Posts Tagged ‘Christian culture’

There’s a new surge to put “Christ back in Christmas” going around these days, headed up by James Dobson and Focus on the Family.  You can check them out at Stand for Christmas.  On this website you’ll see reviews and ratings of various retailers to help determine whether they are “Christmas Friendly,” “Christmas Negligent” or “Christmas Offensive.”  Have you ever walked into a store and hear “Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer” and bristled with righteous indignation?  Now’s your chance to let them hear it… by posting a comment on a website no one outside of a relatively small number of evangelical/fundamentalists will take seriously.  Yeah, that’ll show ’em.

I’m not even sure where to begin with this one.  Maybe the site’s subtitle: “Now Customers Have a Voice.”  Hmm, I thought customer’s always had a voice: their wallet.  You know, if you don’t want to shop at a store, you don’t have to.  Wow, that capitalism sure is crazy.

Or maybe we should talk about how this group has fallen into, what I deem to be, a problem of our culture at large.  That is, everyone is just so easily offended.  Really, you are offended because the 18-year-old working at American Eagle for the discount said “Happy Holidays” to you as you checked out?  Yeah, I really hate that jerk, too.

Being offended is a proud heritage in our culture.  In fact, it’s even #101 on the list of Stuff White People Like.  Maybe my skin is too thick, but I just can’t get offended that easily.  Christians, though, and evangelicals in particular, have a bit of a persecution complex.  In some cases, it’s legit.  But I’m not sure how someone not using the term “Christmas” is truly an offensive thing to me.  I’d be much more offended if the kid at American Eagle said, “hey, you might want to but those pants one size bigger… I mean, you’re not getting any younger and studies show that you’re much more likely to expand than shrink at your age, especially with the holiday (oops, I mean “Christmas”) season coming up.”

After all, why should I expect a non-Christian business (we’ll set aside the issue, for the moment, of whether or not a business can be “Christian” anyway) to celebrate the birth of the Savior they don’t believe in?  Tell me, does it honor God for someone who doesn’t even acknowledge him in thought or deed to say the word “Christmas?”  We’re talking about the same God who rejected the sacrifices (which were commanded by him, unlike this holiday) of his people because they didn’t honor him with their lives.

Now, I think it’s ridiculous that retailers can be skittish about saying “Merry Christmas,” too, but for the same reason I think it’s ridiculous that the Stand for Christmas website even exists: it succumbs to the easily offended culture.  Retailers are afraid that someone will be offended if they say “Merry Christmas” when they actually celebrate Hanukkah.  In my experience, most people are not offended by such a thing.  Before I was married, I used to frequent Quiznos.  There was a girl working there who I talked to every now and then when I was eating there.  One winter I wished her a Merry Christmas, only to have her tell me she celebrated Hanukkah.  So, I wished her a Happy Hanukkah.  Simple as that.  No offense given, none taken.

Forgive me if I’m upset that there are a group of Christians out there who have decided to fight fire with fire, or “being offended” with “being offended.”  If the non-Christian world thinks they can be offended, well we can be too!  I can’t believe this masquerades as a strategy to battle “censorship.”

There has to be a better way to stand for Christmas.  How about this: when you walk into a retailer, strike up a conversation with the workers there.  Ask them about their holiday plans.  See what holiday they celebrate and ask them why.  Tell them why Christmas is special to you.  Tell them about how God became man in order that we might know God.  Tell them about why the manger scene is so important- that God wasn’t born in a beautiful palace to a king with a royal court celebrating, but in a manger with farm animals present.  Talk to them about the angels’ appearance to the shepherds.  Tell them about those who waited in eager expectation for the Messiah to be born.   It seems to be that this is a much better way to put Christ back in Christmas.

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I’ve been ruminating some more on worship, inspired in part by Carson’s essay that I posted about earlier.  Specifically, I’ve been thinking some more about the popular use of the word “worship” to refer strictly to the act of singing praises to God, either corporately or in private.  While many, if not most, Christians will acknowledge that the word “worship” does not only mean singing, the truth is that in popular usage this is precisely what it means.  If I were to say “we had a great time of worship in small group this week,” it will be assumed I am referring to a time of singing.

If we are to be honest, I think the reason for such a restricted definition is convenience: 1) since it’s the popular meaning for the term it’s easier to continue doing it and 2) phrases like “worship through singing” or “worship through music” can become cumbersome.  Thus, it’s easier to speak of “worship” in terms of singing and music.  We throw out the token “but of course worship is more than singing” every now and then, but we probably don’t really mean it.  The simple fact is that when an evangelical says the word “worship” people think of singing, and not much more than that.

As I think about it some more, I think the danger of using “worship” in such narrow sense outweighs the convenience factor.  For one, you sacrifice biblical accuracy.  Truth be told, most Christians are not that concerned about this point, but why this is so would require more time.  Suffice to say, when we come across Romans 12:1, our definition of worship seems weak and small in scope:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God- this is true worship.  (TNIV)

In the Bible, worship takes into account one’s entire life lived for God.  The greatest commandment, according to Jesus, is to “love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”  God’s concern is for the life the Christian lives in its entirety, not the passion with which one sings on Sunday morning.

If one sings with gusto on Sunday morning but does not care for those in need or help build up the body of Christ or proclaim the gospel (and so on), this person is not worshipping.  In fact, this person is no better than those denounced by the prophets for offering their sacrifices while living in a manner that does not reflect God’s character (Hosea 6, Amos 4, Micah 6, and many other places).  The call to worship God is the call to worship Him with your whole life, including but not limited to the time of singing.  Yet we continue to mislead people into thinking they are worshippers because of their act of singing on Sunday mornings.  Singing with passion and fervor is good, and God is worthy of it, but it does not tell the whole story of worship.

Here is where the real danger of the restricted definition of “worship” lies: it is deceptive.  We determine the power and whole-heartedness of one’s worship by the manner in which they sing.  By narrowing the meaning of “worship” we have given people the power to deceive themselves and others into thinking they are truly worshipping God, when in reality they may be doing nothing more than singing with passion.  God is not deceived, nor is He impressed with powerful singing when it is not accompanied by a life lived in the attitude of true worship.

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