It’s not that I’ve never wielded a weapon in the culture war. I have. The stakes are high in our divisive times, critical issues constantly confront us and each of us must join the conversation when the moment calls for it. Yet I’m tiring of the way so many of us are going about it. The American public square (greatly enlarged by Internet access) has lost its dignity.
In the name of religious freedom, in-your-face-ugliness is, for some, a badge of courage. In the name of enlightenment, religious speech is sometimes stifled with one-sided pleas for tolerance. And culture warriors on both the left and the right seem to sincerely believe the fault is all on the other side.
The old-but-not-fully-retired phrase War on Christmas is a case in point. Instead of stemming the encroachment of secularism by publicizing and protesting the squelching of holiday wishes with Christmas or its religious symbols, the inflammatory approach may be making the problem worse.
When Facebook users post “At our house, we say MERRY CHRISTMAS,” a line so smug it surely hurts those who don’t share our faith, I cringe. When I hear “Winter” wielded as a weapon of enlightened superiority, I cringe again. (I once admired the lights on a home in the neighborhood and was told, “These are winter lights, not Christmas, WINTER!” All rightey then. Nice winter lights!)
So I wonder, what would it take to get over ourselves and make peace with the War on Christmas?
I guess we’d have to take the Prince of Peace seriously and pray for grace to love our neighbors and our enemies. We’d have to remember that nobody was ever won over by sarcasm, snootiness, superiority or snarkiness. In fact, a potential change of heart is often delayed because of it.
In-your-face opposition may garner us “likes,” rally our base and boost our ratings, but in the long run these tactics always do more harm than good. Our buddies may snicker and give us the thumbs up, but our opponents shut down and may never listen to us again.
At least until we apologize and learn to love them.
Perhaps we might make peace with the War on Christmas by pondering the humility hidden in the Christmas carols, softly calling us to the pathway of peace. They are treasures worth holding in the silence of the heart.
O Holy Night, for example, reminds us of a law higher than any court can command.
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
No battle of words can outwit the truth hidden in O Little Town of Bethlehem, reminding us that all real conversion happens in quiet receptivity:
How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given.
Silent Night, too, hints that pride pushes us further from the Holy Child but
Where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in.
So many sweet reminders of the happy path are wrapped inside the classic Christmas carols! Seeking them out can be a profound spiritual practice during this holy season.
Which doesn’t mean that there isn’t an effort to minimize or silence religious speech in America. It means that the way Christians often go about defending themselves is in direct contradiction to the gospel they profess.
Naturally people of faith must fight for religious freedom, but while we’re being wise as serpents, we must also be innocent as doves.
A prayerful meditation on It Came Upon a Midnight Clear may help us all make peace with the War on Christmas:
Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world hath suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love song which they bring:
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.
If you enjoyed this post, you might also like Choose Something Like a Star: A Christmas Contemplation.
Cartoonist Charles Schultz knew how to speak the truth in love. Interesting piece (with video links) from USA Today: ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ Almost Never Happened.
Cardiphonia’s Bruce Benedict offers a playlist of theologically rich new Christmas music (linked to Spotify) here. Pleased at the inclusion of “Open Up” by The Brilliance, whose fidelity to peace continues to inspire me. Here is “See the Love,” a song for all seasons:
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