a "Merry Christmas." He or she just might find that a violation of his or her own religious/free speech rights...."

Well officially Buddhists and even more Hindu's are syncretists(in practice there are "complications"-such as the persecution of Christians in seventeenth -century Japan, which was probably politically motivated anyway). As for Moslems that would be a sticky point.
Of course I wouldn't mind wishing a Jew "Happy Hannakah". Of course that isn't much of a concession as the Jews have a mission to be the people Christ came from-and paid enough for it to be sure-and it's kind of a "Lest we forget". I wouldn't even mind wishing a Muslim happy Ramadan though that is stickier as Christianity does not endorse Islam, at all. Still I would not have to be agreeing with Islam to wish that a Moslem's Ramadan be "happy". And so on.
But others might be a little touchier. It is hard to draw the right line between honesty about one's beliefs and charity. Presumably unbelievers have the same problem. On the other hand the people who object don't seem to be doing so out of scruples but because they seem to consider it a personal insult to wish people a Merry Christmas.

CLH

Oh, Lee, Erik Metaxas would be proud. I didn't see the 2nd response coming either. In short, on the whole issue, I think, being put in the actual situation -- and appreciating, as Beth noted, that words do matter -- Christians shouldn't show anger or even self-righteous indignation or spit back "Merry Christmas!" That wouldn't prove anything. Rather just not worry about how the other is greeting you, and instead greet back "Merry Christmas" (or "you too" if it's plainly clear the person is Muslim or Jewish, etc.). That doesn't cede the "spirit of the season" but upholds the spirit of the faith.

Lee

Allen wrote: "Seriously, tell me you aren't a Certified Master Story Teller. I won't believe you if you do."

Dude, this was almost verbatim from the way "Rick" told it, so the storyteller's him, not me. Thanks, though.

grizzly mom

I have long felt that we Christians profaned Christmas (or the Feast of the Incarnation when God condescended to put on flesh, walk among us and die for our sins) by spending time on money on anything but. One Christmas as made a cake so my Divorce Care Kids class could sing Happy Birthday to Jesus, and my sister even asked whose birthday it was. I responded by asking “Whose birthday is it?” My church tries to unplug the Christmas machine by offering us opportunities to give to the poor, mentally ill, homeless, etc., and purchase Fair Trade items, but if people celebrated my birthday the way most Christians celebrated Christmas, I would be offended. It seems grossly hypocritical to be mad at a store clerk who is obeying orders.

Nancy

What I don't get in all the fuss from Focus et. al. is the objection to retailers acknowledging other holidays. Precisely WHAT do bloated shopping binges and other excess displays of consumerism have to do with the birth of Christ? As to Holiday trees vs. Christmas trees, since the symbolisms of decorated trees themselves were preempted from pagan traditions, there had to be new explanations and symbolisms designed for that purpose...and the meanings of most of the new symbolisms have been long lost from American consciousnesses anyhow.

Christmas has become an opportunity to gorge on spending (in counterpart to Thanksgiving's gorging on food, and Easter's gorging on candy and chocolate bunnies, maybe?) so just how does a retailer saying "merry christmas" instead of "happy holidays" as they watch consumers spend, spend, spend really "Put Christ back in Christmas????"

I won't get started on how the celebration of the day of Christmas and the feasting and the gifts is a relatively new phenomenon outside of Catholicism (maybe Orthodox, too). Since the evangelical organizations trace their religious heritage back to the Puritans, Calvinists, and other non-Catholic/non-Lutheran branches of Christianity...why do they even celebrate Christmas in this fashion?

jason taylor

We celebrate Christmas because it is fun, there is no reason not to and it is not forbidden. That is surely enough reason.

Nancy

The point I was trying to make, and not doing well at, was that the tree, the shopping, the food/cookies/parties, the spend, spend, spend and such is and has been secular for a long time; any symbolic correlations between Christ's birth to xmas events (gifts of the magi, lights as symbol of light of the world) are really rather forced.

So for evangelical groups to fuss at retailers for doing what they are designed to do: make a profit using marketing that they deem effective while themselves indulging in the secular nature of xmas as celebrated in America seems to be missing the point and perhaps even hypocritical.

If keeping Christ in Christmas is the issue, then how about returning to religious roots of one's faith and leave out ALL elements of xmas, or else realize that Christmas, the celebration of Christ's birth, is a different event from xmas the spending event.

Jason Taylor

I think the issue is trying to actively exclude Christ from Christmas.
As for "keeping Christ in Christmas" by excluding other things, that is impractical and slightly gnostic. People are animals as well as spirits and having material pleasures at Christmas does not dishonor God. Furthermore if we take that as far as it can go, we should not breathe on Christmas as that adds to Christmas.
And no I do not object to stores selling stuff on Christmas. I think it adds to the atmosphere.

Nancy

Hi Jason,

For the record, I don't object to selling, and I do (mentally anyhow) make a distinction between celebrations of Christ's birth and xmas the secular day. I just do not see how saying "happy holidays" in the marketplace instead of "merry christmas" is excluding Christ from Christmas. The "reason for the season" has nothing to do with the spending orgies going on in the stores, anyhow. To my way of thinking they are two seperate events, mindsets, etc.

Jason Taylor


Actually I don't really object to Happy Holidays. It's more objecting to others objecting to Merry Christmas. Christmas is a secular as well as religious holiday which is neither good nor bad and is to be expected.


By the way has anyone noticed the incongruity of Hannukah and Christmas. One is about Victory the other about Forgiveness. Though I suppose they do go together-"save us all from Satan's power", in a subtle way. And being reminded of the subtle complimentarity of wrath and love is of interest. Reminds me of a place just outside Portland where there is a courthouse across from a church-which also shows wrath and love in compliment to each other.

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