[EDITOR’S NOTE: This post is part of our series on controversial questions. A NO post will normally follow a YES post. Join in by posting your comments.]
by Rev. Dr. Robert R. LaRochelle
When I think of WAR, declared or undeclared, the following actions and attitudes come to mind:
- There is something or someone to attack, obliterate, or defend against.
- In addition, peaceful means to resolve whatever conflicts have precipitated this ‘war’ have been exhausted.
As I see it, those claiming that within our culture there is a ‘war’ on Christmas have misappropriated the use of the word ‘war’. Yet, apart from any exercise in semantics here, it is important to understand why some make the claim that such a reality exists and to examine the evidence they might cite. With that in mind, I list some evidence I have heard stated from those who argue that we are currently in the midst of such a war:
- Organized groups have contested the placement of Christmas displays such as nativity scenes on public property
- Workers in many companies are told not to say ‘ Merry Christmas’ to customers. Instead, they are encouraged to say ‘ Happy Holidays’ .
- Some companies, e.g. Starbucks, have gone so far as to remove any imagery from their products which might convey any notion of such a holiday as Christmas.
- Children in public schools may not participate in school sponsored Christmas pageants or, in many cases, not sing particular Christmas music in their Holiday concerts.
As a practicing Christian and a Christian pastor, I look at it this way:
Christmas is important to me. My wife and I celebrate it within our home. When we were raising our three children, we did our very best to make each Christmas a Christ-centered occasion. Over the years, our home has been decorated with Christian symbols honoring both Christmas and Advent. At my place of worship, I pray, sing and preach about the importance and meaning of the birth of Jesus. Most importantly, I try to live my life in accordance with His life and His teachings.
However, the simple fact is that MY faith in Jesus, who He is and what His teachings mean, IS MY FAITH. Without denying that His values may have influenced our founders (though that is oftentimes an underdeveloped idea), we must also recognize that we, the United States, are a constitutional democracy in which we have both freedom OF religion and freedom FROM religion.
Were the efforts of those who do not celebrate Christmas to infringe upon the practice of any Christian and her/his right to celebrate it, you could make a case that one’s religious freedom is being trampled upon. Depending on the extent and the range of this activity, you might even make a case for an organized ‘war like’ action.
However, NONE of the concerns expressed by those in our culture who seek to adhere to the principles of separation of church and state impede Christian individuals and their beloved from the free practice of their faith. In fact, these principles provide for the possibility of a peaceful coexistence between and among those of different religious perspectives.
My view is that those non-Christian AND Christian opponents of inappropriate public display of a PARTICULAR religion are NOT engaged in any ‘war against Christmas’. Instead, they are acting in accord with the unique constitutional principles of the United States of America. At a time when some political candidates are sowing seeds of religious intolerance and division, we need reminders from people within the Christian community that our faith in Jesus is not dependent upon its public approval. It need not be legislated nor elevated to the level of the nation’s ‘official or preferred’ religion in order to touch the hearts and souls of its adherents.
So, then, I would contend that there really is no war going on here. Instead, there is a worthwhile dialogue about the proper exercise of religious freedom in a nation that has enshrined this notion and value in those cherished documents that inspire our legislation and our practice.