Peace To Men of Good Will

The squall over the season’s greetings has me thinking quite a bit. I suppose the fact that it is in the news and discussed so much in the blogosphere contributes, as well. Perhaps the fact that Christians have generally marshalled themselves in the culture war leads inevitably to carrying that contentiousness to their holiday season.

I question the wisdom in all of this. In reading an article by Bill Symonds on Business Week Online, I pick up on the sneer the media has for Christians and the perceived Christian Right, but I also did some analysis of my own instead of a knee-jerk response.

I think it is a great mistake the label issues such as TV indecency, blatant sexual content, etc. as ‘Christian’ issues. To think more accurately these are sociological issues, of interest to those with Christian creedal values. The defining is important. If we are talking about sociological issues it is addressing the health of our society for the interest of all. If we are talking about Christian issues, the criticism is that Christians are imposing their creed on the portions of society not subscribing to the creed.

That would be a different discussion.

I think the confusion in mixing sociological conerns with those strictly Christian leads to unnecessary hostility and defeats important supporting points for society’s decisions to keep itself healthy.

This Christmas’ seasonal debate is contributing to the confusion. If I layer on the good advice from Scripture that Josh Harris gave in his admonishment to Christian Bloggers…. I am left with the undeniable conviction that we have betrayed our own values when “fighting” to keep Christ in Christmas through protesting for Merry Christmas greetings. It is a non-issue for us and the problem is not with the stores …it is with our own manner of celebration. I am increasingly convinced of this. And this seems to be a common problem for us as Americans.

We use displacement and equivocation to move ahead our agenda. I don’t know if this is promoted by the media or the media simply reflects the culture. As in all art: probably both… But what I do see is that decency and standards of morality are in the interest of society and are broadly sociological interests. Christians do have a stake in that… they do have a need to represent their voice. But this is far different than the points raised by the symantical fights over holiday advertising, etc.

It comes down, for Christians, whether we will fight for a specific culture, or we will fight for our own standards and -against our own selves- maintain our proper perspective. I say against our own selves because this is the way of the cross. Can you impose that way upon the culture, would you even want to? Isn’t the way of the cross one which is taken up by each person in their repsonse to the call of God?

And what does this have to do with Christmas? It is this… what does it mean, this message to extend peace to men of good will? Why was there a qualification on the state of mind of those receiving the proclamation? How do we, as Christians Ambassadors for a Kingdom which we pray daily “will come” , build good will?

Flexing our cultural muscles does not seem to be our greatest priority. There is a place to be recognized for what we are: men and women who are an important and major component of the fabric of our society. Yet, it is within certain contexts and we should be more careful what battles we engage and for what reasons.

….are these companies bowing to the Christian right — or to economic realities? Britt Beemer, chairman of America’s Research Group, a market research firm based in Charleston, S.C., thinks it’s the latter. “Some of these retailers are awakening to a sleeping giant,” he argues.

It isn’t that simple, but what is said here is largely true. It means, too, that we shouldn’t get so mixed in our assessment of issues and become just another demographic. The Bible admonishes on this point “Don’t compare yourselves” (“they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise”), 2 Corinthians 10:12. We need to cut the cultural lines that hold us to conflicting values than those given by Christ, even if that means some of our loved Christmas traditions. Our battle is not to have store signs blaring “Merry Christmas”, our battle is becoming men of peace and good will and finding out how that operates in daily life, in issues, in our venues of jurisdiction as those who are not of the Kingdoms of This World.

Some of you are going to be angry with the implications of this, and angry with me for outlining it. I think that is because when it comes down to it, lots of Christians don’t trust each other, or themselves, to pursue the path and see its power for good to overcome evil. Or maybe that is just a lack of trust in God. Maybe we have trouble being convinced if we don’t push the agenda, everything will go all to hell.

But that isn’t thinking straight. No one is saying that we ought not act, but saying that we ought to have circumspection in the way that we act. We ought to stop the mindless herd instinct… or take better assessment of who is given the voice of the Shepherd.

This is not a new problem.

Philippians 3:17-19
Our Citizenship in Heaven

17 Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. 18 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things.

This Christmas we have as much a challenge as any in Jerusalem on that first Christmas. Are we open to the message from above, or are we caught in the flurry of our cultures events and power struggles? Are we looking for Christmas in all the wrong places?

It wouldn’t have been the first time, but we have a brighter star and a more sure Word at this time by which to make our journey.

A little more looking at (my version of fisking) the article mentioned:

“While the Christian Right has more political power now than it has enjoyed in decades, American society has never been more secular. ”

If true, this is a problem for Christians. It means we have a major blindspot. I ma just not sure I would accept this statement. Are we truly more secular than ever? Or is it that our society has louder secular voices and entrenched policies….policies that are being given some scrutiny with the idea of change as more Conservatives, an increasing segment of the political stream, are intent on having the policy line up more with their majority numbers in our society.

“bow to the Christian thought police.” A clear giveaway to the author’s bias. As if. This statement would imply that Christians are all under the umbrella of a tightly run tyranny of homogenized thought and organization. This is an example of why it is important to make a distinction between creedal and sociological issues and how they separate.

“The Christian Right is hardly mollified. “If you allow the cable industry to define family-friendly, you’ll end up with packages that contain programming like ABC Family Channel, some of which promotes premarital sex and infidelity,” fumes Swann. ”

Is this a ‘Christian Right’ issue, simply because a ‘Christian Right’ spokesman is used? Or is it an “American” issue…that we should be able to choose what we want to pay for and have available as choice? The answer isn’t hard once you strip off the filter.

“Meanwhile, Catholic League President Bill Donohue admits he’s under no illusions about the power of the Religious Right. Sure, they’ve scored some nice wins recently. But Donohue cautions: “The battle is a long way from over, and the culture is still up for grabs.” ”

I agree with Donohue, and that is why I am willing to anger my fellow Christians and say blatantly: You are fighting the wrong battle. You are wrong, friends, if you make “Merry Christmas” your standing ground. You have a message of peace and good will and that ought to be where you stand. That is where the forces of hell are seeking to make a breach in our ranks and in the wellbeing of our society.

Are we in to win this thing or not? Then we ought to recognize that our fight is within and that will create the power without… this is the way Jesus Christ taught us, and Paul expounded upon. Why are we so foolish? These words haunt me, “gain the world, but lose your soul” . It was a matter of vision and priority where the rich man missed it.

So where are we this Christmas- the stable or the courts of Herod?

4 thoughts on “Peace To Men of Good Will”

  1. I’m a christian anyone who says I can’t say merry christmas in a job or anywhere has another thing coming 2 I won’t support stores who wants to remove Christ out of christmas or anything I will boycott them if they shut down thats their problem they asked for it cause they wouldn’t be prospering if it wasn’t for people like us in the usa take care and God bless and Merry Christmas Jesus is the reason for the season

  2. If you are a Christian who shops in that store I don’t think you are stopped from saying Merry Christmas to whatever employee or fellow shopper you want to. Jesus is the reason for everything as far as we are concerned… but I still think you ought to see whether elbowing your way into the public venue is serving Christ. I think we were given a place of priviledge in the public sector because we had something beautiful and good to offer. Christmas loses that when we make it a battleground.

    I do Christmas bigtime- I have used it as an instrument of evangelism for years, maybe that is why I protest the idea of wresting it from its true place and making it something ugly and wretched.

    Economists might place lots of importance on the Christmas season, but that is not what it means to me- or any Christian for that matter. I’m not going to play along with manufactured culture wars, and that is what I think this is.

  3. Following up here after your “Allure of Chrismas” post. I understand what you’re saying – I think. But I see this whole “Christmas War” as just a piece of a much larger world puzzle. Yesterday it was legalized abortion, today it’s acceptance of homosexuality, tomorrow the word Christmas will be part of history.

    I know it’s inevitable. It was also inevitable that the temple would be destroyed as prophesied, but that didn’t keep Christ from flipping over the merchants’ tables.

    I guess I just have this inner need to stand my ground on issues that can run amok and become increasingly heinous. It does smack of lack of faith in some respects, doesn’t it? As if God doesn’t already know the appointed hour of His return and my boycotting a Happy Holidays store is somehow going to slow down the end times.

    Okay. You’re making me think way too hard. And look at all the other posts you’ve written today! Looks like I’ll be here for a while.

  4. If we put legalized abortion, and the process that brought that about, and the to-do about the word Christmas on the same level I think we are in trouble. I think that is what we are used to doing as Christians who are politically conservative. We are losing our perspective.

    People can laugh all they want about how liberals are buffoons and moon-bats…but they went off the deep end in this way…. when their high ideals and standards got lost in idiot sideshows that makeup their identity as the “Compassionate Left” or whatever it is that led them down that primrose path.

    Why are we whining about ‘happy holidays”? Why don’t we take it and turn it around? I have ideas on that. but we will never be wise if we use the worlds manner of force and intimidation. Of that I am sure.

    Many Christians may deeply disagree with me. I can see the points and I understand the concern… but I am getting very confirmed in my view- much more than when I started looking at the topic at the beginning.

    I think we ought to take a stand… but I don’t want to fight Kadesh Barnea.

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