By NEMS Daily Journal
Continuing controversy about using the word Christmas or the greeting “Merry Christmas” in secular advertising spins around claims that those references have been intentionally removed and that it is an attempt to de-Christianize the holiday, which historically celebrates Jesus’ birth.
In a commercial and marketing sense, the intentionality is almost certainly true but for no reason other than to cover all the sales bases.
The United States is increasingly diverse and religiously pluralistic. It is testament to the assimilation of many cultures and many faiths that many religious people besides Christians – and those of no religious preference – practice gift-giving at Christmas.
It’s good for business, including businesses owned by Christians, that people get into the commercial and festive spirit of the season for other than religious devotion.
Simply and broadly stated, it’s fun.
Many conservative Christians take a harder line, voicing theological objections to generic holiday references and advertising. Some have boycotted some businesses, as is their right, with some success in getting Christmas references restored to advertising.
It is worth noting that the most conservative Christians in the history of American religious life would think the support for “Merry Christmas-ing” objectionable for any reason.
The Puritans brought from Puritan-dominated England in the 17th century a general ban on Christmas celebration, which a zealously narrow Protestant English Parliament banished as “a popish festival with no biblical justification.” In other words, it was sinful because the Catholics did it.
Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, a theologian who is a member of the Puritan-descended United Church of Christ, has a somewhat different take on why Christmas is losing its Christian exceptionalism, and she points to Christians themselves for pushing the specifically religious and spiritual out of the season.
“American public holidays are about consumption, not God. Even worse, the Christian faith has internalized this message of cultural Christmas. Christians themselves often forget what Christmas is really about. The humanists really can’t do any more harm to Christians about Christmas than we’ve already done to ourselves,” she wrote in a recent On Faith blog in The Washington Post.
Corporations and their marketing divisions should not be wholly blamed. They smartly appeal to every sector for every sale.
“Christians have allowed Christmas to become so diluted into the general culture that the core message of the faith, God’s astonishing self-revelation as seen through the birth of a poor child in Bethlehem, has been lost. The birth of Christ should be understood as the amazing beginning of making right what has been so broken in our relationship with God through sin and alienation,” Thistlethwaite wrote.
The search for the lost Christmas might begin by looking in a mirror.
As Pogo, the wise swamp possum of comic-strip immortality said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
Pogo, a creation of cartoonist Walt Kelly, well understood the human propensity for denial of the facts – and the self-absorbed nature of the human condition.