Are Christians taking Christ out of Christmas?

By Heather Abraham

“Christmas Under Siege”, “War on Christmas”, “Defend Christmas“, “Stealing Christmas”, and Somewhere Jesus is Weeping“, are just some of the provocative catch phrases that rear their ugly heads in the weeks leading up to the annual Christmas holiday season.  

For some, Bill O’Reilly, the late Jerry Falwell, and Sean Hannity to name a few, the use of terms such as Seasons Greetings or Happy Holidays are seen as an attempt to censor the religious aspects of the most celebrated of American holidays.  The annual first amendment battles involving government entities (public schools, capitals, courthouses…) displaying nativity scenes, are often described as dangerous liberal conspiracies hostile to the majority Christian population.  

In the last decade, mega retailers such as Walmart, Gap, Target, Sears, Home Depot, and Best Buy have come under attack by Christian organizations offended that these corporate giants prefer to use inclusive holiday language in their advertisements.  Others have organized boycotts of retailers who have had the audacity to recognize non-Christian holidays such as Kwanzaa or Hanukkah.  

In an attempt to counterattack these imaginary conspirators, the faith-based group Liberty Counsel continues their ten-year campaign against retailers who dare to use outrageously anti-Christian phrasing in their commercials and ads.  The wicked usage, by some retailers, of Happy Holidays and Seasons Greetings has inspired the creation of a “Naughty and Nice” list and campaign organized by Liberty Counsel for those who are “Friends of Christmas.”  

We are continuing our eighth annual “Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign,” pledging to be a “Friend” to those entities that recognize Christmas and a “Foe” to the Christmas censors.  We have just released an updated “Naughty and Nice” list, which catalogs retailers who either censor (“naughty”) or recognize (“nice”) Christmas. The list is compiled from information gathered by consumers and is updated whenever new information is received. Please print out the list and use it to decide which stores to patronize during the Christmas shopping season.  The list has been very influential in motivating retailers to acknowledge Christmas. So far this year, Best Buy has embraced Christmas and switched to the nice list, and Dick’s Sporting Goods has promised to change and include Christmas in their advertising. Liberty Counsel was the first organization to launch the “Naughty and Nice” list a number of years ago and since then other organizations have promoted similar programs.  We encourage you to report the naughty and the nice stores by sending an email to Liberty@LC.org and we also encourage shoppers to compliment the nice stores and tell the naughty ones that you will shop elsewhere.

Thankfully, this “you’re either with us or against us” attitude is not universally embraced by American Christians.  In an article entitled Rethinking Naughty and NiceTim Hoiland (a self- identified Christian) argues that the Liberty Counsel campaign “is a distraction at best, and destructive at worst.”  For Hoiland, the “Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign” is 

a distraction in that the real threat to Christmas is not that secular entities and non-Christian individuals prefer to use other, more inclusive terms for a season that does in fact include various holidays (Christian and otherwise), but that Christians have often and in many ways failed to embody the true meaning and the message of the season.

And, Hoiland insists, “it serves to further cement us in cycles of consumerism, which leads to all sorts of injustice.”        

As Christian groups continue to disagree on the “War on Christmas” issue, a survey by LifeWay Research, a Christian organization, may shed some light on this manufactured crisis that continues to capture so many headlines.  As reported in the USA Today article, For Many, Jesus isn’t the Reason for the Season, 74% of those polled ‘”told LifeWay many of the things they enjoy this season “have nothing to do with the birth of Jesus,”‘ and only 37% reported including Jesus in their Christmas celebrations.  

LifeWay’s survey is illuminating when you take into consideration the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS)  which reported that 76% of Americans self identify as Christian.  In other words, out of the more than 173,000,000 Christians in America (ARIS), only 37% (LifeWay) include Jesus in their Christmas festivities.  In 2005, Jerry Falwell claimed “secularists” “hate Christ” and want to “steal Christmas from America,” and yet the ARIS and LifeWay surveys reveal a story about the “War on Christmas” much different than the narrative told by Liberty Counsel and America’s shock jocks.  It seems to me that IF there is a threat to Christmas, it may be an intimate one.

Filed Under: American ReligionChristianityFeaturedHeather AbrahamViews, News, & Issues

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  1. Scott F says:

    This War-To-Save-Merry-Christmas is just another example of the American Christian Conservative practice of focusing on the behavior of others rather than themselves.

    When OTHER people don’t say Merry Christmas it is a crisis. When OTHER people participate in same-sex unions it is a crisis. When OTHER people have abortions it is a crisis.

    Conveniently such behaviors are things that the ChristCon is either in no danger whatsoever of doing in his or her lifetime or that he or she can safely deny without risk of being found out. Missing is whether Christians are visiting those in prison or welcoming the homeless into their congregations.

  2. Keny Smith says:

    I like this piece for a variety of reasons, though most of all because it’s got me thinking in ways different than when I first sat down to read it. For instance – this piece prompts me to ask – if large percentages of folks here in America engage in Christmas activities having little to do with theological doctrine, scripture reading, sermons, church attendance, and so forth, what are they doing and what do such activities mean to them? It would not at all surprise me if they centered around having a few more days off from work, enjoying big meals, gift-giving, hanging out with friends and family, watching TV and going to the theatre to see “The Hobbit,” laughing and basically having fun. It would also hardly suprise me if such things “functioned religiously” for many contemporary Americans, and even more so than “churchiness,” and thank god.