JIM CREES: Bursting forth with joy

I should just let it go, but I won’t do so.

As long as folks continue to accuse me of being part of, promoting, or even leading some mythical “War on Christmas,” I guess I simply need to keep responding in kind.

Thankfully, it’s not just “bleeding heart liberal media” leeches like myself who are publicly recognizing that the persecution enthusiasts are going, or have already gone too far.

Evangelical Christian leaders are encouraging their flocks to back away from the “...they’re stealing Christmas ...” silliness.

Back far, far away. The effort is counter-productive to the mission of evangelism, and not very Christian-like. (Certainly not very Christ-like!)

So, what are some evangelicals saying.

NOT ME. Them.

“When did the hysteria over the “War on Christmas” finally go too far? Was it when Sarah Palin wrote an entire book about it?” writes Don Boyd, of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty - a group dedicated to the historic Baptist principle of religious freedom.

“I’m not sure, but many from all political angles are agreeing that one’s religious liberty isn’t at stake just because a store greeter respectfully wishes “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”

“Likewise, a holiday display at the county courthouse that lacks a nativity scene isn’t designed to restrict or belittle Christianity.”

Boyd isn’t alone in his concern that Christian fanatics have highjacked both the Christmas holiday, and the concept of persecution.

In the December issue of Homelife magazine, Daniel Darling, vice president of communications for the Nashville-based Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, urged Christians to be joyful instead of judgmental this season.

“We advise people that, rather than trying to force a weary retail worker to say “Merry Christmas” against company policy, how about we be the bearers of joy?” he wrote.

“If we really believe Christ is the reason for the season, we shouldn’t force people to say it. It should be evident in our lives.”

In an earlier blog on his own site Darling suggests:

“Nobody is taking Christmas away ...No signs bearing “Happy Holidays” can erase our joy.

“Our joy doesn’t come from someone’s forced expression of a faith they don’t understand, but from the knowledge that “...unto us is a born a child, a Son is given.”

In an article he penned a while back entitled “Replacing War with Joy on Christmas” Darling noted:

“Around this time every year, some Christians get heated about the “War on Christmas.” Political organizations churn out sharply worded press releases about a perceived attempt by the left to strip Christ out of Christmas. Bill O’Reilly will highlight one story every night, something like the town council in Podunk, USA that removed a cross from a water tower.

“The Drudge Report will take the most obscure case of Christmas secularizing and highlight as if its a dangerous national epidemic.

“And of course, the American Family Association will create its “Naughty and Nice” list of retailers who don’t explicitly mention the story of Christmas in their promotions, forgetting the irony of using Santa Claus to beat up retailers who don’t articulate the mystery of the Incarnation with their 40 percent off sweater sales ...

“I think most of the outrage expressed by Christians is misguided at best and manufactured at worst. Especially when Christians in places like Sudan and China are beaten, separated from their families, and often killed for expressing the name of Christ.

“Still, we cry foul because the tired and overworked greeter at Target doesn’t say “Merry Christmas”?

“Honestly!!??!!”

Then Darling makes “The Point.”

“I think this outrage is manufactured in that it gives activist organizations a bit of relevance during a time of year when most of the world shifts their eyes away from partisan politics,” he writes.

“It preys on fear, fear that somehow our traditions and all that we hold dear is being snatched away. It’s a crass way to inject politics into every area of life, as if everything is explained by the bogeymen of left and right. Frankly, I think it’s a great fundraising tool. Help us stop the War on Christmas, contribute $5, $10, $25 dollars to this urgent cause!”

Then he gets down to the brass tacks:

“I wonder if force is the best way to advance the real meaning of this holiday? Is a stern rebuke to the cashier the best presentation of God in the flesh?

“Jesus himself said that the Kingdom wouldn’t advance by force. He didn’t come so that his followers could pursue power, so that Christianity would be the dominant, powerful force in society. So that everyone would like us and affirm our holiday.

“The story of Christmas is about gospel joy ...It’s not a persistent whining about the end of civilization ...

“Imagine what the culture would look like if every Christian stopped complaining about war on their holiday, stopped whining about commercialism and stress, and bursted forth with joy?

“Maybe, just maybe, the tired retail workers at the checkout line would say “Merry Christmas,” not because cranky Christians demanded it, but because the joy of our hearts at this season so overflowed that the gospel spilled over.”

Wow! Chew on that a while.