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The Heresy of “Keeping Christ In Christmas”

I am from a small town.

One small town in fact, Piedmont, Alabama.

It is a beautiful little place nestled in the foothills of Appalachia.  It has some of the most gorgeous mountains in the fall and some of the best football in the state.  I spent the first 18 years of my life there and am grateful for so many things from that tiny town.

Piedmont is also a troubled place.

Recently an organization from Wisconsin called Freedom From Religion Foundation wrote a letter to the city of Piedmont demanding that they immediately cease prayers over the intercom at their football games.  The organization threatened legal action against the city and the school system if they did not comply. This tiny town, which has only really been in the national news for tornadoes and marijuana dealers, was now thrust into the spotlight.  The board complied and they, like many other schools, now observe a moment of silence before each home game.

That is not the end of the story. Yesterday, Piedmont once again was in the national spotlight.  Fox News did a story on our little town and its newest religious debacle. Piedmont and its leadership, many of whom I know and respect deeply (especially the mayor, whom I have known since I was a child) decided to make the theme of their Christmas parade “Keep Christ in Christmas.”  This was no doubt in reaction to the recent decision to change the format of the prayer at the football games.  So, as I am sure everyone expected, the group from Wisconsin issued another complaint and the city once again had to back off of their stance.

Here is the problem: The very fact that people feel that it is their duty to mandate Christ in Christmas is, in and of itself, an act of heresy.

I know many very well-intentioned people believe that they are fighting the good fight and are experiencing religious persecution, but that is simply a wrong way of thinking.

If you are a Christian in America, you have to stop pulling the persecution card.

It is not persecution just because you do not get everything you want or because you can not do whatever you please.

The fact of the matter is that every person in that stadium on Friday night can pray all they want to, through the whole game in fact, you just cannot mandate that everyone has to do it or be subjected to it by a federally funded entity.

The fact of the matter is that Individuals who pay entry fees to a parade can adorn their floats with Christmas themes, you just cannot mandate, from a municipality level, that the whole parade has to be religious.  There are kids who will march in the band for the parade who do not believe in Jesus, and that is ok because we live in America.  There are people who will line the streets, excited to see a small town at it’s finest, who have no religious affiliation and should not be subjected to a religious event that is funded in some part by their tax dollars. That is their right because we live in America.

I have grown so weary of the widely used phrase “well if they don’t like it they can leave” when the religious right do not get their way.  That phrase will be an epitaph on the graves of our freedom if we are not careful.  City, state and federal governments do not exist to represent and protect only those who are the most vocal, organized or even in the majority.  One of the things that, in theory, should make this country great is that those entities exist just as much for the weak as they do for the powerful, just as much for the minority as the majority and just as much for the atheist, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Jew and non-religious as it should for the Christian.

When we throw around irresponsible knives like “if they do not like then they can leave” it is at best un-American, and at worst un-Christian.

Christianity, as defined by the life and teachings of Jesus, never depended or insisted on being the majority, in power or even influential.  It was a religion that lauded the weak, meek and the poor.  Jesus came preaching a gospel that defaulted on the need for religion to have power and influence.  He told us that the last shall be first and the first shall be last.  When Peter picked up a sword and was ready to take Jerusalem, Jesus quickly told him to put it down because that is not the kind of gospel he was bringing.

I would rather we be a country whose Christians were forced to meet and pray in dark secluded caverns as a persecuted minority than one whose faith was mandated and proclaimed and sustained from Capitol Hill.  At least that would be Biblical.

Finally, at the core of the problem is that any time people of faith chant slogans or mandate parade themes like “keeping Christ in Christmas” or “Put Christ back in Christmas” we prove ourselves people of little faith.  When these are our battle cries we reduce the presence and power of God to only be where a government or law allows God.  When we do this we deny that God was there before us, is there with us now and will be there long after we are gone.  When we try to force God on others we reincarnate some of the worst epochs of our religious history, and default on its core founding principles of Love, Grace and Hospitality.  When we assume these seats of power and belligerently insist that we take priority and our voice is the only that matters we are not representing the man who called for humility, peacemaking. meekness and self sacrifice.  What we do is become pawns in larger economic and political narratives, not the narrative of Christ as found in the Bible.  We do not serve the one we call the Prince of Peace, we serve corporate America, politicians who use religion for their platforms and men and women who ride the coat tails of Jesus straight to power.

As a person of faith, you do not have to keep Christ in Christmas, he is already there.  He is there with the lonely, the depressed, the joyful and the confused.  He is there with the widow and the orphan, with you, with me and with the atheist.  As people of faith it is in these places, fueled by grace love and hospitality, we can, not bring Christ back to Christmas, but join with him in the work he is already doing, and sometimes work he is already doing in spite of the best intentions of his people.

231 comments On The Heresy of “Keeping Christ In Christmas”

  • Thanks for shining a new light on the situation, Stephen. May we each have the wisdom to do what Jesus would want us to do in every situation.

  • Glad to have found this. It would make a great teaching tool at PHS.

  • Wow! What a well written and thought out piece. If only everyone could be so open minded–but I’m not holding my breath. Too bad the people of Piedmont aren’t as Christian and accepting as you.

    • Hey, I will tell you that a large number of folks from my hometown have emailed, texted and messaged me thanking me for this. It is interesting how many people will just not say anything in these situations just because it is often more trouble than it is worth. Loads of great people in Piedmont 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

  • I live in equally blue Texas, and as a bluegrass musician, run in very conservative Christian circles. I have always thought that this whole “war on Christmas” thing was pretty much a straw dog. I personally have never had anyone rebuke me for saying “Merry Christmas” and I doubt these people have, either, at least to the degree that they are incensed by the notion. This holiday is so much more than just an anniversary of the birth of Christ (who almost certainly wasn’t born anywere near December.) All the while these guys are pledging to put Jesus back in Christmas, they’re putting up pagan symbols of the persistence of life through the winter with their holly wreaths and evergreens, and telling their kids all about Santa Claus. Chrisitans can do so much more good through peaceful actions and showing love for one another, but we’re in a crisis here, as Islamic centers and mosques go up throughout the suburban Dallas area. At least these folks see it is a crisis. Meanwhile, early religious scholars who travelled through the East when first encountering Islam thought it was a branch of Christianity, it so closely resembled their saints and prophets.

    • it’s very rare to be rebuked by saying Merry Christmas to some one…usually it is some organization like the aclu or freedom from religion group “claiming” to represent “silent suffering masses of offended citizens” …which somehow never seem to appear in any number to public protest about what they are so offended by. if you believe these organizations there are at least 200 million citizens offended by anything with christian.

      • Karl,

        As a non-Christian who, like Stephen Ingram, lives in Alabama, I’m never offended when a Christian says “Merry Christmas” to me, because I understand that Christmas is an important holiday in the Christian calendar, and that it is celebrated at this time of year. Unfortunately, I’ve run into any number of Christians who were offended when I offered a “Happy Holdays” in return. Evidently in their minds I’m only allowed to not be a Christian if I am willing to act like I am a Christian in public.

        That’s not exactly what I understand by “freedom of religion” and “respect for the beliefs of others.” Evidently in the minds of many Christians, only they are deserving of such things.

        • Agreed Blake thanks for contributing to the conversation.

        • I am sorry that happened to you Blake. I am a Christian and I do say Merry Christmas. If you want to offer a Happy Holiday I say “thank you so much.” Sure we wish everyone was a Christian but we should not rebuke those who are not. We are told to LOVE them. So a Merry Christmas to you Blake and may I offer you a Happy New Year to you and yours.

        • And the sheer irony is that “Happy Holidays” means “Happy Holy-days”… Christians who are offended by being wished “happy holy days” are… telling you what? That Christ-mass is not Holy? (It’s of Catholic origin, after all…). Makes me shake my head… I wish the churches would educate their people as to the origins of the word “holidays” and also (while they’re at it) the origins of the “X” in “Xmas”. (It was Christian shorthand, used especially in bibles when it saved money on lead type).

          And, as someone who works in retail, I am very tired of being lectured every year by Christians that somehow nobody elses’ holy-days are worthy of respect.(“Jesus is the reason for the season” is catchy… but totally inaccurate. Christmass is a takeover of a pagan celebration, and doesn’t even have the connotation of Hannukah, which is the purification of the temple). Every year, I get a lecture from someone about how “satanic” or unworthy other holy-days are… from people who don’t even know the meaning (or history) of those holy-days or even the history of their own holy-day. The church could fix this with education… but it doesn’t.

          Across my facebook every year, I get a continual march of “Wish me Merry Christ-mass”…. with no underlying tradeoff that they will investigate to see which holy-day I celebrate and wish me good things for that celebration. It comes across as whiney and petulant. What happened to being “servant of all” , rather than being know-towed to?

          As you can see, this has become a real point of irritation for me.

          • Thank you, Steven & Denise for this. I learned something new. I’m Catholic, I love Christmas for the birth of Jesus, Santa Claus, family/church celebrations and of course the presents. I never care how people great me… Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas… as long as they wish me well as I wish them. What always irked me was the written xmas. I always thought it was a form of laziness or disrespect not to write out the whole word, not knowing it was an acceptable thing to do. I apologize to all those who are much more knowledgeable of Christianity than I. Thanks again.

          • Denise, I did not know the origins of Happy Holidays. Thanks for the information. I’m with you, I respect all others holy-days and share your irritation with those who make all sorts of negative comments about other’s faith.l

          • The “X” is the Greek letter “chi”, the initial letter for the word ‘Christos”, which means Christ, and which has accordingly been used as a shorthand symbol for Christ for about two thousand years. Those who call for people to not use it are simply showing their ignorance

        • Why not just respond politely to people in the same phrase they used to you? They may not be trying to be political or strident or self-righteous.

          • Because if I, as a non-Christian, respond with “merry Christmas”, I’m doing it out of peer pressure & social obligation. If I go around wishing everyone a “goddess-blessed solstice”, should I really expect people to respond in kind, even if that means they’re offering lip service to “false gods” or pagan idols?

          • That’s precisely what I do. As a non-Christian Buddhist, if someone wishes me a Merry Christmas, I wish them a Merry Christmas. If someone wishes me a happy holiday, I wish them a happy holiday. If someone bah humbugs, I bah humbug with them. These things are important to other people and to me, in my heart, I simply celebrate the passing of the solstice and the return to the lighter days on their way…

        • blake-whether on the surface or deep down every major religion is bias or believing they are right and the others are not. Some though are more intolerant than others. i myself am offended at those non christians who confront christians with the accusation “that’s not very christian of you”….like they know what Christ thought and taught. they believe Christ was this wisply limp wrist character who glided thru life turning the other cheek with never even a harsh word for anyone,let alone encouraging violence. If they actually read the Bible they would see they are wrong. luke 22:36 Jesus is telling people to buy weapons. mark11:15,Jesus attacks loan sharks with a knotted rope and drives them out..this ain’t the actions of a wimp…even the well known “turn the other cheek” verse does not mean to be meek and let others abuse you. it means do not retalliate in kind,do not return insult with insult…but resist evil,protect the innocent,defend yourself.be strong.remember to always set an example by your actions.

          • I think it is a stretch, Karl, to say that Jesus ‘encouraged violence’… I think you are on the right track with your last comment, but I think we need to be careful interpreting Jesus here. Jesus did not attack lone sharks, he attacked people who were selling animals to use as sacrifices in the temple (the ‘money-changers’ changed foreign currency into temple currency, because it would be profane to use ‘gentile’ money to buy sacred stuff… kind of like buying tokens at an amusement park because the machines don’t take quarters, and charging a dollar a token). Basically, all of Jesus’ harsh word and this example of violence were reserved for uber-religious people who put obstacles between people and God.

            If you want a contemporaneous analogy to a lone-shark, you would probably be looking at someone like the tax-collectors, on whom Jesus had great compassion, despite the reality that many of them really were committing grave injustice against the poor, including Zaccheus, who admitted as much.

            Jesus was anything but a wimp, but sometimes courage means not fighting back, at least not ‘against flesh and blood’. I think you are right that Jesus approved of self-defense when he told his disciples to buy swords, but on the other hand all of those same disciples faced martyrdom without resisting physically. So, we don’t fight to resist persecution.

            We do have a responsibility, however, to fight injustice and defend the defenseless. I think this is clear from Romans 12-13, which says that we do not avenge ourselves, because God will avenge (make right an injustice), using the sword of the government as a (partial) means. (I have held that sword, as a veteran of Afghanistan). However, it is not clear how that applies to the present debate. I believe that we need to stand for God’s truth, and that a Christian in government must govern according to conscience in Christ. But I would suggest that it was the Christian conscience that fought for the right of religious freedom, in order to defend the religious minorities, even the ones that are offensive to Christianity. In fact, 4 centuries ago, in England, Oliver Cromwell stated in parliament, “Is not Liberty of Conscience in religion a fundamental? So long as there is liberty of conscience for the supreme magistrate to exercise his conscience in erecting what form of church-government he is satisfied he should set up, why should not he give it to others? Liberty of conscience is a natural right… [I] had rather that Mahometanism (Islam) were permitted amongst us than that one of God’s children should be persecuted.”

            Therefore, it is a Christian’s duty to fight for Blake’s right to be a Wiccan… even though we pray that he will be freed from such worship of creation so that he can have peace with its Creator, through the wonderful work of Jesus that began when he condescended Himself to be born on the first Christmas. And we should fight for that for as long as we have a voice in this democratic society.

            That being said… it is not at all clear to me that fighting for Blake’s rights means that we should need to pretend that Christmas is something other than what it is.

      • Absence of proof is not proof of absence. The reason they don’t “appear in any number” is that they aren’t part of an organization (a church) that orchestrates such events.
        The religious, however, go to church weekly, where their preacher may remind them to “join us on Saturday to fight the good fight at the protest our network of churches organized”.

      • Hey Karl,
        thanks for commenting, I would say that they are not only defending that often more silent group but also simply helping keep the line, albeit somewhat fuzzy at times, between tax funded religious activities and non. It is tricky I agree and I do not always agree with the ACLU but I do think they play a very important role in our country.

      • Again you are also attacking a straw man. None of those people/organizations are infringing on YOUR right to pray anytime you want. They oppose a state sanctioned form of worship because we have separation of state. Too many Christians are crybabies who see persecution around every corner when they don’t get their way. I always hear about God being kicked out of schools, but I am a teacher and at our school we have Fellowship of Christian athletes, Mormon Club, Bible Study, and Jewish Club. What we don’t do is force everyone to recite one prayer or advocate one religion.

      • It is interesting to read this from a region of the country which is not the Bible belt. I’d say at least a third of my community is Jewish, and much of the rest of it runs the gamut from Christian to atheist, or maybe “spiritual”. My son’s first and most beloved caretaker was Buddhist. Nobody would dare proclaim the theme of a community holiday event “Keep Christ in Christmas,” here, in fact, when holiday things exist (usually sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce to keep shopping brisk, it is always about holidays, not Christmas, per se.) But when little towns in Alabama make the news for stuff like this, it strikes fear and annoyance in the hearts of those who aren’t Christian, who wonder when and how this sort of thing can spread, so that little Jewish kids, and Buddhist kids will be forced to sing carols and listen to their evangelical teacher read them a story about Jesus Our Savior. (That happens, sporadically, and becomes a sore spot for a little bit of time.) We who are Christian are simply embarrassed by these stories. We have had to learn to get along, and to respect each other. Our children go to school together. And somehow some of us still manage to thrive as Christians, its just not something we take for granted as reinforced by our culture. It seems like the Bible belt is simply fighting the fight to keep things as they are. Or as they were decades ago. But culture moves on, people come in all faiths and no faiths these days, all around us. This belligerance does not serve us well.

        • Thanks for this perspective Paula, I feel the same pain when I read those stories as well. My children go to school with people of many different faiths, nationalities and backgrounds here in Birmingham. We chose our location and school for that reason and I believe our kids are getting a better experience for it. Belligerence never looks good on people of faith, no matter what the faith.

      • Karl, it’s not that we are offended by anything Christian. We are offended that it is expected that those of us who are not Christian have Christianity shoved down our throats. We are treated like we are somehow less than if we don’t observe your holidays or prayers, etc. I’ve never heard of an organization telling people they aren’t allowed to say Merry Christmas, only Christians who are screaming that they’re not.

      • Mickie Frazier-Koontz

        I’m just one person, married to a minister, and I am on the board of an organization that receives part of its funding from public sources. An event was being planned by this group as a fund-raiser that was to be titled, “A Christmas Holiday Tour of Homes.”. I objected to the title but was the lone dissenter. My point was that we live in a diverse community, first, and second, that we demean Christmas each time we link it to an event like this, which in fact has no relationship to Christmas. On the first count, I was told by a board member, “I have some Jewish neighbors, and they get a Christmas tree every year. They won’t mind this event.” On the second count, no one knew what I meant. I attribute that to all the superfluous activities to which we assign Christ’s name but that have nothing to do with the truth of Christmas. We think, “Christmas Sale” is okay because we hear and see it CONSTANTLY. I’m not the ACLU, I’m just one person, and I think parties and football games and graduations are not proper venues for a public practice of formal Christianity. Now you have heard it, once anyway. You take it as disrespect when people object to Christianity being incorporated into public events. I propose to you that it is, in fact, a form of respect for both Christianity and for our separation of church and state, which is fully American.

      • I work in a nearly all Jewish neighborhood and most of my Jewish clients tell me Merry Christmas! As I tell them happy Hanukkah! Its just a way to let people know you care for them!

      • Could you please cite SPECIFIC sources for your quote of claims of representing “silent suffering masses of offended citizens”? I’d like to see the actual SOURCE of that quote. Sounds to me like you’re one of those types who loves to pray on streetcorners to be seen by men. You have your worldly reward, since you refused to pray in your closed, just to be seen by your Father in heaven.

    • thanks for this Jim, I spent a month in the Middle East interacting with a number of Muslims and learning about their religion. I found the same thing to be true as the scholar you are speaking of. Good, kind and generous people. I love that you start off by saying “equally blue” ha ha

    • I also live in Texas. One of my coworkers is a young Hindu man. He showed an aerial photo of his neighborhood where his community is building a temple. Apparently they have been waiting years to do this. because they wanted all the surrounding properties to be owned by members of the temple. I asked him why that was important, expecting an explanation based on his religion. In reality, it was because they are concerned about vandalism by Christians who would damage or even sabotage construction if the temple site was easily accessible. That is a darn shame, and speaks volumes about how Christians are perceived by other groups.

      Stephen, I very much appreciate you sharing the more moderate perspective which is probably shared by most Christians. Christmas may be the lightning rod for this, but it is a year-round issue.

    • I think you’re talking about two issues. As I see it, the objection of people that want to say Merry Christmas is when they are forbidden from saying it. It’s not that they object to people saying Happy Holidays, or something else.
      I think that when someone wants to “put Christ back in Christmas”, they are saying to cut back on the commercialization of the holiday and remember the religious reasons for it.
      The first issue is secular, the second is religious. It seems like Piedmont may have the two confused, also.

      • Hey Larry, thanks for the comment, I am all for people saying Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays etc, that is the freedom of religion that we share, but government agencies are not individuals, they are representative agencies meant to govern, not to promote religion of any sort. I would say that the issues are not divided between secular and religious but between individual and government. Thanks!

        • If the will of the people is to recognize Christ then the governing representative, as the elected representative of the people, should absolutely stand to recognize Jesus in a parade. It isn’t promoting religion in itself, but the will of the people as Christian citizens.

          • Hey Jeffrey, Thanks for commenting. The problem I have with your argument is that the job of a representative is not to uncritically represent the majority view of their constituency but to represent the constancy and do so under the law of the land, that is where this city government is messing up I think.

    • Im curious to know 1) when you believe Islam began 2) if you actually think christians believe in Santa, and 3) why you’ve allowed yourself to think that red/blue has anything to do with faith. You’ve been suckered in just like the rest of these fools who believe Christianity is a social rather than personal responsibility. Hear, believe, do. Every comment on here is a big waste of time. Either give of your time and money to love others like He says or just keep yapping and pointing fingers (same to your opponents). Seriously, Facebook and similar is ruining our ability to hear ourselves speak.

    • I don’t know of anyone chewed out for saying “Merry Christmas” but I am a retail clerk who gets guff every year from (in my case, always Christians) who object to me wishing them “Happy Holy-days” (Happy Holidays). And, usually at least once a year, I get a Christian who tells me that nobody elses’ holy-days are worthy of celebrating… one year I even got told that all other holy-days (including the Jewish Hannukah which Jesus celebrated, and which I celebrate) are “satanic”. I’m not planning on wishing anyone anything this year as part of my job – if the customer wishes me “x” greeting, I will return it with cheer, but I’m no longer going to put myself out there to get guff from people about what I choose to wish them for the Holy-day season.

  • I agree with everything you have said here. In fact, I have said much of the same stuff myself. However, I find myself getting equally irritated with atheist organizations who want to completely secularize the country. I think we need to have a hard and fast separation, but most religion is good for any country as it can help to unify a society during times of need or a crisis of identity. It seems like these types of organizations are doing the dame thing that the far right type organizations do. The exception to this would depend on the makeup of the community (diversity of religious perspectives, etc.), but even in those situations it should be decided by community vote.

    • Eric – The difference here is that religion is an INDIVIDUAL CHOICE. It is NOT something that government can or should be making determinations about. Every time a government attempts to make an expression of religion a part of public policy, what it is saying to people who do not practice that religion is this “You and people like you are of less worth and lesser significance and due less respect than those who practice our favored religion. You aren’t equal any more.”

      Sorry, but I AM equal. I was born in this country, and I spent 24 years defending it in the uniform of the United States Army, and I will be damned I will let some arrogant bigot tell me I’m not. And if that means lawsuits in Federal courts, so be it. Because it’s not just my rights I’m defending. Because if some city government somewhere can say today that I and my co-religionists have no value and are second-class citizens, they can say it about you tomorrow.

    • Not as irritated as I get by Christians trying to force their religions on our laws and everyday life. Religion does not unify a society unless you are willing to cast all those who don’t share in your beliefs out of society. I do not need your god to share a kinship with my fellow human beings. The rights of non-believers or believers in a different religion should not be up to a vote by the majority.

      • Agreed Stacy, I hope you have experienced people of the Christian faith who have shown you another version, one that is less “face shoving” than the one that we often see in media. If not I would love to be the first, 🙂

    • Your opinion is interesting. At first I thought … this is like ‘white privilege’ and then the reality struck me : ‘white privilege’ is the same as ‘christian privilege’ and I must contemplate which came first. They both seem centered in the south, in reactionary communities, occur together in the same people, except some have an extension called ‘male privilege’.
      I hasten to add I am a product of public schools in Birmingham, U of A and grad school in Texas. I was born in ‘Bama and also am a veteran.

      • I think this Christian Privilege idea has a lot of weight, do you know if anyone has done work in that area linking it to White privileged? With you having gone to UofA I will also send a big Roll Tide you way!

        • The Sociological study of the presence of white privilege, male privilege and christian privilege is not going to be popular. Those seeing these terms that see them as a bull does a flapping piece of cloth are the ones most capable of funding this kind of investigation and most likely to raise an objection that ‘their college’ would do so. I’ve observed these attitudes being most visible in concert with each other communities where education is suspect, where change is abhorred and religion is the strongest social component of local organisation.

          As a programmer, my eye is always tuned to cause and effect, but the academic scholarship necessary to effectively investigate this phenomenon is outside my disciplinary preparation.

          • Those studies are indeed popular, and abundant. Everything from WASP’s to the KKK, and everything in between have been studied; their sociological impacts on society and Americas power structures. As a matter of fact, the very study of these things is what leads so many White Christian Men in this country to the very awkward belief that “they” are the persecuted minority. I’m sure you all have a few friends that have expressed this nonsensical rhetoric.

    • Community vote is no way to decide anything. Community vote would mean sections of the South would still have slavery and Japanese American citizens would have been deported in 1941. This is a nation of laws and the law protects the rights of citizens.

    • “but most religion is good for any country as it can help to unify a society during times of need or a crisis of identity”
      That’s why religion is considered a crutch. Mostly I see so called xtians using religion, not living it.

  • They will know that we are Christians by our love, not by our outrage.

  • AS a Christian, when I use the phrase “Keep the Christ in Christmas” I am trying to bring the focus from the materialism of the world, and put it on the real reason for the season. We, as Christians ourselves, have wandered away from the true meaning of the season, and that is Christ. The trees, gifts, parties, all the material things are in complete opposite to what the season is suppose to be about. While I agree with most of what you said, I do not think you expounded enough on why Christians say that one phrase. For me it has nothing to do with me promoting my faith above all. It has everything to do with reminding those of the faith why we celebrate this time of year.

    • I agree with Jacqui. It’s a saying to help people remember why there is a Christmas, not to shame, force or mandate a Christian attitude. Nor does this reduce God’s power to be in a country that allows Him. This saying can and is said in love as much as outrage and Christ himself reminded people why he walked the earth. And as a person who prefers to keep Christ in Christmas, I am not offended by Happy Holidays or any other saying of the season. I prefer to remember why there is this season.

    • So that phrase “Keep Christ in Christmas” may be a good reminder for you to use with fellow Christians at Christian gatherings. But it is inappropriate for any governmental agency to make it a mandate for all of its citizens. I agree with the author that strong faith does not need government sponsorship. As a matter of fact, it is a corruption of religious principles to enlist the government’s promotion of one religion over all others.

  • “He is already there.” Beautiful and accurate enough to drown out all the shrill voices.

  • Have always heard “God is a gentlemen…He does not come intruding into our lives without invitation…that famous picture of Christ leaning over and knocking on a door…note that the door has no knob…it has to be opened by who lives there…I invited Him in in 1971 in a time of meditation our church was teaching us to practice…His people should also be meek and gentle as He was…and IS.

  • Wow, this is something I needed to hear, while I am not about shoving Jesus down another persons throat, I have mourned the loss of public prayer, and the mandate of some institutions and big box store to only wish people “Happy Holidays”. Y
    ou are so right about this! Thank you!

    • Thanks Juliet for your comment and thoughts. It is a fine line people of faith tread and I think it is more important than ever to tread it graciously.

  • This does raise the question of why the good people of Wisconsin are so concerned about what the good people of Piedmont are up to. Seems to me there is plenty of stuff going on in Wisconsin to keep their interest. Are they setting themselves up to be their brothers’ keepers? Thanks for the perspective so eloquently presented.

    • J Howard Boyd – Briefly, they are acting because the United States Constitution, acting through the combined effects of the First and Fourteenth Amendments, prohibits the City of Piedmont from doing what they tried to do. And in so doing, they are protecting everyone’s rights to equal treatment under the law, and to the right to freely practice the religion of THEIR choice.

      Every time a state or local government tries something like this, what they are saying to anyone who does not practice the religion being given favored status that: “You are now a second-class citizen, of less worth, due less respect, and of less value to this community than these good people to whose beliefs we have chosen to give special status.”

      If that’s your idea of American values, you ought to be ashamed of yourself.

    • Ha Ha, I do wonder sometimes how it made it to Wisconsin! Very interesting how social media and the like play into these sorts of issues and how information travels in all sorts of forms. thanks for the comment

    • Where and when one of these communities is allowed to practice a ‘christian’ event, a precedent is set. What happens in Alabama is not divorced from those in Wisconsin. It is THIS not THESE United States.

    • Trust me it’s not all or even a slight minority from WI. I live here and from Columbia County north, you will find a vast majority of Christians of some sort who hail from Scandinavian decent. The Freedom From Religion Group contains many people from academia and are not so much atheists as they are anti-theists. They rage against religion just as loud as radical religious types rail for whatever cause they deem important. They are the anti-religion equivalent of PETA. They look for anywhere they can capture the spotlight and congregate there. From most of the people of Wisconsin I apologize for the intrusion.

  • This is article is very interesting to me as a Christian who does not celebrate christmas (I believe that is a pagan celebration with a veneer of christianity). I don’t protest or bring lawsuits when I see christmas in the schools or the area I live in because I am secure in my beliefs and so my children and I choose to not participate in the activities and move on with our lives. I don’t believe in praying that a certain team or country be elevated over another one, and so I do not participate in such prayers. We are all surrounded by things we don’t believe in.
    I really don’t understand some atheist’s need to remove prayer/God from every event they attend. It should have less meaning to them then it even does to me. I love God but in some cases I disagree with the things people do in his name. But as far as the atheist is concerned the people might as well be praying to a purple unicorn. So why the outrage?

    • “I really don’t understand some atheist’s need to remove prayer/God from every event they attend.”

      In my experience this is rarely if ever true. Most atheists simply object to government organizations spending time and money promoting gods at their events.

      Public parades, etc, promoting religion are fine and often welcomed – presuming that any similar organization is allowed to participate (not in each event necessarily, but if you have a process for the local Baptist church to block the streets to put on a parade and to put up a display on the courthouse lawn then that process should equally grant access to the local synagogue, mosque, or bowling alley, if they fill out the forms and pay the fees.

  • Can you please tell me the name and artist of the original cover art (before santa was added)?

    • It is called the birth of Christ and it is by Gerard van Honthorst. I thought the addition of the Santa was pretty seamless.

  • Pingback: Do Not be Afraid – Christmas will survive Advent | The Millennial Pastor ()

  • Very nice and well written article. I agree with most of it and the intended message. I am not to sure that any religion that tries to portray their God with human thoughts and philosophy is entirely correct. Do Christians really believe that Their God made them as part of his own image?
    How vain and against what I have read as God’s intended message.
    As for “accept it or leave the country” , how did that work out for the native American Indians? Many of the alleged Christians should look back at their own religion and think about their history and actions of their own church in attempts to
    ” Encourage or convert others to their so called religion.”
    Thanks for great article and I hope that your message gets through the thick heads of many religions that all have the common message of love and respect each other

    • “Do Christians really believe that Their God made them as part of his own image?”

      Yes. Because in their Bible in Genesis 1:26 it says, “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;”

      Adherents to most (but not quite all) religions are expected to gather converts to their faith – not just Christians. And Christianity, like so many others, has had people commit violence in the name of their god. Don’t single Christians out as being the only ones that don’t love and respect everyone.

      If you want Christians (or Muslims or Buddhists…) to respect you, show a little respect for them.

  • By the way…when someone says that we should keep Christ in Christmas…what about other countries with different words/names for that day? In Germany its “Weihnachten” which literally translated means something like blessed night or holy night.
    Last I checked, Holiday comes from “Holy Day.”

  • Hey, man. That’s a really beautiful thought. I was really glad to see this.

  • Hi,
    Not sure if a Canadian can contribute to this most interesting conversation. i personally have attempted for the last 55 of my 66 years to put Christ into each day, not only Christmas. Slowly i am having some success. How horribly, horribly long it is taking. Last year i let go of my red-neck response to non-Christians who insisted on taking daily Christian prayer out of our public school.

    Maybe tomorrow I will see the light in another issue and move toward grace…

    Dennis

  • Adrienne El Bahjaoui

    I say “Happy Holidays” to people because I don’t know by looking at them if they celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Winter Solstice. Plus, I celebrate Christmas, and I am not a Christian.

  • Hi Stephen,

    Thank you for your article, but I’m not sure the extent to which I agree with, or am saddened by it. Of course, legislating Christ INTO anything has never made one true Christian – nor should that ever be a goal. Furthermore, even Christian denominations have different understandings of Christ in our lives, and we should make space for all perspectives – Christian and otherwise.

    But on the other hand, to legislate Christ OUT of a particular society that would like that remembrance, and can come together to celebrate despite those different understandings – maintaining kindness to even those who aren’t Christians, amounts to legislative atheism. I, for one, don’t believe that a group called “Freedom from Religion” wouldn’t regulate even private prayer, if they could – it’s been attempted. Fortunately today, they can’t.

    Might you explain how it is NOT persecution of Christians to force public prayer out of a community wants it, but it IS persecution of Athiests to be in a space where one is offered? That seems an odd double standard.

    I live in a small rural town, and despite despite our many denominations, we care for each other, support each other, join in prayer, come together across religious lines, break bread together, feed the hungry through our shelter, and so on. We simply love our neighbors and prayer is a part of that.

    Finally, can you explain what business it is of an organization in Wisconsin to dictate how a small town in Alabama should recognize Christmas?

    Much love

    • Hey Mike, thanks for the thoughts and questions. Really the crux of the article is not that any one should or can take Christ out of Christmas, not can they stop people from praying, meeting as people of faith or public expressions of that faith, it is that you should not be able to do it with tax dollars and do it from a municipal stand point. It sounds like you live in a lovely place, maybe a lot like Piedmont. I would argue that an organization in Wisconsin is not dictating how a town in Alabama is celebrating Christmas, it is making the argument that the town as a municipality cannot mandate a theme that is subjugating everyone in that town to a religious theme that may or may not be their own. I can tell you that several of the churches made floats that held banners like “keep Christ in Christmas” which is a completely appropriate thing to do, as they are religious entities not government ones. Lastly, what I hope comes through int he piece is that when we talk about kicking God out of anything, we, I think, are committing a heresy. That is because the Bible lets us know in no uncertain terms that will be where God wants to be and when we act like government has a say in that we are underestimating our God. Plus I am not sure at the end of the day that God is too concerned about our parades anyways 🙂

    • Mike,

      If you would be offended if you were to be required to sit through an Islamic invocation offered in Arabic by a local imam during an official activity of the city in which you reside, say, a City Council meeting, then you have answered your own question. We are a religiously pluralistic society, and there is something patently unfair about requiring persons to participate in a religious ritual of a faith they do not share as part of a public activity conducted by a government that is SUPPOSED to be utterly neutral on matters of faith.

      The fact that a majority of a community may espouse a particular religious perspective DOES NOT grant them the right to compel persons who do not share their faith to participate in their religious observances as the price of participation in the public life of the city. To suggest otherwise makes a mockery of the whole concept of individual religious liberty.

    • The Freedom From Religion Foundation only responds to complaints, they don’t go seeking out fights of this sort. If they’re involved it was because someone in the community felt they were being illegally subjected to others’ beliefs.

      In other words, it isn’t an organization in Wisconsin dictating how a small town in Alabama should recognize Christmas, but a local member of the community using the legal team of a Wisconsin-based organization to defend themselves.

  • I liked this very much and think you’re right–mostly, but I feel as though the “dark secluded caverns” are being forced on us by both the “Christian” right and the nonbelievers who feel we should only worship in silence.

  • Your words ring true to me, and I very much enjoyed reading your thoughts on this. The more I read Christ’s message in the gospel, I come away with a heart called to love through grace and mercy in every situation. Forcing unbelievers to follow a set of rules (or some ceremony) that I have adopted only after pursuing a relationship with the creator is not loving, merciful or graceful. In fact, it seems much more like something Jesus would have warned against. At that point, I believe we are condemning others to follow rote actions that can bring only judgement; actions that come not from a heart of love but of indifference or worse. I am incredibly thankful that I am free to pray, worship and love Christ anytime, anywhere I choose. My freedom depends on the freedom of my non-Christian countrymen and women. I believe we are all free, or none of us really is.

  • If we would take the words of Jesus seriously and live them, we wouldn’t have these arguments. Loving enemies and caring for the weak, needy and dispossessed would take all of our time and energy.

  • https://www.facebook.com/uCatholic/photos/a.917996871551035.1073741826.123119221038808/1004120959605292/?type=1

    This link and your article piggyback on each other very well. Living in the ‘south’ as well I can relate to what you are saying here.

  • As God’s kids we are to be salt and light, not just at Christmas, but 24/7.The month of December gives us the opportunity to share the Biblical account of why Christ emptied Himself of His Deity and was born. I have found if I keep my spiritual senses in tune to conversations around me, God gives me the opportunity to share the Christmas Story. I don’t have to worry about keeping Christ in Christmas, for as you said, He is already there. thanks for sharing your heart on this subject that has so many of us spinning our wheels.

  • “I would rather we be a country whose Christians were forced to meet and pray in dark secluded caverns as a persecuted minority than one whose faith was mandated and proclaimed and sustained from Capitol Hill. At least that would be Biblical.”

    You really just said you would rather this country persecute Christians. What? Seriously? This is where you lost all credibility.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_Christians

    None of that looks better than how our country is now. I believe in the separation of church and state, so I understand where you are coming from for the majority of your article. But, you went way to far saying that you would rather see christians tortured, murdered, and imprisoned. Did you not realize why they went underground? Do you not know what is means to be persecuted?

    • Hey Sean, Yes, I would, see the problem with this idea of a Christian Nation is “whose Christianity would rule?” Would it be the Puritan Christianity that shunned women who could not have children and condoned inequality? would it be the Christianity of the 1800’s who used the scriptures to promote and maintain the evils of slavery? Would it be the Christianity that members of the the Southern churches would preach that told us that God meant for the races to be separate and that African Americans were less than whites? Would it be the Christianity of the lynch mobs? Maybe but I think it, at this point would be more of the Christianity that makes laws that disenfrachises minorities, that refuses to call people who cross our borders in desperation humans in preference of the term “illegals”. Or maybe it is the brand of Christianity that persecutes Muslims, LGBTQ peoples and finds not gospel value in helping the poor. The problem is that there are a lot of brands of Christianity. I do find it funny that Jesus never talked about being the ruling political power. He never talked about creating a nation state, rather he repeatedly denied violence and political power. That was not his kind of kingdom, and it should not be ours I believe.

      • I am not sure if your response was to me or another Sean. I don’t recall saying anything about wanting to live in a Christian Nation. Or that I think Christians should rule. So your “Whose Christianity would rule?” question just skirted around my statement and attempted to somehow prove me wrong instead of admitting that you made a completely ignorant statement.
        If this was to me, I question weather or not you even read my reply. I don’t see how your response applies to anything I said.
        I stated that I believed in the separation of church and state, so an argument against a “Christian Nation” is a completely inappropriate rebuttal. Where exactly do you think you found arguments for such a state in my words.
        I was simply pointing out, that I don’t think persecuting Christians is the correct response to what is going on in our nation today. I completely agree with you that Jesus did not want to be a part of the ruling political power. And I don’t believe that it is ever a positive thing to try and force religious beliefs or practices on people via politics. But, isn’t the persecution of Christians doing exactly that. It’s the attempt to force a belief, but it is usually paired with dire consequences if they don’t comply. Persecution of Christians is happening all over the world today, especially in the Middle East. It is a tragedy, not a preferable state of affairs. People are loosing their homes, their families, and their lives for practicing their faith. I fail to see how that is better than to have christians here feel a bit too much entitlement. I would like to think that there is a middle ground.

        • Hey Sean, First try to be a little less rude, it is possible to have this discussion with out calling my statements completely ignorant. The statement was and is meant Sean. I am in no way advocating for the persecution of Christians, or anyone else for that matter. However, there are many people in this country and some in the comment section of this post who are pushing hard for some sort of Christian Theocracy. The point I was making in the original statement is that yes, I would much rather be a persecuted minority than have what I am sure would be an abusive Christian Theocracy. I have 9 years of theological education under my belt, 2 advance degrees in theology and biblical interpretation and 16 years of ministry experience, so to answer your question, yes I know exactly what persecution is, and was in our history. And Yes I stand by the statement. I think you might have missed the point of it though. I was not talking about Christians in America having a little too much entitlement, I was simply giving a dichotomy representing the two extreme possibilities of where many people’s thought in a Christian theocracy could take us and where I would rather be in that regard. I hope this makes a little more sense. Thanks

  • I probably wouldn’t advocate what Piedmont is doing, but calling them heretical and their actions un-Christian strikes me as coming close to sensationalism. These people are probably followers of Christ like you and I. Maybe they are misguided, or maybe you are misguided, but I have a hard time seeing how articles like these create Christian unity or foster brotherly love. If you really believe that what they are proposing is wrong, then your first response, biblically, should be to talk to them — with great humility . If heresy is “belief or opinion contrary to (Christian) orthodoxy” then your lack of confronting your brothers and sisters in what you perceive as sin could be labeled as such and you are guilty of becoming a hypocrite.

    Thanks for writing; I have a great admiration for those who take the time to share God’s Word and the truths found there. Keep it up.

  • Generally, I don’t worry about the Christ in Christmas controversy. People can celebrate the holiday season however they like… within reason. However, I confess that I am given pause for thought when I think about what I would do as mayor. It seems reasonable that we should give people freedom about the kinds of floats go into a parade… but obviously there are limits. We don’t let the local Satanist group put in a pentagram float, or the local Wiccan coven to dance naked in the moonlight. And we don’t put in a Thanksgiving turkey float either, because that is the wrong holiday. If we have a parade that celebrates a religious holiday, is it really wrong to put limits on what kind of floats are allowed in it?

    And is it really wrong to impose our beliefs on other people? I mean, that sounds terrible, perhaps, but isn’t that what every law does? If someone comes from a place where honor killing is legal, for example, our laws are going to impose a different set of beliefs on them. That is just how it is. So if you are in a position of authority, which means you have the responsibility to make laws that are best for everyone, then you are kind of obligated to base those laws on some system of beliefs and values that you feel is best. This is inevitable, whether you are a Christian or a secular humanist or whatever.

    That, in fact, is precisely why our laws impose religious freedom on us. The idea of religious freedom was, in fact, a very Christian idea, which has been made into law and imposed on everyone. So yes, Christians should be consistent, and submit to what we believed from the beginning of the nation, even if it no longer favors us. But on the other hand, should we not continue to encourage government to impose the principle of religious freedom consistently for as long as we have some voice to do so? Not because of persecution, but because we believe that it is best for all. And if we lose that battle, no big deal, because Christ is in control, and his Gospel is not hindered by hostile government. But a Christian governor should always govern according to his conscience. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that heavy-handed, ‘religious right’ approach honors Christ. In fact it might surprise us what truly honoring Christ looks like as a politician, but whatever it looks like, it inevitably involves imposing biblical principles on those under his authority).

    • This … is ‘christian privilege’.

      C.P. is like good art. Can’t define it; but we know it when we see it.

      Can anyone define love? NO! But we all can give examples.

  • This is a very well written article and brings up some excellent points but I have one question; If it’s a Christmas parade then why would an atheist even be there to become offended?

    • Hey Denise, I think that is a good question in its purest form, the problem is that the celebration of Christmas in our country, depending on who is celebrating it, is just as much a religious holiday as it is a secular holiday. Christmas has for many become a time of family, friends, good food and rest, and all outside the realm of religion. Christmas in America is a very diverse animal I think.

  • Stephen, is this claim of yours absolutely true:

    “I would rather we be a country whose Christians were forced to meet and pray in dark secluded caverns as a persecuted minority than one whose faith was mandated and proclaimed and sustained from Capitol Hill.”

    Would you literally prefer not only to live in such a country, but that America had become such a country? Be honest.

    • Hey Erich, Please note my response to an earlier question about this. I would add yes, I would. One of the things that is beautiful about our country is that it is a place that is safer to practice your religion as individuals and in groups (not sanctioned by the state) and we have laws to protect that. The truth is that I would rather not live in either of the dichotomies that I set up, my point was to say that more harm is done when our faith is mandated than when it is persecuted.

  • I do understand the need not to force Christ down anyone’s throats, BUT, you are looking at the problem the wrong way. There used to be prayers at sporting events, yes, even using “In Jesus’ name.” There was prayer and Bible study in schools. Public Christmas celebrations used to always contain songs about Jesus’ birth. It is simple, the name of Jesus or anything having to do with Him is being forcibly pushed out of all public arenas. Psalm 33:12 says that “blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” Our country was founded upon Christian (not any other religion) principles (There is no doubt, just visit DC one day and look around). You speak of freedom. Freedom of religion is not the same as freedom FROM religion, yet that is what we are moving toward. (Heck, even Microsoft Word automatically decapitalizes the word God in spell check) So, when what has been foundational in our country for two hundred years begins to disappear, you complain when anyone says anything to the contrary? A question: Do you believe that God exists? Do you believe that God will judge? Do you believe that God judges nations? Do you remember why Sodom and Gemmorrah were destroyed? Is your proclamations of being tolerant to all, make you less tolerant towards Christians? If someone says, “Happy Holidays” I simply reply, “Merry Christmas”. Is that wrong? Am I that oppressing that person? Christians, by nature and history proves it, are less political, offending, or belligerent than others. You want proof? If Christians were as “force it down your throat” as you presume, then why isn’t prayer back in schools? Why do schools outlaw Christian songs in most school Christmas concerts? Why do more and more stores outlaw saying, “Merry Christmas?” Why are nativity scenes absent from public places? We have to share public lawns with symbols of other Christmas expressions, but most of the time, we are the ones outlawed. You seem to be living 20 years ago, when nativity scenes stood alone on courthouse lawns. There are very, very few cities, towns, municipalities that have not been affected by the “keep Jesus out” pattern now accepted. You also pull out the tired argument, “well look at what has happened in Christianity’s name.” Friend, the crusades were over a thousand years ago. Just as you can’t lump all Muslims into the “terrorist” mold, you can’t do the same for all Christians, even those who wish for the days when private and public life welcomed and embraced Christianity as the religion of our nation. Then worse, everyone who sees themselves as progressive or tolerant unleashes the worst torrent of adjectives toward Christians. Just in the posts above we read: (implied) close minded, arrogant bigot, (implied) southern racist, male dominant, vain, thick headed, etc… I believe that there is evidence of bad times coming when a nation turns its back on God. We are getting there. To promote an attitude of correction when talking of those who see and acknowledge God being forcibly removed from life is dangerous and just one step away from the very secular humanism that you should presumably despise. So, we come to our conundrum, spirituality is a personal relationship with God and it should remain that way. But I believe that God founded our nation and has blessed it to prosperity. And for us as a nation/government/people to allow Him to be taken out without so much as a whimper, is sad and disgraceful.

    • Hey Jim, I think a lot of where we differ really comes down to your last sentence, I actually, in no way, believe that God founded our country. So much of your argument seems to stem from that idea and I think that is where we diverge.

    • Dr.Tippins – Every dictionary, thesaurus and style sheet capitalizes god. The general reference is to any spiritual deity, not your imaginary sky-pilot. If you take umbrage at my flippancy, I take umbrage at your attempt to replace fact with the fiction that “God founded our nation’. We are a secular government that tolerates all forms of religious expression. You would force your form of religious expression on others. So much for tolerance.

      Let’s examine ‘god’. If this entity is so powerful, why would it meddle in the affairs of man? One may not ascribe to a god human traits and then nullify its human traits with supernatural gifts or power. Anthropomorphism doesn’t allow one to migrate human traits to a god selectively, and withdraw them at will. Your use of deification to exalt human characteristics is the opposite of heuristic argument.

      All the deistic attributes commonly associated with supernatural events or acts attributed to god or ‘saintly intermediaries’ are explained by physics. Ultimately you committed all three sins of arrogance: white privilege, male privilege and christian privilege by saying at the beginning of your attack that you ” …didn’t see the need to force Christ down anyone’s throats. … “. But at the end – your conclusion was that only American christians were worthy because we existed specifically at the pleasure of god. The arrogance crept into your delivery bit by bit until we had wholesale commitment by you.

      • Since you do not believe in God or god there is no adequate reply. What I saw as defending my position you see as an attack. I never said or implied that you should be forced to do anything. I merely lamented the fact that Jesus, who had been the major part of our nation’s heritage has been forcibly excised from that public life. If you don’t agree that God founded our nation, then you must at least allow for the possibility that our nation was founded by those overwhelmingly Christian and those that had no opposition to allowing their religious beliefs to be heard or expressed in the public arena or in their platforms. And you proved my point, when you end up name calling and viewing my opinion as less than worthy to exist.

        • Dr. –
          You, sir have made an intentional misrepresentation of my comment. I didn’t say your opinion was less than worthy. I said your logic was spurious.

          Almost every student I know says a prayer when one of my tests hits its desk. I say nothing. They may pass my test any way they want; but last I saw there was no one named god contributing any answers.

          Our nation was founded on principles of religious apathy, lethargy and borderline agnosticism. Be in denial all you want. It’s the sort of de nile … !

          • Levity is good. How I receive a comment, you cannot control. Likewise how you receive a comment, I cannot control. I respect your opinion. You’ve heard it said, there is no such thing as an atheist in a foxhole. Whether that belief is real or hoped for, does not matter. Is it really logical for someone to believe that over 74% of Americans, who believe in a personal God, 64% believe that Jesus is the Son of God. 58% believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven, are somehow deluded? Jesus is either a liar (everything He claimed in the Gospels was false), a lunatic (Jesus was just another crazy person that over half of the world’s population believe in one way of another), or He is LORD. Those are the only three choices we can make about Jesus. My job, as a minister, is not to force feed against your will. If you were on a road, in the dark and rain. You see the bridge up ahead washed out. Anyone behind you, who does not stop will drive off the cliff into certain death. What do you do? Do you allow the people to drive off the cliff and die? Do you hop out of your car and try to flag down as many people saying, “This is the wrong way?” When “Jesus said that there is no way to the Father except though me,” I am at an evangelistic impass, because I should plead, implore, talk to, etc… the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ to everyone Agnostic, Jew, Muslim, anyone breathing. But today’s culture tells me that I should shut my mouth and let everyone just live their lives. If you know that Tuesdays are half price day at a local restaurant, wouldn’t you tell people as they sat down near you, or would you just count your blessings and let others pay full price? I am under a compulsion that you have seen as arrogance, yet I see as compassion not wishing anyone to perish, unforgiven of their sins. If you to reject Jesus, or do not believe that sin, God, Jesus, angels, or anything spiritual exists, then that’s fine. But an eternity in heaven is real hope while not believing is “you live, you die, and that’s it.”

    • I agree completely.

    • Yes, Columbus, was a Believer! I agree.

  • I agree with the idea of silence instead of official prayer. I can’t stand official prayer. And I totally agree that mandated religion is a heresy.

    But I have nothing but contempt for organizations like the Freedom from Religion Foundation who create problems where there are none. They aren’t from Piedmont, Alabama. Nobody bringing the suit is from Piedmont, Alabama. Nobody in Piedmont, Alabama actually expressed any problem with it. With people like that, I want to say: Just mind your business, and stop hunting around the whole country looking for things that offend you.

    • Hey Norrie, thanks! I do agree that there are times when organizations overstep their bounds and into areas where they do not have jurisdiction. I haver read that the actual complaint did come from a resident and was filed with this organization. I don’t think they were overstepping in this case though. As I see it, this is a constitutional maternal would have been upheld in a court of law, which is why I think the city, wisely, backed down on it.

      • FFRF is a national organization of more than 21,000 members which happens to be headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin. FFRF is concerned with maintaining the wall of separation between church and state implied by the Establishment clause of the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution. FFRF only acts on complaints from local citizens, so someone living in Piedmont has made a complaint regarding the parade.

      • They aren’t overstepping. Just because an organization is headquartered in Wisconsin doesn’t mean that there aren’t local folks affiliated with it. Don’t know what the occasion was that I met them, but I met a number of people from the general area around Anniston, et al., who were members of that group. More importantly, it is the principle that they are defending, and as a Christian minister once wrote in a letter to some ministers in Birmingham, “Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly…Anyone who lives in the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.” (“Letter from the Birmingham Jail” Martin Luther King, Jr).

        • Thanks for that insight Ed, Yes there is representation everywhere, it is just that in the South many are less visible. Thanks for that. Also, thinks for bringing Dr. King into the equation, beautiful quote written just a about a mile from where I am sitting as I type this. Love it.

    • Very possibly the local residents who contacted FRFF don’t necessarily want their names to be widely known. When I was involved with a dispute with the City Council in Huntsville, Alabama over whether I, as a Wiccan, would be permitted to offer an invocation before a City Council meeting, I got at least one death threat.

  • Beautifully written! Thank you!

  • Well if you are celebrating Christmas in any way you have to be a Christian and believe in Christ. Christmas is a christian celebration that has been turned in to a massive commercial opportunity. American or not american all those who are not Christians and celebrate the most sacred christian Holiday should respect the importance of the occasion for those who believe and worship Christ.

    • Hey, Thanks for the comment, the problem is that it is and it is not a Christian holiday. As I am sure you already know Christmas was originally a secular Roman celebration what was adopted and adapted to create what we now know as the celebration of jesus Birth. So at it base and in its origin it is a pagan holy day. I think both the religious and the non religious have a claim on it, I think we can share and play well together with it:)

    • “Well if you are celebrating Christmas in any way you have to be a Christian and believe in Christ.”

      So far from the truth. I was essentially raised atheist/agnostic (my parents never really exposed me to religion, but certainly would not have stopped me if I was interested it persuing one), and we celebrated Christmas like everyone else. For us it was about family, reflecting on the year, and yes of course presents and good food. My kids are teens, not religious at all, and we do the same thing…it is a special time of year for us too, just in a different way than you.

      That being said, I do respect the different significance of the holiday that it has for people who really believe in all that stuff, and would never support in any way taking away people’s rights to do so. But, again, the main point of the article involves government sanctioning of a specific religion’s activities over other religions’, and that I totally agree with. There is no place for religion-specific prayer in any aspect of school or government, but allowing a moment of silence for those who want to pray to do so, I support that completely, even though as a kid I just sat there and wondered what the other kids where praying about…..

      Stephen – excellent article, and also a very interesting back and forth in the comments, and surprisingly civil, which is rare!

      • Thanks Mo, It has been surprisingly civil and I really am grateful for all who are contributing whether we agree or not. I will be honest I filtered a few trolls who were just vile.

  • I really enjoyed this, Mr. Ingram. I find that the fight to keep “Christ in Christmas” never seems to try to combat the unhealthy secular commercialization of a holy day that marks when God entered time. I am in Wisconsin (perhaps this appears ironic, considering the out-town rabble rousers making trouble in Alabama) and I am trying to do my part by observing Advent and celebrating the traditions of the 12 days of Christmas. It is sad but typical that the celebration of this momentous occasion – a pivotal moment in the history of all Creation, if you are a Christian – fizzles out in time for everybody to get loaded on New Year’s Eve. What kind of spirit is that?

    • Hey Matt, First let me apologize for people railing against your state from this. ha ha More importantly I think you are spot on. So much if not all of the “War on Christmas” is a straw man that we love to bludgeon to death this time of year. Thanks for your thoughts and I will be with you celebrating Advent and anticipating the celebration the birth of Jesus. Merry Christmas

  • Hi Stephen, Read your interesting article, my daughter linked it to me for my view.
    I am a 63 year old christian and I love Christmas more and more. Your readers are right
    the Lord Jesus is constantly with us at all times. The Christmas we still enjoy I honestly do not know how the mixture of pagan beliefs and christian beliefs were woven together but if we took out Christ or Old Santa(for the wee ones of course) it would be like throwing out the baby with the water. Both unbelievers and believers have been conditioned to the stories and have accepted Old Santa since childhood for literally hundreds of years up until now. Our friends in Wisconsin I understand don’t want God in any way, PERIOD they have the spirt of the world (Hatred of God) not the spirit of present Christmas.

    To All have a Merry Christmas.
    James (Ontario)

    • Thanks James, I appreciate your thoughts, I would push back a little. I don’t think we can write them off as haters of God and that is the end of the story, I think it is a little deeper than that and in their own way they are helping some people in a small town, who would not other wise have a voice have one. Thanks for your comments!!!

  • While I agree with this article I think that the use of the word “heresy” (or any of it’s derivatives) isn’t correct. Rather, I would suggest that “fanatical” is the correct term here.

    I say that because I don’t see any biblical or theological orthodoxy being violated through this behavior however I do see a LOT of Christian culture and tradition being challenged and undone.

    Just my 2p.

    • Hey Fred, Thanks for the comment, I use the word Heresy intentionally, not as a jab to anyone in Piedmont but more as a general statement about any person of faith who acts as if any entity, including a government, has the ability or power to keep the presence of God out of a place. I absolutely loath with people talk about “God being Kicked out of Schools” What an absurd statement. God cannot be kicked out of somewhere anymore than you or I could make the planet spin backwards (i watched Superman recently, closest analogy that came to my mind) The belief that an entity could exclude God is what I am calling a heresy. Which, saying that something has more power and has dominion over God, I believe is an actual Heresy, right? Thanks for commenting!

      • OK, I see what you’re saying and this good Calvinist boy agrees with you. Thank you for clarifying.

        However, I don’t think that the “Keep Christ in Christmas” crowd thinks that deeply about this stuff. I think that theirs is simply a protest stance against a culture norm and a tradition that’s melting away into irrelevance.

        Change is scary and such protest stances tend to be bred in fear and birthed in reaction.

        If nothing it certainly has made for some funny bits on The Daily Show and Colbert Report!

        • Thanks Fred! I agree about Stewart and Colbert, pretty amazing stuff. And not to mention the Christmas miracle of a Calvinist and a Free Will guy agreeing on religion! ha ha I appreciate your engagement on here, I hope you keep in the conversation! Thanks man!

      • I agree that God is far above and beyond politics or culture. Yet, I believe you should look at some biblical history. King Hezekiah was godly and the nation followed God. Two generations later, 57 years exactly, was how long it took for the entire nation to forget that God was their God. The great grandson Josiah found the law of Moses, read it, and repented that God had been forgotten. It has been 52 years since school prayer was ruled unconstitutional. Does it not make you sad at all that we are more biblically illiterate, and spiritually bankrupt than at any time in our nation’s history? 30 years ago 95% of all Americans believed in God, today we are down to 74%. Is there any correlation to our recent history and the story of Josiah? If some had their way, the Holocaust (killing of 6 million Jews, plus blacks, handicapped, gays, etc.) would be recognized as a fabrication. Yet, the Jews and others are saying “do not forget.” We say the same with 9/11, why? We believe the agnostic Santayana, who wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”
        Can God be mandated? Is there any benefit from God being forced down the nation’s collective throat? No, nothing manmade has dominion over God and it is silly to accept that we can kick God out of anywhere. Our difference is not about my belief that God founded our nation. Our difference is where you believe that religion is personal and beyond the scope of culture to mandate belief, I believe that we have always been seen as a nation of “In God we Trust”. We have always been considered a “Christian” nation. Our freedom of religion is any religion you choose. But a nation’s cultural identity is important too, isn’t it? If Israel hadn’t clung to it’s strong cultural/religious identity they would have disappeared as a nation during the diaspora to Babylon. Do our nation’s leaders affect us as a nation? Is not Michelle Obama’s push for healthier eating not filtering its way down into our very cultural consciousness? I simply believe that a nation’s cultural consciousness and personal spirituality are closer related than most of us imagine.

  • Hello Stephen! I loved the article and agree with you 100%. When I was in public high school (in Wisconsin of all places) I took Latin. One “Christmas” we had a Saturnalia celebration and celebrated from December 17th until the 25th (really until Christmas vacation started). Some people in high places were really upset about it so the next year the teacher canceled it. Before then I had never really known the origins of a Christian Christmas and I think most people still don’t. Just because I don’t believe in a personal god doesn’t mean I don’t love Christmas and as an American, have every right to celebrate or not celebrate it as I see fit.

  • “It is not persecution just because you do not get everything you want or because you can not do whatever you please.”

    I agree. That isn’t what persecution is.

    But is it persecution for a Christian couple to be sued because they refuse to rent out their home to an unmarried couple?

    Is it persecution to lose your business license for baking cakes, because you believe that your religious faith precludes your profiting from a gay wedding, and instead you recommend another baker instead?

    Is it persecution if a Christian pharmacist is told that he must provide abortifacients in his clinic, or he will be put out of business?

    Just because some Christians aren’t being persecuted does not mean that none of them are. From the the Freedom From Religion website: “Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”

    They think you are the enemy. A fool at best and, by virtue of your position as youth pastor, a slavemaster. Maybe you have less in common with them than you think. They certainly think so.

    • Hey Kevin, Thanks for commenting, I am not sure that I believe that any of those are persecution of Christians, I do think that many of them are discrimination against the unmarried couple, the gay couple and women. I think it is an example of the polarity of our country when people act like it is wrong to agree with a group on some things and disagree on the majority of others. The truth is that this group may or may not think that I am slave master, that is not my issue, and it does not negate that I agree with them on this.

      • Mr.Ingram –
        There is nothing commendable about the behavior Kevin defends. It is offensive whether one uses religion, culture or whim. Religion gets the black eye here and it’s christian religion. We have Jews with the same bigoted attitudes. Islam has codified homophobia and has always limited the social participation of women. The non-religious spiritualist tribes of Africa have institutionalized bigotry. Kevin’s defense of bigotry has nothing to do with christianity. Make no mistake; I haven’t called Kevin a bigot. I have though defined his defense of cultural anomalies as defense of bigotry.

        • No, you’re not saying I’m a bigot. You’re saying I’m defending bigotry. A distinction without a difference.

          I actually wasn’t even defending it. I was just using a hypothetical example.

          Lesson learned. This is the wrong place for a reasonable discussion. This forum is actually an echo chamber. My fault.

    • Kevin,

      If the law in your locality makes those things illegal, then, no it isn’t persecution. If you cannot find a way to operate your business without breaking the law or violating your religious principles, then you may need to find a new line of work. Or set aside your religious principles to the extent needed to operate your business legally.

      In every case where a business has gotten into trouble for refusing to serve a same-sex couple, refusing to provide that service was a violation of state or local law. Surely you don’t advocate people engaging in criminal activity?

      As for pharmacists, a pharmacist who finds that he cannot in good conscience fill a given prescription is REQUIRED by his professional oath to assist the patient in finding a pharmacist who CAN fill the prescription. He is not permitted to simply deny a patient any access to a prescribed medication solely on the basis of his personal beliefs. If he finds he cannot do that either, he should surrender his pharmacy license.

  • Obviously you have not studied nor understood the faith and beliefs of our founding fathers. Our country was bless by God and created on christian principles. Our founding fathers never intended Christ to be banned from any public forum. They would be horrified.

    • Hey Joel, As I am sure you already know, yes in fact I have studied that and to some extent, when one does actually study it in an academic setting one learns that the “founding fathers religion” was not a homogenous belief system that everyone subscribed to nor was it established to set up a theocracy. That founding fathers religion argument is over played and simply not accurate. And again, I do not believe that God looks down with favor on this country, god loves all people and nations with the same love.

      • Therefore, the biblical record of Israel as a chosen nation, and God judging other nations is mere fabrication? God does love all people (John 3:16) But give me your reference that God loves all nations with the same love? Your entire defense is that God is personal and in no way should be mixed with national cultural mores’. So, now you are in agreement with me who believes that our national cultural identity is loved/blessed by God or is He indifferent?

        • For the majority of the world’s population (including many Christians), who do not look at the Bible as a historically accurate portrayal of actual events, the use of the term “biblical record” is pretty a ridiculous statement to use in support of a position…..

          • Dear Mo,
            You are quite mistaken as there is more concrete evidence that the biblical record, when talking about history is accurate. There are more corroborating documents than Josephus or any other historian. When there are only a few copies of Shakespeare, we don’t doubt its veracity. So, there was no historical Jesus? the Israelites did not live in Egypt? There were never people like King David, Solomon, David? The written and verbal histories are overwhelming that when the Bible speaks of history, it is fairly accurate. To say that the Bible is “nothing” more than a bunch of fairy tales is not looking at it remotely objectively. So, what history do you believe? Which history book? From what author? What publisher? You don’t doubt George Washington had a wife named Martha, yet there is more records (and archeology) agreeing with the Bible. And then, who is the authority of which scriptures are accurate or inaccurate? Have you ever read journals or BAR (Biblical Archeological Review) or does it make it easier to believe only the parts that agree with a certain worldview. Have you looked at Josh McDowell’s landmark “Evidence that Demands A Verdict”? To believe anything else, beside the most documented book in history shows a belief system on the other side just as strong as those who say the “biblical record” is true.

        • Dr Tipple yes the Bible can be used as a source however when was the bible compiled and by whom? what about the scrolls used to make the bible.. they were not written at the time of the events but several centuries after those events. and the bible b t w was, 1 cherry picked by a committee of ‘Christians’ to display the best of the scrolls that they chose, 2 was then rewritten and edited throughout the years as royalty and papal choice declared hence why we have several different versions of the bible from the Gideon’s to the King James to any number of other versions. So saying that which Bible are you using as your source material? yes many of those you named lived as did jesus but there id not on iota of first hand evidence of what they actually did just tales written years after those that were there were dead and buried, so your claim that the bible is 100% accurate is a falsehood. Most of the ideals of Christianity are based on Pagan ideals and morals as the author himself has stated further down in the comments. I realize you are a minister but that makes you no authority I too am a clergyman and have researched my findings extensively.as for this country being a nation based on Judea Christian ideals remember also that it was formed as a republic which is based on the pre- Christian Greco-Roman governing system with little religion tossed in.

          • The first 5 books of the Bible were written by Moses. All scholars agree. The four Gospels were written within 50 years of Jesus’ death. The rest of the New Testament likewise was written before 137 AD. Plus, there is amazing continuity between versions and in verbal testimonies passed down through generations. Next, to placate, I said “fairly” but you assumed I said 100%. Next you called me no authority. You do not know me, and should not judge me. Who then is an authority in biblical matters? Hebrew or Greek interpreters? Hermeneutical Expositors, redaction critics? Or those who have studied and researched scriptures for over 40 years? You should judge by the veracity of my statements. If you are a clergyman, I would like to know how you place your trust in a God/Savior who is totally misrepresented by a document
            (tales and based on pagan practices) you claim to basically have no relevance to Christians?

  • I’m a politically liberal conservative Christian, believing that Jesus’ gospel was open hearted and liberal in nearly every way. That makes me weird. I agree no one should insist that Christ be wholly about the birth of Jesus or wholly Christian. It’s a worldwide and national holiday and everyone kinda sorta knows what it’s about. OK? All I’d ask is that the Christian parades allow Christians and churches to be there and convey the messages they will to convey – as long as there’s nothing ugly about it (who ever heard of that in a Christmas parade?). Time was, there was little celebrating at Christmas. But then it did and it caught on. It’s hardly ours anymore. But that’s OK. What a wonderful thing to have a holiday that started as a Christian celebration being adopted by everyone as a time for coming together, for celebrating this life, our families, the people we love and so many people we don’t know? Jesus would come to that party … as he has for 2,000 years or so.

    • Hey David, Thanks for this, and I totally agree. I think that is exactly the type of party Jesus would come to and truthfully the type of party he is throwing even today.

  • this is what I have been trying to tell people for years.

    If your faith is threatened by not having a prayer before a football game then you are obviously doing something wrong or for the wrong reasons.

  • As a Christian fiction author, I have a lot of conservative readers. A few years ago I made the mistake of posting something about Christmas on FB and used the short code Xmas and was attacked for it. People accused me of taking Christ out of Christmas. A few of my readers came to my defense and told the others that Xmas doesn’t take Christ out of Christmas, the “X” is actually indicating the Greek letter “Chi”, which is short for the Greek, meaning “Christ”. So “Xmas” and “Christmas” are equivalent in every way except their lettering. Even though I know the truth, I have not made that mistake again, but it bothers me that I would get attacked so vehemently by people who are supposed to be Christians themselves.

  • Wow. This article actually made me cry. I have a “christian” neighbor who berates me and calls me names on a daily basis because I have become atheist. I don’t even know how he found that out. I don’t advertise it. He screams and yells obsceneties at me every day. Then I come across this article….wow! You sir have hit the nail on the head. As an atheist I’m not out to put an end to Christmas. I could really care less what anyone does or believes. But when I’m subjected to “persecution” of my own by those who claim to be christian, then I do tend to get defensive. I don’t force my views on anyone. Becoming an atheist or converting to another religion is a personal choice that should never be looked down upon. So when I’m “forced” to comply to a religious idea from a secular source,i.e. government, I do get defensive. You’re right, it’s my tax dollars. Why would I be okay with promoting a religious event sponsered by MY government? Thank you for your TRUE christian values and thoughts. Coming from a former hardcore christian, I totally agree with your conclusion of heresy. Nothing irks me more than a christian who claims to be so christian yet shows non of the christian values Jesus taught. Like my neighbor. Knowing the history and life of christ should shed a clue on how a christian should conduct his/her life. Christ was only ever angry and judgemental towards the hypocrites. He associated with harlots, criminals and tax collectors. Not with the self righteous. He was an example to follow. As are you. An example of true christianity. I applaud you sir. Now…can you come talk some sense into my neighbor? I’d really like to sit on my porch and enjoy a day without being berated. Hahaha!

    • Hey and thanks for this personal and helpful response. First, I am sorry on behalf of Christianity, I am sorry. That sort of behavior, as I know you already know, has nothing to do with Jesus and everything to do with hate. Thanks for giving a face and a story to the often faceless and nameless “atheist” You are more than kind about the post too, thanks. I would be more than happy to talk with your neighbor, the problem is that he would dislike me just as much if not more 🙂

  • “I would rather we be a country whose Christians were forced to meet and pray in dark secluded caverns as a persecuted minority than one whose faith was mandated and proclaimed and sustained from Capitol Hill. At least that would be Biblical.”

    Well, this is the Fallacy of the False Choice, since nobody is really mandating anything. They just want to have a parade. Nobody has to go. Nobody has to bow his head. Nobody has to pray.

    But I’ll play along for argument’s sake: do you think that George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation was anti-Christian? Or that it was wrong?

    Because that was an instance of faith being proclaimed and sustained from Capitol Hill, and codified into law. We’ve been doing Thanksgiving as an official holiday since Washington, and unofficially long before that. Have you ‘blogged your objections to Thanksgiving? And if not, why not? What’s the difference?

  • Thank you Stephen. What an excellent tool for Spiritual maturity! I will pray for the wonderful people residing in Piedmont that they will embrace their religious liberty and may we all who believe in Jesus Christ embrace the liberty afforded everyone who lives in the U.S. I look forward to your books!

  • Reminds me of a favorite quotation of Mohammed’s: if you force a man to practice Islam then you are not practicing Islam.

  • The love of God doesn’t force Himself upon you, but it is written “every knee shall bow”. Every true Christian is unwavering, knowing everyone’s life would be better with Christ. Much of ‘Christmas’ adornments have pagan roots – Christmas tree. There’s a huge difference between having crusades and espousing ones faith. No light should be hidden in a cave. (Let the persecution begin)

    • Hey Jack, I would say “espouse” away, just do it as an individual and not a government

      • It would be delightful if our government was run by Christians instead of the corrupt politicians we have now. They wouldn’t have to espouse their faith, they could simply live it… They needn’t tell me what to do, they could just say what they like about Christ and Christmas…because Christmas at its best, is about Christ and the principles he taught. Christmas without Christ is just another pagan holiday… Christ wins in the end – I read the last chapter. I don’t mean to be mean, I’m saying this with a smile on my face and a nice. Tone of voice – but much of what your article is about is not being Christian. So sure, if you don’t like Christ in Christmas…to quote the “Christian Right” go start your own holiday (grin). Why does a Christian nation have to apologize for being Christian? Kind regards,

  • As I read these posts I am in horror that those proclaiming Jesus in their heart have treated people with vile commentary and attacks. People who belong to Jesus are to grow in love, patience, kindness, goodness, meekness, and not these confrontational, disrespectful lack of manners. I apologize, since I would probably be numbered with the conservative lot. As a minister, the majority of Christians I deal with are opinionated, but not like the attacks I have read in the above posts. Again, I apologize for those who cannot discuss in love or kindness.

    • First of all Christmas is a once a year celebration of Christ’s birthday. That’s the reason for this celebration. As a Christian I feel hijacked by those that choose to call it holidays. The government shuts down, businesses close because of Christmas so let’s give it credence for what it is. Non believers have desecrated Christmas so that once what was a Holy celebration is now nothing more than a revenue generating ploy. If you’re having a Christmas parade during Christmas, let it be so. If you want a holiday parade during Christmas, I’m outta here. My choice. Let’s look at it this way. As we decline morally in this world, it’s just a matter of time before total demise. But our convictions should never let us to lie down and die. Heresy? I don’t think so. More like our dedication to God.

      • Thanks for the comment Joel, There are several points I disagree on. There are actually several holidays that fall within the Holiday Break like Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza, sometimes even Ramadan. Also, I would not blame the commercialism on “non believers” People of faith fill the coffers of 5th avenue during the holiday season. Your assumption of moral decline is unfounded. Lastly, I would say that it is of my deepest conviction that I write this article, my deepest Christian conviction and I believe the ideas included here are dedication to God. It all depends on where you are standing. Again, thanks for commenting and engaging!

    • Dr. Tippins,

      Deploring these things is very nice, but in the absence of concrete action to put an end to such behaviors on the part of your co-religionists, your apology rings somewhat hollow. As someone who has been for many years the target of this sort of abuse, I simply assume that Christians who make comments such as yours here are doing it to make themselves feel better about what their fellow Christians are doing and saying, and NOT because they actually care. People who cared would be doing something to change things, and there’s little if any evidence of that.

  • Totally awesome post. There’s nothing else I can really say. Lol. It’s nice to find like-minded Christians every now and again. God bless.

  • I really like your article for pointing out that as Christians, our priority should not be fighting to have Christ recognized publicly, but we should be busy being the hands and feet of Christ, loving and serving others in His name – Agree 100%!

    I also really like how you point out that Christ is indeed with us, whether or not He is “named in the parade” – it is not the publicity that matters, but our hearts, and our trust in Him in all seasons. Again, agree 100%!

    Where I find I must disagree with your premise is the part about separation of church and state, and that it is un-American and wrong to include religion in tax-payer funded events. The Constitution nowhere states there should be a separation of church and state (a similar term was coined elsewhere in a letter written by Thomas Jefferson). What the First Amendment does say is this, “CONGRESS shall make no LAW respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” (caps mine) Nothing here bars a municipality from holding a parade with a religious theme, or having a prayer before a football game, regardless of taxpayer dollars. What it does say is that Congress is not allowed to pass a law that officially sponsors a religion or that requires citizens to engage in religious practices. Simply hearing a prayer at a football game is not the same thing as being forced to pray that prayer yourself, which is what the First Amendment is talking about. Holding a religious-themed parade is not the same thing as Congress passing a law establishing a national religion. And in fact, I would argue that if a community wants a prayer before a football game, it would actually be more akin to “prohibiting the free exercise” of their religion to rule that it is illegal to do so, based on the text of the First Amendment.

    There is no doubt that the early documents and framework of this country, as written and adopted by the Founding Fathers were based on a Judeo-Christian worldview. This is not to say they were all “evangelical Christians”, but when you look at their writings, it would be hard to argue they were not based on a Judeo-Christian belief and religious system. Prayers, references to God, and much more overtly “Christian” ideas and practices were commonly, if not almost always, linked with government policies and practices. I’m sure if the Founding Fathers had agreed with the group in Wisconsin, and your premise here, they would have certainly put an end to prayer in Congress, don’t you think?

    So, thank you very much for your great reflections on what should be important for Christians at Christmastime, and I hope you will re-consider your position on church and state.

    • Hey Jennifer, thanks so much for the comment. I always hesitate to use the phrase “separation of church and state” because I know that is not an absolute term, nor one that has agreed upon parameters. I agree that so much of it is about interpretation of what it means to “make no law respecting the establishment of religion” I think when a municipality is publicly funding a parade with tax dollars that is overtly religiously themed, it violates that. I also think that some of these conversations are somewhat falsely based on the intent of the framers of the constitution. While the constitution is an amazing document it is a document that was written in a time and a space, not in a vacuum. I think we have to honor the fact because of this it is not static and is always being interpreted and reinterpreted based on problem, circumstances and issues that were not present nor foreseen by the writers. When we talk about the Judeo- Christian basis of the country or the document I think we have to remember that many of the values that westerners call Judeo_Christian are found in many other religions and cultures and have been for a very long time. You are right that there are several government practices that fly in the face of this like prayer in congress. I personally wish it were a moment of silence, which would better represent our country. Again, thanks for such a thoughtful response!

    • Have you ever read the U.S. Constitution? Do you not think that the framers of the Constitution would have included specific language if they intended a specific religion to be government sanctioned? The only reference to religion, other than the First Amendment, is exclusionary: Article 6, at the end of the third clause, reads: “[n]o religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” The fact that the Constitution is dated in “the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty Seven,” was simply the convention of the time and makes no claim to a religious nation. The U.S. Supreme Court cites Thomas Jefferson’s reference to a wall of separation repeatedly; for instance, In Everson v. Board of Education (1947), Justice Hugo Black wrote: “In the words of Thomas Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect a wall of separation between church and state.” The effect of multiple court cases is to insure individual freedom of (including freedom from) religion while prohibiting governmental support for specific religions.

      • Kathi – I believe you may have missed my point. I was saying specifically the opposite, that the First Amendment prevents a government-sanctioned religion. It states Congress may not make laws that either prevent people from practicing their religion freely or that establishes a “state” religion, thereby requiring people to practice a certain religion. My contention is that neither a parade theme or a prayer at a football game fits these categories; therefore, they should not be banned under the guise of “separation of church and state”.

        My other point, and perhaps I did not make this clearly enough, is that since much of the United States’ early documents and government framework was founded upon a basic Judeo-Christian worldview, and I would even say, religion – that it is not unreasonable to expect that vestiges of this remain today. In other words, I should not find it offensive that a Christian prayer might be offered at an event in a country that has its roots in the Judeo-Christian religion. I was never suggesting the Founding Fathers were setting up a state government. There are numerous extra-constitutional documents that clearly show the writers’ strong beliefs in the importance of the Christian religion to government. Here are a few, as examples:

        (Benjamin Franklin, at the Constitutional Convention)
        “I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings, that “except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing governments by human wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest.

        I therefore beg leave to move that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service.

        (Source: James Madison, The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, Max Farrand, editor (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1911), Vol. I, pp. 450-452, June 28, 1787.)

        James McHenry (Signer of the Constitution):
        “[P]ublic utility pleads most forcibly for the general distribution of the Holy Scriptures. The doctrine they preach, the obligations they impose, the punishment they threaten, the rewards they promise, the stamp and image of divinity they bear, which produces a conviction of their truths, can alone secure to society, order and peace, and to our courts of justice and constitutions of government, purity, stability and usefulness. In vain, without the Bible, we increase penal laws and draw entrenchments around our institutions. Bibles are strong entrenchments. Where they abound, men cannot pursue wicked courses, and at the same time enjoy quiet conscience.”

        These are just a sampling.

        Stephen, I appreciate your response above. My opinion is that there is too much specific to Christianity included in the Founding Fathers’ speeches, writings, etc. to disregard, and pass off as values that were present because they are universal to many cultures. Good conversation!

        • No, Jennifer, I did not miss your point. You seem to think it is okay for a publicly funded (that is supported by tax-payers) entity to promote, encourage, sponsor or otherwise support religious prayer, events, icons, etc. You, as an individual, can pray or proselytize wherever you wish, but a government funded religious ceremony of any kind breaches the wall of separation.

          Any reasonably educated person would be foolish to claim that the Founding Fathers were not religious (though many were Deists or luke-warm Christians), which makes our God-less, Jesus-less, Christian-less, religion-less Constitution all the more remarkable.

          I could counter every quote you cited with one that contradicts it, but I have neither the time or the temperament. Just let me offer my favorite Benjamin Franklin quote: ” When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obliged to call for the help of the civil power, ’tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.” Benjamin Franklin, Works, Vol. VII, p. 506

    • Unfortunately, your argument is completely wrong. The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, and more specifically the Equal Protection Clause thereof, made all of the strictures of the Bill of Rights as binding upon the states and their political subdivisions as they are on the national government. So no, a city MAY NOT involve itself in a religious event, or pay for religious instruction with tax dollars, or grant a more-favored status to a single religion or religious denomination because the adherents thereof make up a majority of the population.

      Acting together, the effect of the Establishment Clause and the Equal Protection Clause is that government at all levels must be neutral in its treatment of religion, not granting preference to one religion out of many, nor favoring religion in general over irreligion, nor irreligion over religion.

      • I must disagree with your premise, Blake. Allowing a prayer to be said publicly at a football game, no matter the taxes involved, does not amount to the town requiring its citizens to practice the Christian religion. This is the fallacy that has developed in our court system – that somehow “involving itself” in a religious activity = establishing laws mandating religious activity. So, yes, states and municipalities must also follow the same rules as the federal government, but the rules must mirror the original rule, and not morph into something entirely different. Again, if you look at history, the framers of our constitution were by large, very religious men, who brought religion into their practice of civics and government in many ways. They had no qualms about mixing prayer and government and other such things. They had qualms about the government requiring its citizens to adhere to a “state religion”. This has morphed into banning religion from civic life, which was not the intent.

        • Our jurisprudence says otherwise. And who is it that decides whose prayers shall be used? I’m Wiccan, and a member of our clergy to the extent that Wicca has clergy, Would you be comfortable if I were to asked to offer a prayer before the local high school’s football game? How about an Islamic prayer by the imam from the local mosque? Or a Zoroastrian prayer? My city does have a small Iranian community, so should they not get their turn?

          My experience over the last sixty-odd years is that people who claim that such things are harmless change their tune as soon as a suggestion is made that the prayer in question be offered by someone who practices a different religion from theirs. Because it’s only “harmless” as long as it is a prayer that represents their religious viewpoint. If you would be made uncomfortable by any of the alternatives I outlined above, you have answered your own question.

          Whether you like it or not, we live in a pluralistic society. As soon as government starts making choices as to whose prayers are acceptable to be heard in the public sphere, that government has stepped over the line into unconstitutional action. Because if some religions are favored, and some are not, the entire concept of “equality before the law” is made meaningless.

          Somebody up above mentioned “Christian privilege.” I suggest that you check yours.

          • I understand the concept of ensuring that no religion is favoured, but I wonder if it is possible in practice. Ancient Rome was very good at this, in its own fashion. They had a long list of acceptable religions and protected them by law. But in reality, these religions were all subordinate to the official state religion – the imperial cult. At times this was overt – when emperors forced all citizens to offer incense to statures of Caesar as a proof of their loyalty – but most of the time it was more discreet – practice your religion in private, but all public discourse must submit to the principles of the imperial cult. (Most of which principles are inoffensive to all religions, but some important ones unconscionable to some).

            What we are seeing today is not a true equality of religions, rather an equal debasement of all religions under the state religion of secular humanism. The situation in the past was similar, except that Christianity (nominal at least) was the superior religion. I happen to believe that he principle of religious freedom is more tenable under the patronage of Christianity than under that of secular humanism. Time will tell. However, Wicca has more in common with humanism and is less of a threat to it than true Christianity, so you will naturally feel more at ease in a secular society than a Christian does.

            But a true Christian can feel at peace in the most hostile culture, because of the presence of God and His kingdom, which is not of this world, which is what the Rev. Ingram is alluding to, I suppose, about living in a climate of pesecution. Our reaction to secularization is more culture shock than anything else. If we realized that our heavenly citizenship hasn’t changed, then we’d be more at ease, I think.

  • Funnily enough, Christmas is not even a true holiday of Christianity. It is an amalgamation of some Christianity with ancient Pagan rituals… including gift-giving, evergreen trees, etc. celebrating the Winter Solstice.

    So, ‘Keeping the Christ in Christmas’ does have absolutely nothing to do with the bible… if you want Christ to be there, keep him in your heart… not a holiday that wasn’t even Christian to begin with.

  • Pretty heady stuff Sports Fans! Let’s keep Jim Beam in Eggnog, put Soul in Solstice, enjoy Moisture under Mistletoe, and find Sweetness in Stockings!

  • The fact that the state of Texas actually made it a law that teachers and students can refer to “Christmas” without fear of litigation is a striking example of how far from the original intent of the First Amendment this country has come.

  • Thanks for your article. I’m a somewhat practicing Jew (and thus, a Non-Christian) from Madison WI (home of the Freedom From Religion Foundation). “Merry Christmas” isn’t offensive, but it can be alienating. A Christmas tree paid for out of my tax dollars is *very* alienating, and somewhat offensive. It says to me, in effect, “You don’t belong here.” That’s a scary thing for a Jew to be told, considering our history. Nobody that I know is saying that Christians aren’t welcome to their prayers and the religious observance of their holidays. As a Non-Christian that practices a different religion though, I belong here just as much as Christians do. Christians have no more right to expect me and my kids to participate in their prayers and holidays than I have to expect them not to eat pork.

    • Thanks Mark and I really appreciate this perspective. The more of these perspectives we are exposed to the better I think we all will be and the better we will understand and respect each other. Thanks for this.

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  • Christ is part and parcel of Christmas, so no keeping it there is not heresy. It is respect for the word, the concept and the celebration. I do not claim persecution if someone disagrees. I do care to point out facts.
    The Constitution does not guarantee freedom FROM religion, but freedom OF religion. So yes, those who believe are free to do so and those who do not are free to stay home. Or better yet, free to enjoy the lights, trees, even religious themes without being offended. What are these people afraid of anyway? All sorts of things with which I do not agree are funded with my tax dollars. That’s the price of living in our society and sharing its benefits.
    I asked a Shintoist Japanese exchange student who was living with us about his feelings about Christmas. “Oh, Christmas is for everyone,” was his big-grinned reply.
    The last paragraph says it all…this isn’t about any of the preceding arguments. It’s about where Christ lives whether one believes or not.

  • There is a lot of Truth in your final statement. There is one issue that I have… If you are not Christian than what business do you have celebrating Christmas. Further more why would you attend a Christmas event in the first place if not to recognize Christ. People have a beautiful way of twisting things around to fit their selves. Webster’s defines Christmas as a christian holiday that is celebrated on Dec 25 in honor of the birth of Jesus Christ. (Though I wander how long before the deffinition is changed because it offends someone) No the real problem is everyone wants others to bend to their will. Jesus did not manipulate people. So if you are offended by Christ in Christmas simply don’t celebrate it. If you do celebrate it remember it for what it is for.

  • Taking some time to read the comments above, I’m not seeing Christian privilege, as some have stated. Part of what makes unconscious privilege an issue is that it’s unconscious. What I’m seeing in the comments above is Christian exceptionalism. That makes me appreciate Stephen’s article all the more, as an arguement against that exceptionalism.

  • As a disclaimer, I am a Christian and I do not believe that anything should be forced on anyone. That being said I have to ask if you realize what you are saying here. You think that publicly honoring Jesus, whether it be prayer at a football game or a parade, is heresy because we proclaim through those actions that there is only one true king? Heresy is a belief or action that goes against doctrine. I can guarantee that you will find no Biblical doctrine that teaches not to acknowledge Jesus publicly. Jesus was a revolutionary who openly denounced false religions. Here are a few of His words:

    John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

    Matthew 10:32-33 Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. [33] But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.

    One of the ten commandments
    Exodus 20:3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

    The Bible also says that nations, as nations should glorify Him.
    Psalm 117:1 O praise the Lord , all ye nations: praise him, all ye people.

    Faith cannot be forced on anyone, but deciding to be silent about the one true Lord and Savior and not preach truth against false Gods is actually the heresy. Just showing love doesn’t show people salvation through Jesus, witnessing and publicly recognizing him does. We are commanded to witness to every living creature.

    Your case is backed up by the constitution but isn’t backed up by Bible doctrine. I understand what you were trying to say in not mandating faith, but we should never be silent or hide our faith because it could offend an unbeliever. Please share some biblical doctrine that backs up this stance.

    • The problem is that no where does Jesus call us to bring about his message by mandating it through the government, which is the basis of this article

      • Yes but fighting to honor him in a parade isn’t mandating anything through the government. It’s the people expressing their right to honor Christ with a parade. And sadly Jesus isn’t already there in Christmas for a lot of people. This is a time of the year to tell the truth to those who don’t know Him. If you stand against witnessing Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection then sadly, regardless of what the government says, you are not an agent of the faith. Jesus angered the government of His time so bad that it killed him and all of his apostles but 1. Why? Because God’s kingdom is superior to ours and we ought to follow what He says first. Worldly governments hate this concept. We either serve God or the enemy. There is only salvation through Jesus or death and damnation. Why not use Christmas as an outlet to help people get saved and recieve eternal life? It isn’t about mandating anything but spreading truth through any outlet available.

        • I am all for having parades if you want, that is fine. Have the church file for a permit, organize it and pay what needs to be paid and let anyone who wants to participate do so. However the organization and funding cannot be housed in a government office. That is the problem. By the way I am not sure if the standard of a faithful servant of Jesus is whether or not your are planning parades in Jesus name, so lets work to keep the judging to a minimum please.

    • This ‘evangelism’ is the crime. I implore you to commit you crime elsewhere.

  • disagree ! A prayer at a game or a Christian themed parade is just the start of what we need . Our young people are awash in bullying , sexting , profanity , Godlessness. We love them so much, yet they know little of what is important to us as a town or culture , we stand for little . Our precious young people need to see some humble boldness , that Judeo Christian value /prayer is important at our events. The Muslims don’t hide their faith in their countries . They often require others to bow down to their god . We shouldn’t do that , but we don’t need to hide it under a PC basket

    • Thanks for commenting, Part of the problem, I think, with your perspective here is that you are using “we” in such a way that seems to say that everyone is of the same faith, belief system or lack there of. I am a Christian, however there are several brands of Christianity that I do not want my children exposed to from an institutional level. So even as a person who calls himself a christian I do not fall into your we.

      • thanks Stephen , for the comment. So is it better to have no prayer , or the ‘moment of silence’ ? Perhaps we have come to that point . There appears to be big disagreement in our country on who God is and isn’t . I used to help in the broadcast booth at a high school game . We didn’t have prayer , but if that was a long held tradition, it would have been good it seems . There are vestiges of Orthodox Christianity in the public square that are good — If I’d have prayed from that broadcast booth , would that be an institutional prayer ? I was just a football dad volunteering in the booth

        • I think if anything is going to be done I think the moment of silence is the best of all options. I think your example is still institutional. It is a state funded school with a funded football game. If you are in the booth, you are representing that school and are expected to work within those parameters. Don’t you think a moment of silence is both appropriate and helpful?

  • This post is so true. As Christians in the United States, we forget that the lives we lead are the exceptions, and not the rule. Nowhere in the Bible are we promised lives of government support to practice our faith. Nowhere are we told we will be equipped with the power to legislate our faith into the lives of others. Jesus himself commended the man who prayed quietly in his closet over the Pharisee in sack cloth and ashes in the streets. We are told over and over that we will be persecuted, that we will be shunned, that we will be hated for serving Christ. We are also told over and over again that our response to any of this is never to be violence or hatred, but love. Always love. Your statement about preferring to live in a country that openly persecutes Christians rings true for me because it shows just how spoiled we have become. Thank you for saying this.

  • However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. (‭Acts‬ ‭20‬:‭24‬ NIV)

  • Beautifully written. Thank you.

  • I presently live in Russia, where there is practically no such thing as political correctness. We have no limitations in the society on how we say Merry Christmas. We don’t use trees for Christmas, nor exchange gifts. I rather abhor the capitalism of Christ. However, after living here without such capitalism, I see how it in a sense can market the thought of Jesus being born. Everyone is thinking of it in America, but not everyone thinks about it in Russia. Still, nobody would be offended to hear Merry Christmas in Russian here, not a Muslim nor an unbeliever. And while there wouldn’t be a city-sanctioned parade for this, there also isn’t any lobbyist here trying to shut down the discussion of Christmas, Christ, Jesus, or prayer. It seems that the root of this article is talking about how to keep Christ out of government. Separation of Church and State was meant to keep the State from imposing religion or a-religion, such as restricting the people’s freedom to worship. At the time our country (USA) was founded, there were already theocracies in place in New England. People were very much Christian in and thru the government, and also non-Christian. To think that such a broad and strong Christian foundation in our history wouldn’t affect culture today in the USA is absurd and wishful thinking. While in America, many of my non-Christian and foreign friends asked me why would we debate about having Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays when they came expecting us to act on our cultural and historical views. Why are we getting trivial about words, and why are we as Christians not supportive of one another? By our love for each other, people will know us; not our divisiveness. How is it that in America, we have seemed to fall behind Russia in the right to worship or assemble or be ourselves in government? If the people, as in we the people, want to make a local parade in such a way, why can’t we have that liberty? Even with the local mayor’s blessing, this doesn’t force anyone to celebrate Christmas or come to the parade. As for persecution, those who were persecuted more harshly in times’ past, including Jews before Christ, were oppressed by their governments and coerced to do what seemed evil to them such as eat pork… facing death if they didn’t. I love the story of the elderly man in Maccabees, who said he wouldn’t even pretend to eat the pork when his aggressors had pity on him and offered him chicken instead. He said that would cause the youth to suffer the truth and become confused about where they should stand on the issue. We’ve lost that value it seems among some Christian circles.

  • Thanks for the article. I work in marketing. I run an advertising agency. Candidly, I hate how much we have to sidestep what Christmas had, in America, come to mean for so many. Christ is the center of Christmas and though Christians debate it, I am of the belief that Christ is honored anytime we celebrate his advent, pagan holiday or not. I agree with the need to give those freedom from mandate. But the larger picture in our nation is one of persecution. Persecution of ideals, values and at the heart of things, the very God we serve. I do believe America was designed to be a bastion of hope for those once persecuted. Personally, I think the word heresy around this topic is dramatic. It’s not heretical to try to keep Christ the center of Christmas. As we all know, the centerpiece of a holiday as rich as Christmas, has over time, become meaningful. And it’s richness isn’t so much lost by striking the name Christ out of Christmas, but instead suggesting that this is a season of self indulgence, get what I want and consumerism that keeps us blinded by this dark world. Only a simple shiny object must Satan dangle in front of us all to deter from a holiday of purpose and meaning.

  • Thanks for so clearly putting into words what many of us have been feeling!

  • I agree with the premise but not so much the application. Taking a tiny town and it’s battle to encompass an entire faith seems rather reaching. There seems to be as much or more of the same jargon about speaking English or being a citizen than any Christian organization has made over keeping Christ in Christmas. In fact by your own report, compliance has been almost immediate due to the opposition of the “religious” holiday or event. This opposition would have little to no power without being the majority in reason and belief.

  • Stephen I enjoyed your article very much and those comments were good as well however ,as a Pagan, I noted that not once was it mentioned that the Christmas season was originally based on pagan holiday of Yule, Nor did i see it noted anywhere that Christ was not actually proven to have been born in December but was most likely born in late September or early October. If anyone should be up in arms about anything it is the pagans not having it called yule, Yet very few pagans complain much less insist on forcing government policy regarding it
    I see no reason for Atheists ( most of whom i happen to know have no real issue with saying Merry Christmas or Blessed Yule or happy holidays or any other seasonal greeting) to complain because a few do not get their way Atheists tend to be a minority voice. I say basically KUDOS for the openminded article and for crying out loud to the whiney atheists that do not get their way I say grow up buttercup and just let the holidays be what they are, blessings for the article and comments everyone and may we all have a joyous holiday season

    • It should also be mentioned, though, that the pagans of Europe abandoned paganism wholesale to adopt Christianity; at least until the fairly recent neo-pagan resurgence. (One could argue that a syncratism occurred as a result, but the Germanic and Celtic peoples etc. have been fundamentally Christian for centuries until secularism started to dominate). Jesus most likely was not born in December, but it seemed appropriate to celebrate his birth at that time for the same reason the pagans celebrated: it represents the beginning of the victory of light over darkness. Having accepted Christ, the pagans realized that their worship was only a picture of the true light in Christ; realized that they had been worshiping creation rather than its Creator. Therefore, it can hardly be said that Christians stole Yuletide from the pagans, when it was in fact the pagans who gave it to Christianity, or rather brought it with them into Christianity. You are welcome to join your forefathers. Fred 🙂

  • I am from B’ham, Ala. and a very devout Christian. I grew up, in a small town, not far from here. Some of my earliest childhood friends, are Jewish. Growing up, we accepted each others religious differences, but still loved each other and our families. In fact, when I was a small child, I had been at one of my friends homes, during one of their holidays, and not understanding, I said, “When I grow up, I want to join the Jewish church, and become a reptile”, meaning gentile! They have never let me hear the end of that one! Now we are in our seventies, and are grandparents, and some in different parts of the country, we still keep in touch and still love each other. Yes, I pray that they will accept their Messiah, but we honor each others holidays, thru email, etc. Yes, I Love them. But I love them for who they are, not because of what they believe. They are precious friends of mine, who I cherish. We have never squabbled over Happy Holliday, or Happy Hannikah! And remember, we are in the middle of the Bible Belt. And yes, I am crying, as I write this.

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  • Pastor Hollis Wright

    Martin Luther King Dayis about Martin. Christmas is about Christ. That is not heresy ( a belief or opinion contrary to religious orthodoxy). If the whole thing had not become so commercial, so far from the real heritage we share as children through adoption, perhaps there wouldn’t be a problem. But heresy? Not a word to be tossed about lgithly, imo.

  • So many thoughts…

    In the early to mid 1800’s, the US went through Bible wars. There was prayer in school, and Scripture reading. But it was the King James, and when the Catholic priests in Philadelphia asked for the Douay version to be read in a separate place by Catholic volunteers to Catholic students, hostilities erupted. One person was killed. Many churches and convents were burned during this time. As a member of a branch of Roman Catholicism, I remain aware of this when people want to put prayer back in a public place. Who’s Christian prayer would that be? Our family left Boy Scouts after I got tired of fighting with leadership that a prayer at the bottom of a flagpole on a weekend campout was not the same as Catholic Mass. I could go on.

    A lot of this conversation has been about Christmas celebrations in the US. I teach English to adult immigrants. Just today, a conversation starter was “Santa takes away the real meaning and purpose of Christmas.” No one agreed, and some laughed at the absurdity of such an idea. They got that Christmas in the US and in their countries was a cultural holiday, not religious. And these people are from Muslims from the Mid-East, Hindis from India, and an agnostic from China. They all celebrated Christmas in some way in their countries. And they did not see it as religious, but, as the Chinese student said, “In China, just fun. Why not here, just fun?”

    My students have children in school, and they are pleased with the way that the schools accept and do not discriminate against them. They love the US and they are going to be huge supporters of our freedoms. Don’t tell them to pray Christian prayers or stay home. Invite them along. They are praying for you, just as I hope that you are praying for them, aloud in their prayer places and silently in public.

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  • Thanks Stephen.. you are a sensible voice of reason in a sea of rhetoric. I am as atheist as they come and although I may never see the light, it doesn’t mean I can’t love my neighbor. Great article and you say all the same things I like to say except more eloquently. It’s a relief to hear it coming from a non-atheist. We are all in this together… so let’s not forcibly include or forcibly exclude anyone. 🙂

  • America was originally founded out of a need for many types of freedom. In addition to taxation, and political rule from Great Britain, The Church of England made it against the law to stray outside the official tenants of The Church of England. Freedom was important. Should religion be mandated? Absolutely not. There is more chance of true persecution with mandated religion.
    Where the problem for Christians comes when Wal Mart employees are mandated to say Happy Holidays. Yes, they were told, “Do not say Merry Christmas.” Our attempts to be tolerant or non offending goes against Freedom of Religion. I believe there is a sin of being offended. There are tons of people who do nothing but get offended at everything. These people should grow a thicker skin and not get offended by other’s freedoms. Companies should rather encourage employees, “Say Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Kawanza, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Milad un Nabi” (Mohammed’s birthday, really not celebrated) anything according to your background and wishes. That is true freedom. “Most” Christians have never had a problem with other’s belief systems. It’s when discrimination is mandated against our beliefs when there is concern. It’s the same as the don’t ask don’t tell in the military that everyone had such trouble with. You can be a Christian, but don’t you dare say anything about it. It is that way in stores, schools, and most of public, state funded life. Mandated either way is dangerous.

  • If Christ-mass was the only holy-day in December, then I could see your offense. But it’s not. Jews (like me) have Hannukah, There’s Kwanza (a cultural celebration). There’s the “pagan” Yule and Solstice celebrations (not to mention the original Roman Sol Invictus resurrection of the sun).

    Just for Christians there’s more than Christ’s mass… Catholics have all kinds of Saint Days, there’s Three Kings Day, there’s the Greek Orthodox celebration of Christ’s Mass in January, there is Advent, there are the 12 days of Christmas… so even for Christians, Christ’s mass is not the only holy day in December.

    Why being wished “Happy Holy-days” is such an offense, and seen as a “war on Christ’s mass” is beyond comprehension to me…. especially by a group who has the only nationally-recognized religious holy-day.

    And remember – those of us in retail also see Jehovah’s Witnesses (who, like Paul mentions, treat every day as holy), atheists, and those who abstain from Christmas because they feel it’s too commercial and non-religious.

    And we get to hear from ALL of them.

    So take the “Happy Holy-Days”, apply it to whichever day(s) you think are holy… and leave the poor retail clerks alone.

  • Thank you for your well written article. It has balanced the message that was given to us this past Sunday, yes, a sermon basically centered on keeping Christ in Christmas….. we all seem to fall into the trap that is snapping all around us in the world we live in. I have always believed that our actions, love, and concern are needed to help ‘fertilize’ the mind of individuals for the ‘seed’ of the Word to ‘stick’ better. Just saying Jesus with out demonstrating the love that comes from Him is never going to be enough.

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  • I posted this on my blog — http://9awalsh.wordpress.com/2014/12/29/some-christmas-thoughts/#comment-239 — yesterday: “God played a trick on mankind who do not believe Jesus is the Son of God by making Christmas such a fantastic holiday with something for everyone that those who do not recognize it as Jesus’ birth are still inadvertently celebrating Jesus’ birth without realizing it! It doesn’t matter if people celebrate with Santa, a plethora of gifts, or jingle bells, the point is they are still celebrating Christmas. I giggle when someone derides a creche down the street yet has Christmas lights all over their house. It’s God’s joke on those who do not believe.” One of my readers sent me to your post. I definitely agree with you! 🙂

    • Your ‘christian privilege’ is showing and with a tinge of arrogance around the edges.

    • You’re certainly free to giggle at whatever you wish… but … insisting that someone “believes” or “celebrates” the same things you do at Christmas even when they don’t just because they do Santa or Holy-day lights.. is kind of disrespectful. Lights can be representative of no beliefs (but wanting some fun and decorations), “Pagan” beliefs like Yule and Solstice (from whence Christmas trees, wreaths, yule logs and the like all came from originally, not being “biblical” or representative of Jesus in any way, shape or form)…. they could be representative of Hannukah (the lights), or just a love of beauty.

      Insisting that somehow this means they agree with you is sort of … arrogant. Sort of “I’m going to push my beliefs on you no matter what, even if you don’t know I’ve done it”. Sort of like the people who hear that I’m Jewish, and think that this means I “really” have Jesus in my heart and don’t know it. No, I rejected the notions that the Christian church teaches about Jesus, and I resent people trying to make me a Christian when I’m not.. and especially when I’ve totally rejected it.

      Celebrate what you wish how you wish… and leave others to do the same, without trying to squish them into your little box. Everyone will be happier.

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  • This is a piece I wrote and posted to my blog last night. Seems to be in line with your article: http://kevinthinking.blogspot.com/2015/11/living-out-your-faith-my-thoughts.html

  • Exactly. Bibles were even printed using the “x” for Christ because it saved paper and lead type (both of which were expensive). I really wish pastors would take it upon themselves to educate their congregations about this stuff, because there are a lot of ignorant people out there being whipped into a frenzy over the “war on Christmas” when they have no idea what they are talking about.

  • Thanks for the post! I agree. The Christmas story is being taken over by political agendas. It’s pretty sad. Christians are more responsible than anyone else for not keeping “Christ in Christmas”. We buy into the commercialism and make it all about consumerism. Hoping we start trying to turn that around!

    http://godsfoolishness.blogspot.com/2015/12/advent-incarnation-and-affirmation.html

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Stephen Ingram is an Author, Speaker, Consultant & Student Ministry Expert. His books include Organic Student Ministry, ExtraOrdinary Time & Hollow Faith.

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