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FIRST-PERSON: Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas?

OKLAHOMA CITY (BP)–Perhaps the clash of worldviews is never as evident as it is during the Christmas season.

This year is especially interesting because of the rumored and actual internal memos flying around within corporations and government entities. The memos are released to educate employees on proper customer service etiquette. Seems now the proper politically correct, corporate-correct and postal-correct thing to say is, “Happy Holidays.” After all, we wouldn’t want to offend.

My response to this is, “I am offended.” So join me shouting from the rooftops, the corporate boardrooms and the halls of government, “I (John Q. Citizen) am offended with every attempt to marginalize the real reason for the season, Jesus Christ.” If someone is offended because of our nation’s Judeo-Christian heritage and the fact that as a nation we structured our holidays (including Sundays) based on significant Christian events, then I want the world to know that I am equally offended by the notion that we must change our ways to accommodate those who are not satisfied with our nation’s history.

Does this mean that I am intolerant of other views? If one uses the word “tolerant” in the classical sense, nothing could be further from the truth. However, the current view of tolerance has become redefined by those who find evangelical Christianity to be anathema to their cultural agenda.

Tolerance now means the acceptance and equalization of every lifestyle philosophy, except for evangelical Christianity. Our nation’s more “progressive, left-leaning” citizens are convinced that anyone who is proud of being a follower of the Lord Jesus –- and public about it –- is nothing more than a religious extremist, social conservative or hate-monger. At least that is a short list of names they call us now.

History records that past civilizations, the ones that collapsed under the weight of their moral deviancy, called us “Christians.” Some of these more enlightened individuals surmise that America’s evangelical community has some peculiar desire to establish an Old Testament theocracy with Jerry Falwell as the preeminent leader. Consequently, they believe they are on a mandate to crush any and all public expressions of Christian faith.

Such thinking is laughable and borders on the absurd. Yet, this kind of thinking is articulated in the major news periodicals and media outlets. For example, in a TIME magazine, Dec. 6, 2004, article, Michelle Cottle editorializes, “With all due respect to conservatives’ electoral achievements, the cultural changes that helped drive them to the polls this year — most notably stem-cell research and gay marriage — are still barreling down the pike like souped-up Hummers…. Every time they [conservatives] go to the movies or turn on the television or open their child’s school books they are reminded that traditional values ain’t what they used to be…. Truth be told, most of the time liberals don’t bother to think about social conservatives at all. Except at election time, when they suddenly become aware of them as some frightening, incomprehensible menace to their otherwise comfortable progressive society…. [I]t is only fair that conservatives have their moment in the sun. They may have won the battle, but their prospects for the broader culture war remain dim.”

Cottle’s editorial serves as a sobering reminder to evangelicals that elections do not change the heart of a culture. Just because believers stated their offense to certain behaviors at the polls does not mean the culture war is over and some kind of cultural revival has begun in the land. There is no movement among the leaves in the top of the trees that suggest the winds of spiritual renewal are soon to sweep the land because of a political election.

If we want to genuinely evaluate whether cultural spiritual reformation is on the move in the land, check out the altars in our churches. Are there tear stains on the altar because myriads of believers are seeking genuine repentance and renewed humility? Is there a brokenness over our personal and collective iniquity? Is there a renewed passion for holy living in our thinking?

When I hear an employee or company representative say, “Happy Holidays,” I want to ask, “Why do you say that?” Regrettably, my problem is I’m in a hurry. I only think about the question instead of asking and listening to their response. My rationalization suggests that they don’t have a reason other than they were coached to do so by the “management.” I think one reason some say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” is because we have miserably failed to train people in our churches with the basics of a Christian worldview. Studies show that only 9 percent of born-again adolescents believe in absolute truth. Without a life foundation based on the truth of a personal relationship with Christ and God’s Word, how can our students (or adults for that matter) stand as soldiers of the cross against the hoards proliferating the foolish notion of secularization?

Instead of walking away with my rationalizations, perhaps slowing down and engaging the “Happy Holiday” people with the Good News of God’s greatest gift to mankind would be a much wiser choice.
John Yeats is editor of the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger and recording secretary of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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  • John Yeats