Since Rich posted in anticipation of tonight’s post I feel like I should actually have a well thought out argument instead of the incoherent ramblings that are sure to follow, but that would take time and I don’t really want to put that much effort into it.
I want to talk just for a moment about something that is important to me, not because of this one issue, but because of all of the similar issues that fall into the same category. Let’s talk about people being upset that Christmas trees are being called holiday trees in public places. Let me start by saying if you got an email about the SGA at Auburn "changing" the name to a Holiday Tree it has actually been a Holiday Tree ever since they started putting it up in 2000, so it hasn’t been changed, but that is just one instance.
Here are some reasons I think getting upset about calling it a Holiday Tree are hurting the church instead of helping. They are in no real order, and some of them are just my own personal hang-ups so I don’t know how much this will help.
Us against them mentality hurts outreach
I don’t know when being a Christian became a competition against liberals, but somewhere it did. We have bought into the language of "us vs. them" to the point where I believe that many Christians would rather win an argument than lead someone to Christ.
Most Non-Christians see us as being bullies or bigots
We may not want to believe it, but we live in a country where tolerance is the most important virtue. When we blatantly argue that everyone must believe what we believe we are turning off many people who think that everyone should be treated as equals. Now I’m not saying that we shouldn’t hold to our beliefs. We should have Christmas at church and Santa should be far away from the Sanctuary, but getting up in arms about a the name of a Christmas tree paints us as inconsiderate jerks who have been the big kid on the block so long that we have forgotten that sometimes we have to share with others.
One day I may be on the other side of this argument
I think this is the big one for me. There may be a day when I am not in the majority, but a lone voice trying to be heard and I would like for things to be civil and open for everyone. Let me give you a for instance. Imagine if 50 years from now the Mormons make great strides in their evangelistic efforts and they succeed in holding a near majority of the people in this country. Now I know little about the Mormons, but say they have a holiday called Festivus (yes I know it is from Seinfeld). I wouldn’t want my city to have a Festivus tree.
Maybe that is being silly, but ever since I spent some time talking with a LDS (Latter Day Saints) guy I have been thinking about how hard it must be to be a Jew in this country. This LDS guy kept telling me that all of the stuff that we believe about Jesus is true, but that there is another gospel that we don’t have; and that gospel changes the whole of what my Bible means. He even had proof text from scripture to back up his point.
Ever since then I have been thinking about what we are telling Jewish people. "Sure your Bible is good, but we have something better." No wonder they don’t believe us.
So since I may one day be on the other side of the whole "politically correct" argument I don’t have any trouble trying to include others and not deliberately try to offend.
People should stumble over Jesus, not his people
By that I mean it is the gospel that is challenging. It is Jesus who causes people to examine their lives and produces real change. But too many times it is people who call themselves Christians who offend.
Fighting over inconsequential things causes hatred
It is harder to see in the Bible belt but even here you can see this a little bit, but people don’t like Christians. Can you believe that. Christians should be the people that everyone else looks up to. People may not want to believe in God, but they shouldn’t be able to fault our actions. "let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your father in heaven" For most non-Christians the only "light" they see is when Christians decide to get up in arms over something that ultimately doesn’t matter. That lets them pigeon-hole us as fanatics and then they resent us for being bigots. (see above)
There are bigger things to be putting your energy into
I am amazed at Christians who are worried about Xmas (which is actually a representation of Christ, but that is another post) but who aren’t all that worried about homelessness or poverty. I’m all for boycotting Wal-Mart and their holiday tree if it means we take that money and give it to the poor. Christians should be leading the way on social issues (and in many ways we are) but our public persona is one of hate and not love.
You can’t be mad at lost people for acting lost
I have always been amazed at Christians who are upset when people without God act like they don’t have God. The problem isn’t their actions, it is the fact that they don’t have Jesus.
The problem isn’t a political one it is an evangelical one
If we as Christians would stop trying to fix the outside actions of people and stop fighting about a world that is secular and instead would focus on reaching out with the love of Christ to those around us "one life at a time" then all of these problems would be moot.
I love that we can’t handle a word change and Paul walked into an idol filled arena and taught about God not with Church words, but using the idols he found around him. This Christmas take what you see around you. Don’t fight the pictures of Santa and wanton commercialism. Most people know those don’t satisfy (at least those over the age of 12) This is the one time of the year when everyone is willing to talk about Peace and Joy and Love. Use this time to bridge a gap between you and your neighbors and spread Christmas throughout the entire Holiday season.
Let me close with this. The main reason I have such a problem with it is because we seem like petulant children who have been the only child for so long when someone else shows up and wants us to share we get mad and pout. I hate to say it, but Christianity isn’t an only child anymore. If we don’t stop pouting and start trying to reach out to the others in this country then we may find ourselves not only one of many, but in the minority.