The Real War on Christmas

Cover of "What Would Jesus Buy?"
Cover of What Would Jesus Buy?

I just got home from spending 24 hours in the hospital with breathing issues.  This all happened like 2 days before Christmas.  If you’ve got 3 kids, you can probably emphasize with the sort-of chaos that ensued from this.

Also, I’ve been watching the rather brilliant, “What would Jesus buy” a documentary(ish) film that follows the exploits of a guy who seems to be masquerading as a charismatic born again Christian.  He’s gathered a gospel choir and is spreading a message against the orgy of greed that the holidays have become.  It’s sort of like “The Apostle” meets “Super Size Me.”

Finally, I have just had this feeling, these last couple Christmases.  Something has just gone wrong.  We are lost, dazed, and confused.   The ultimate symbol of all this: We Christians are fighting over whether Jesus’ name is mentioned in the holiday, but we don’t seem to give a crap if the actual content of our holidays honor him.

So maybe that’s my reaction to all this: I’m only going to say ‘Happy Holidays’.   For get about other people putting the Christ in Christmas.   I know that if he were around today, he’d tell me that I first ought to put the Christ back in Christmas.  And so I’m not going to say “Merry Christmas” until I feel like I’ve earned the right to say this.

The principles I’m going to work on discussing, internalizing, sharing, and acting on, for the next year, are these:

#1) Christmas has become a time for us to glorify greed and materialism.  It’s not enough that we say, “It’s for the kids” and then give them all kinds of material stuff they don’t need.  We need to balance the giving of gifts with teaching kids about the value of living simply.

#2) Christmas is becoming more and more about the anxiety of getting everything down, the status of buying the right gifts, the despair created between the disconnect between our Christmas realities and Christmas fantasies… In short, we have become lemmings.  We have accepted a defective, unbalanced, unrealistic  set of beliefs about what December should be like.  This vision didn’t come from a prophet, leader, or wise men.  It came from CEO’s and the blind capitalistic market itself.

#3) Though Christ’s birth was proclaimed by good shephards, as a society our Christmases have been characterized by us acting as the worst kind of shephard.  We have become poor shephards of finance as we spend more than we have; we have become poor shepards of the environment as we fill more landfills with packaging and wrapping and squander natural resources by lighting our tacky displays; we have been poor shephards of our children as we teach them all the wrong things by giving them the things they think need but robbing them of the lessons they require. 

#4) Christmas’s darkest perversions of values have spread through out the year.  The very best that Christmas has to offer us gets an increasinly shrinking portion of our time, energy, effort, and consciousness.  We all groan together when the sales, decoration, and music start a week earlier than last year.  We should be equally passionate about the idea that love, peace, and goodwill gets an even shorter lifespan each year than it did the last.

More later.  I’m shooting for 12 (for reasons I’ll explain later.)  What do you think are some principles we ought to fight against that Christmas is coming to stand for?


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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