A day or two ago, I came across a brief but trenchant blog post by friend and fellow author Rachel Held Evans. The title of the post, Are You Being Persecuted?, was catchy enough, but what really caught my attention and perked my interest was the graphic that accompanied it: a logic flow chart outlining the steps in answering the eponymous question of the title, as it applied to the greeting, “Happy Holidays.” It was quite a cheeky little chart (I like cheeky), and it challenged me to some cheekiness of my own (see my amended flowchart below).
It is, after all, THAT TIME OF YEAR, when certain folk, who often apply to themselves descriptions like “Christian,” “orthodox,” “traditionalist,” and “conservative,” bring forth conspiracy theories about “Wars on Christmas,” and other plots by those they label “politically correct,” “bleeding-heart liberals,” “secular humanists,” or simply “them.”
The logic of the Christmas Warriors seems to go something like this: I used to have the right to say “Merry Christmas” to anybody without having to any thought to their religious preferences (or lack thereof). And I never had to hear any religious greetings or see any celebrations that might be different than my own. Now not only am I “forced” to consider “their” religious preferences before offering a greeting, but I am forced to see “their” celebrations and hear “their” greetings. These people are taking away my “right” to say whatever I want and my “right” to ignore anything that might make me uncomfortable. Therefore, I am being persecuted.
Growing up Jewish, I’ve never had much sympathy for this kind of thinking. When I was growing up, it always seemed like, if anything, Christmas was at war with every other non-Christian Holy Day (that is the origin of the word “holiday,” after all) that stood in the way of the broad swath that it cut through the month of December. Heck, my uncle Herb used to tell me that every once in a while he’d hear a so-called “Christian” announce that he was going to beat up a Jewish kid as a Christmas present for Jesus. And though that particular activity was much more popular on Good Friday, my uncle used to say, on the plus side, coping with Christmas and Easter did teach my uncle how to fight.
Of course, nowadays, as a Christian clergy person, I find myself a bit embarrassed by the fact that this commercial juggernaut that happens to carry the name of my Lord, Savior, Brother, and Friend has already eaten up thanksgiving and is slowly maneuvering to plan its ultimate attack on Labor Day.
This so-called War on Christmas is what my kids would call a “first world problem.” We’ve grown so spoiled, so used to the gluttonous orgy of conspicuous consumption in which we partake, so accustomed to our power and privilege we are born into, that we never learn the meaning of enough, and that returning to something close to “normal” seems to us like prison-camp deprivation.
As we celebrate the end of the Churches liturgical year this Sunday with the feast of Christ the King, it would behoove many of us to realize just how paradoxical that title is: one that Jesus himself probably would have rejected. A king that turned away from prominence, prestige, and power. A king who was a servant to his subjects. A king who would ultimately and with flagrant generosity willingly give away his life away to bring the entire world into God’s embrace.