Thursday, December 15, 2011
Christmas is a time for repeating traditions--including, now, the "Stop the War against Christmas" meme and the pushbacks against it (the "Fox News is all wrong" meme). In the latter vein, Jim Wallis of Sojourners writes this year:
Jesus later calls on his disciples to turn the other cheek, practice humility, walk the extra mile, put away their swords, love their neighbors — and even their enemies — and says that in his kingdom, it is the peacemakers who will be called the children of God. Christ will end our warring ways, bringing reconciliation to God and to one another.
None of that has anything to do with the Fox News Christmas. In fact, quite the opposite.
Making sure that shopping malls and stores greet their customers with “Merry Christmas” is entirely irrelevant to the meaning of the Incarnation. In reality it is the consumer frenzy of Christmas shopping that is the real affront and threat to the season.
Much of this seems quite right (and I think a lot of conservative Christian Fox-watchers would share concerns about commercialism, even if the media they watch promote it). But there's one valid point to the "Stop the War against Christmas" campaign that I think Jim should explicitly acknowledge. In the spirit of traditions, I'll reprint an excerpt from my own post on this four Decembers ago:
I'm basically sympathetic to [Wallis's] kind of critique. Isn't it true that many of the "keep America Christian" efforts seem to be motivated more by the idea of retaining (cultural) power than the idea of pursuing Christ-like servanthood?
But there's a big potential pitfall in this criticism too. The culture warriors may often overlook servanthood, but they are right to oppose secularism -- and the social-justice Christians need that opposition to secularism in order for there to be public space for their own critique. If it's improper to bring up Jesus's name in pluralistic public settings (including department stores), then you can't proclaim, "Jesus came to bring good news to the poor and oppressed," in those settings. The social-justice types need to give one cheer, maybe two, for the culture warriors.