For Christ's Sake - Literally

An Open Letter to Put-Upon Christians:

As we embark on the holiday season, I am already hearing the all-too-familiar comments about The War on Christmas – which, as most intelligent people know, has never existed, doesn’t exist now, and never will exist.

It is a term coined by right-wing TV and radio personalities, whose audience share relies on convincing people like yourselves that non-Christians are waging a battle against your faith, your beliefs, and your religious principles. And it is, on its face, so ridiculous a notion, I continue to be amazed at how many of you fall for this nonsense time and again.

But let’s talk about it, shall we?

You say you want to keep Christ in Christmas. And that’s fine. Where you go wrong is your insistence that everyone keep Christ in their Christmas, even those who do not share your faith and don’t celebrate Christmas at all.

Many people celebrate end-of-year holidays; those of differing religious beliefs and those with no religious beliefs at all. They tend to wish others “Happy Holidays,” a much more inclusive greeting of good wishes towards their neighbors and friends. How this well-wishing became an affront to Christianity is still beyond me.

The truth is that I would welcome your keeping Christ in your everyday lives, not just at the time of celebrating His birth. But the words and teachings of The Nazarene seem to escape your notice on a daily basis, and following His example of caring for your fellow men has devolved into a spewing of useless rhetoric that serves no perceptible purpose other than to declare yourself to be a Christian while not bothering to act as one.

I would be more than interested in hearing about how your faith in Christ led you to volunteer at a homeless shelter, or the local soup kitchen. Can you not understand how skeptical I am of the depth of your faith when you instead use your time to rant against a local vendor selling Xmas trees, or the mall up the street decorating with Happy Holidays! banners?

I would be absolutely inspired by your selfless efforts to provide warm clothing to those in need, or to ensure that shelter is available to those who have no family or friends to rely on for the necessities of life. But when you start relegating people to being somehow undeserving of your compassion due to their religious beliefs or their political views, perhaps you can appreciate why I so quickly lose interest in your alleged devotion to following in the footsteps of He Who made no such distinctions.

You claim to be “persecuted” because your child can’t pray in the classroom, because you can’t proselytize in public forums, because you can’t post the Ten Commandments on the courthouse steps. You fail to recognize that if Muslims were permitted to post passages of the Qur’an in public places, you would be the first to complain. Why does your religion trump all others? Where is your adherence to being your brother’s keeper for its own sake, and not because your brother believes exactly as you do? I don’t remember Jesus saying, “Treat one another as you would be treated – except, of course, those who follow any faith other than faith in Me?”

Do you comprehend why I find your expressions of faith in Christ a tad less than genuine when you support politicians who decry food stamps, welfare benefits, and assistance to those in need as being a drain on your tax dollars? Do you ever stop to think that Jesus admonished His followers to care for the sick, the elderly and the down-and-out without regard to their politics, but only with regard to their obvious need?

I’ve heard you say that you are, as Christians, not welcome to voice your faith in the public square. I assure you that were you to act like Christians, with all of the obligations to your fellow men that Jesus encouraged you to dedicate yourselves to, few would be anxious to silence the discussion. Were you to actually follow His example and His teachings, few would be prone to dismiss what you have to say.

But the problem I face when listening to your tirades about persecution and dismissal from public discourse is that your focus on petty things like Xmas trees and the greeting of one’s neighbors with a heartfelt Happy Holidays! has become more important than the message of “Peace on Earth” that the Christ Child – according to your own faith – was born into this world to convey.

And so I urge you all to follow His example, to care for those in need in His name, to spend your time, your efforts, your money on caring for those He loved without regard to their religious beliefs, to place a gift for a poor child underneath the tree without regard to its being called a Christmas tree or otherwise, and to stop obsessing about those things that have no place in the heart of a true follower of Christ.

When you stop telling me what a good Christian you are, and start showing me what your Christianity has led to you to actually do, I promise to be most attentive to what you have accomplished for your fellow man. When you stop railing about those who have nothing being a drain on your tax dollars, I might start believing that you actually care about being your brother’s keeper, and have taken Jesus’ admonition to do so to heart. When you stop complaining about such trivial matters as Xmas cards and holiday greetings that include those of other religions, other beliefs, other ways of celebrating this time of year, I might start taking you seriously.

But as long as you prefer to do battle in this non-existent War on Christmas, I have no choice but to think you have missed the point of what The Nazarene came to teach, and instead have embraced the misguided rantings of those who would prefer to pit us one against the other, not for the sake of Keeping Christ in Christmas, but for the sake of ratings that escalate when a supposed battle between faiths is proffered as reality.

Peace on Earth to All Men of Good Will – and, as far as I’m concerned, may there be no peace to men of ill will, who encourage divisiveness by way of promoting pretend “wars” in Christ’s name, who seek to discourage understanding between those of differing faiths, and who choose to perpetrate the notion that Christianity is somehow under attack every time the words ”Happy Holidays to you and yours!” are exchanged between those of us who actually do wish our fellow men the best of the season, and refuse to allow our differing religious beliefs to preclude us from doing so.