For the last decade, I’ve become a critic of evangelicalism’s most influential leader, Focus on the Family’s James Dobson. It started back when I was editing my seminary’s newspaper. John Woodbridge, a professor at Trinity that I had grown to respect, wrote a 1995 cover story for Christianity Today imploring Christians not to use war rhetoric while engaging American culture. Woodbridge made the excellent point that when Christian leaders like Dobson say that they are fighting “culture wars,” they are actually hurting Christian missional work in today’s American culture. Dobson responded to Woodbridge in the next issue, insisting that he was carrying on the mandate to be a “Christian soldier,” marching off to war against anti-Christian ideologies. In my editorial, I wrote, “James Dobson Misses the Point.”
In the decade since I wrote that, I’ve watched Dobson miss the point time and time again. He seems to fight culture battles that are misguided at best and harmful to the Christian mission at worse.
His latest crusade in his culture wars came this week: He is opposing retail merchants saying “Happy Holidays.” On this last week’s Focus on the Family radio program, the guest discussed with Dobson “how the insidious effort to remove Christ from Christmas is part of the grander scheme to remove God from the public square” and how this is part of “Corporate America's attack on the family.”
Come, on…Is saying “Happy Holidays” really an “insidious effort to remove Christ from Christmas”?
Again, Dobson misses the point.
Having cashiers say “Merry Christmas” at retail stores will not make Christmas any more Christian. In my opinion, perhaps cashiers should be saying “Happy Holidays,” because very little about consumerism has to do with the meaning of Christmas.
In fact, I contend that consumerism is one of the top cancers for evangelical Christianity in today’s America. American Christians have participated in and are equally to blame for how consumerism has taken over the celebration of the birth of Christ.
Instead of spending so much time, energy and money on fighting against retailers saying “Happy Holidays,” maybe we should spend it more on creating a body of believers who would be so Kingdom-minded and so counter-cultural that they would recognize how they’re voracious appetites for consumer goods is corroding their spiritual lives.
And, maybe, instead of being a bunch of angry Christians demanding that people say “Merry Christmas,” we should joyfully proclaim the Good News that God came in the flesh in order to free us from such truly insidious powers such as consumerism and materialism.
technorati: spiritual formation, social action, emerging church