But I am specifically talking about the conservative evangelical Christians who consider themselves culture warriors. Who walk around with a chip on their shoulder about 4 feet wide. Who are constantly looking for a fight. Who live their lives and their faith angry at the world in which they have been placed.
And believe it or not, Christmas makes it worse.
I know all sorts of troubling things have happened recently. Schools started calling it the “winter holidays” and insisted that choirs sing only secular songs of the season. Communities have been forced to remove nativity scenes from the town square. A couple of years ago, some companies, in a bow to political correctness, instructed their employees to wish their customers “Happy Holidays!” rather than “Merry Christmas!”
That last one seemed to really tick the warriors off most of all. There were petitions, calls for boycott and more.
As the season began this year, news came that some companies had reversed their policies about such greetings. “Merry Christmas” is back, and the warriors proclaimed victory, with a certain smugness in blog posts and fund-raising letters.
Then came this news that just makes you shake your head.
The historic First Baptist Church of Dallas, a leading light of Southern Baptist conservatism for a half-century or more, announced that this Christmas, they were issuing “Grinch Alerts”. The church began a web site, www.grinchalert.com where people can post the names of businesses they do not think are properly recognizing the true meaning of Christmas.
In other words, the church has taken upon itself to develop a sort of “naughty or nice” list, although the emphasis is clearly on the “naughty”. A business could be placed on the list for could be customer greetings, store displays or merchandise offered that some deem offensive. The pastor, Robert Jeffress said, “”Too many businesses have bowed down to political correctness. I thought this would be a fun way to call out businesses that are refusing to celebrate Christmas.” The church’s radio station (which I am sure advertises itself as “safe for the whole family”) will provide daily updates on the list.
It is cheap and dumb. It is a gimmick that cheapens the nature and mission of the church. It plays into the worst stereotypes of Christians—angry, narrow-minded, judgmental, etc. It ignores the reality of the times in which we live and instead lives inside the fantasy of Bible Belt culture. It is embarrassing to Christ-followers attempting to build relationships with far-from-God people. It does not even match the intent of the great Dr. Seuss story, which his biographer said was about “enabling the heart to grow larger” and speculated that Theodore Geisel would have “loathed” the campaign. In an ironic twist, it focuses attention on the commercial and economic aspects of Christmas rather than the spiritual.
Mostly, “Grinch Alert” is utterly devoid of the gospel. There is no sense of grace or love or joy or hope. There is no welcoming of all people to consider the Christ of Christmas. Indeed as a Jewish rabbi noted, “this kind of campaign feels mean to remind me and people like me that we are second-best members of society.” Ouch.
Why would Pastor Jeffress consider it “fun” to point out – in a publicly mocking and economically hurtful way—people who may be choosing to not recognize the precious beauty and meaning of the birth of Jesus? We have a name for people like that: they are spiritually lost. They are simply acting, speaking or marketing the way spiritually lost people act, speak or market.
So no, this is not fun; it is mean and condemning. And mean does not reflect the heart of a loving God who passionately seeks after the lost to bring them Home. Mean should not be attached to a people who are supposed to Christ-followers. Mean and love just don’t go together.
Instead of acting like the Grinch at the start of the story, we’re supposed to be a living demonstration of the Grinch after he discovered the true meaning of Christmas. We who have been given massive grace in the face of our own small-heartedness should delight to give it away to others.
Campaigns to mobilize ticked-off Christians merely play to the conservative evangelical Bible Belt choir to make us feel better about talking to ourselves rather than actually doing the mission to which we have been called and engaging the culture in which we actually live. Remember, it is a mission to “seek and save that which is lost.” (Luke 19:10)
Instead of a Grinch Alert, we would be better served to issue a Grace Alert. Listen:
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth…. And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ….
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 1:14, 16-17; 3:16-17)