News from the Tennessee Valley Religion

Rev. John Bush

Rethinking the holy day wishes

Happy holidays!

I guess it's safe to say that now that Christmas is over.

And I suppose it is irrelevant to many fellow Christians that Hanukkah is still under way or that for a significant number of those who celebrate Christmas, the holy day does not arrive until Jan. 6.

No matter all that. Some of us have succeeded in keeping Christmas on the lips of virtually every salesclerk in the nation.

I could never get with that campaign, but while we Christians may not have succeeded in keeping Christ in Christmas, by golly some of us kept it in Target's advertising campaign. I am probably a bit old-fashioned, but I remember when the goal was to "keep Christmas in your heart." Now it seems more important to keep it in the shopping mall.

Why some of my fellow religionists got so exercised about enhancing the commercialization of the birthday of the Lord is more than I can comprehend. It seems to me that having the cooperation of corporate America in separating our holy day from all of this holiday frenzy is progress. Why exert our political muscle working against our own best interests? To tell the truth, I was cheering for Target, and urging Wal-Mart, Kmart, Sears, Costco, Budweiser and all the rest to get with the program.

I think this is the message they should be receiving: "Get Christ out of your frenzy-feeding advertising campaigns; just stick with the ubiquitous holidays."

One Web site that promoted what I believe is a misdirected effort rallied its followers to "Save Jesus." My, my. I guess I still have something to learn about this evangelism stuff. Obviously, I've been working on the wrong problem. It's Jesus I'm supposed to be saving. I've been an ordained minister for 49 years, and all of this time I've been under the impression that it worked the other way around.

Jerry Falwell called his effort the "Friend or Foe Campaign." If that is the choice, you will just have to call me one of the foes. But, then, this is not the first time Falwell and I have seen things differently. Actually, I'm convinced we live on different planets.

Do not get me wrong. I believe there is a place for Christian citizens to use their influence in the marketplace, but it must be used humbly and carefully. In this situation, there are two wrong approaches. The first is to find no relevance at all between our faith and social action. This obscures our Christian responsibilities for good order and justice of our civil community.

The other wrong approach is to equate religious ideals exactly with our social commitments, as if every public decision should be derived directly from our faith. This is wrong because every such solution contains morally ambiguous elements. Our self-interest and raw political power must be harnessed because they are morally dangerous. We human beings are inclined to obscure the morally ambiguous element in our social or political causes by investing them with religious sanctity. Equating our political beliefs with our Christian convictions causes more confusion than light when we set out to force on others our view of how things must be.

So, until next year, happy holidays!

The Rev. John Bush is a retired Presbyterian minister in Decatur who is serving as interim senior pastor of Birmingham First Presbyterian Church.

John Bush Rev. John Bush

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