As Christmas approaches we find ourselves in another round of the Christmas culture wars—this time with Christmas winning. Wal-Mart recently announced it would not only allow but encourage its Associates to jettison last year’s “Happy Holiday” greetings in favor of the traditional “Merry Christmas.” While Best Buy is sticking with generic holiday salutations, in their view, “respecting” all their customers, Macy’s, Kohl’s, and Walgreen are joining Wal-Mart in a return to Christmas.
While these moves are more about profit than philosophy it’s still good to see common sense reassert itself. Christmas is more than the Christian holy day honoring the birth of Christ. It is an internationally recognized time of cheer, expressions of peace, and goodwill. It is a time of gift-giving and gift-receiving, of family and food, and of rest and reflection.
Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, curiously criticized Wal-Mart, saying that when Wal-Mart officials “cave into these demands, they are really making a statement that non-Christians should probably go elsewhere this holiday season.” If there was ever an example of a secularist mindset, this is it. What does Wal-Mart, a retail corporation, have to do with separation of church and state? And for that matter, if non-Christians are offended by Christmas, why are they shopping during the holiday season? Lynn’s comment reveals an anti-religion bias that runs much deeper than any concerns he may have about how church and state function best.
It’s true. “Merry Christmas” means something very special to Christian people, so as a believer I’m glad to welcome it back. But it does the phrase no damage to note that it has grown beyond its uniquely religious and specifically Christian heritage. It’s now a cultural expression intended to wish someone well in the season at hand. It’s no more threatening to non-Christians than Santa Claus is to Christians. So “Three Cheers” to the American retail giants restoring a bit of sanity to the season, and “Merry Christmas” to all.
© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006
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