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CULTURE DIGEST: Use of the word ‘Christmas’ scrutinized again

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–As another Christmas season rolls around, so does the debate over whether to mention the word “Christmas” or opt for the generic “holiday” in retail sales and public events.

The Home Depot has notified the American Family Association that they will give Christmas a more prominent place in their promotions by including the word in advertising, store banners and displays near items such as Christmas trees.

“We also use the word ‘holiday’ in our outreach to customers, as many of our store displays and other marketing efforts cover more than one holiday from Thanksgiving to New Year’s and stay in place throughout the entire holiday season from November through January,” Home Depot spokesman Ron DeFeo wrote in a statement to AFA.

On Long Island, N.Y., the renowned Grucci fireworks company has pulled out of a local boat parade because “Christmas” was dropped from the event’s name. Grucci, which is famous for providing fireworks displays at major national celebrations, is based in Brookhaven, not far from Patchogue, home of the Patchogue Holiday Boat Parade.

Last year, the event featuring decorated yachts was called the Patchogue Christmas Boat Parade, and Grucci donated $5,000 worth of fireworks, the Associated Press said. Local officials say the Christian holiday was dropped from the name this year after complaints that it seemed to make the parade less inclusive. So this year, the parade will lack “Christmas” as well as fireworks.

As a method of navigating the politically correct waters surrounding Dec. 25, the American Family Association is sponsoring Project Merry Christmas, an effort aimed at getting people to loosen up and say “Merry Christmas.”

“Christians can take a stand and proclaim to our communities that Christmas is not just a winter holiday focused on materialism but a ‘holy day’ when we celebrate the birth of our Savior,” AFA said in a news release. “We can do it in a gentle and effective way by wearing the ‘It’s OK to say Merry Christmas’ button.”

AFA is offering the buttons as well as glossy stickers for purchase at afa.net, and they’re encouraging people to wear them throughout the Christmas season.

“Some might think simply wearing a button or displaying a glossy sticker is a small thing, but God can use small things to make a big point and to create opportunities to share the Good News,” AFA said.

‘THE GREEN BIBLE’ PROMOTES ENVIRONMENTALISM — A new version of the Bible is printed on eco-friendly recycled paper with a biodegradable linen cover and soy-based ink in an effort to promote environmentalism among Christians.

“The Green Bible,” released in October, highlights more than 1,000 passages on the goodness of creation and God’s charge to mankind to care for it, according to a report in USA Today. Each of those passages is in green ink, sort of like the words of Jesus in red letter editions.

“The first chapter of Genesis is grass green; so are big chunks of Psalms and Gospel passages in which Jesus considers the lilies of the field and keeps his eye on the sparrow,” Cathy Lynn Grossman wrote for USA Today.

Published by HarperOne in the New Revised Standard Version, The Green Bible features essays by conservationists and theologians where other Bibles would feature study notes. Among the contributors are Brian McLaren, Pope John Paul II and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who wrote the foreword.

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said on a recent edition of his radio program that the use of such things as soy-based ink “just looks like feel-goodism” and that many verses highlighted in green in the book actually have nothing to do with caring for nature, according to The Courier-Journal newspaper in Louisville, Ky.

RETIRED METHODIST BISHOPS ORDAIN HOMOSEXUAL — Two retired United Methodist bishops ordained a homosexual woman and a woman who supports the homosexual agenda as ministers within a dissident group in October.

“United Methodists have debated for 35 years and have continuously affirmed Christianity’s ancient and universal affirmation of marriage,” Mark Tooley, director of the Institute on Religion and Democracy’s UMAction, said. “But liberal bishops, who have presided over declining churches, still aspire for United Methodism to follow the Episcopal Church and United Church of Christ into the vortex of even faster membership decline and cultural irrelevance.

“Vibrant United Methodism that is theologically orthodox continues to grow around the world,” Tooley added in a news release. “But sadly, in America, some clueless bishops prefer the siren call of conformity to America’s hedonistic and secular culture. God have mercy! By violating the church’s teachings, these bishops have violated their vows of ordination and consecrations.”

Annie Britton and Jenna Zirbel were ordained in a Baltimore, Md., ceremony organized by the Church Within a Church Movement led by a homosexual Methodist minister who serves a United Church of Christ congregation in California. Britton married another woman in a Massachusetts ceremony, and Zirbel has expressed “full support of gay rights,” according to The Baltimore Sun.

The United Methodist Church welcomes homosexuals as members but regards the practice of homosexuality as “incompatible with Christian teaching” and bars “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” from becoming ministers, The Sun noted. The ordination of the two women was the first action of its kind by dissenters hoping to change the church’s policy toward homosexuals, the newspaper said.

Sympathetic United Church of Christ, Lutheran and Presbyterian clergy from across the country attended the ceremony at Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church, The Sun said, and Bishop John Schol, head of the church’s Baltimore Washington Conference, apparently did not object.

Though neither woman will be eligible to lead Methodist churches despite their ordination, they may choose to serve in other denominations such as the homosexual-affirming United Church of Christ, the newspaper said.

‘POSSIBILITY THINKING’ PROVES FLAWED — In a commentary Oct. 28, R. Albert Mohler Jr. noted the tragic irony surrounding the falling out between the Crystal Cathedral’s Robert H. Schuller and his son Robert A. Schuller, which has led to the son’s removal as host of the “Hour of Power” television ministry.

“In 1982 the elder Schuller published a ministry manifesto known as ‘Self-Esteem: The New Reformation,'” Mohler wrote at albertmohler.com. “In that book, mailed free to thousands of pastors, Schuller argued that the evangelical church had lost sight of the true message of the Gospel — a message of self-esteem. He castigated expository biblical preaching and called for a therapeutic gospel.

“… The main thrust of the book was a call for a ‘new Reformation’ that would replace the Gospel as preached by the churches with a new message of self-esteem to be preached by ‘missions’ for God. Along the way, Schuller redefined both sin and salvation, abandoning biblical definitions for those he found in positive thinking, modern secular psychology, and the New Thought tradition.”

A conflict arose when the younger Schuller, who had been groomed to take over his father’s ministry, began citing the Bible in his preaching “with the direct implication and instruction that we are to learn from it,” Mohler said. Such preaching apparently crossed a line that led to Robert A. Schuller’s demotion.

“Any conflict between a father and son is tragic,” Mohler wrote. “A public conflict is all the more tragic and painful. The congregation at the Crystal Cathedral must have felt the pain. Any father or son reading the reports feels the pain. What about the younger Schuller’s self-esteem? The gospel of self-esteem is a false gospel that, like every other false gospel, breaks down under pressure.

“That’s why we so desperately need the real Gospel — the Gospel of Christ. This is also why we need the church. Possibility thinking obviously has its limits.”
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.

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