Please Dr. Dobson
This post goes in the category of Those Who Have Too Much Time On Their Hands:
Focus on the Family has released a list of stores that are Christmas friendly, Christmas Negligent and Christmas Offensive – the latter ones being those that say “Happy Holidays” or “Holiday Tree”, instead of Merry Christmas or Christmas Tree. One should shop only in Christmas friendly (and perhaps by grace, Christmas neutral) stores in order to Stand for Christmas.
It seems too silly to be worth blogging about except that this type of thinking hurts so many of my friends. They are deeply confused by this divisive, fear-driven form of Christianity. This list follows on the heels of a Letter from 2012 in Obama’s America written earlier this fall by James Dobson. The letter creates a future scenario of horrors that he worries will transpire from having Obama as President. It is a bitter drink of pure fear. As a result, some of my friends responded to the election results with sheer terror. Since when are Christians to be motivated out of fear? Is there an epistle I missed or something? His letter describes a conservative’s view of hell on earth but it contains no reminder that God has conquered hell. That is what is most troubling- it reads as if there is no God. (For further reading on this, Jim Wallis offers a response at his God’s Politics Blog.)
And now once again, the battle is about how retail stores handle Christmas. To shop at the right stores is to Stand for Christmas.
Please, Dr. Dobson, Christmas will come whether someone says Merry Christmas, or Happy Holidays or Happy Kwanzaa. It will come whether people shop or not. It will come no matter who is President. It will come even if you decide to boycott some already struggling retailers. (Focus says it’s not a boycott but they do influence the choices of many people.) No matter what happens, there is no stopping the coming of God into this world.
Like The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, it is easy to believe that if you can steal (or at least control) all the presents, then you can make the point you desire. But remember, the Grinch never suspected that Christmas had nothing to do with where people shopped or what they bought or whether they got presents at all. Christmas came despite the Grinch’s best efforts to stop what he didn’t like. He found that Love was born into the world that day, and Love remains. It seems that this Love that lives in Christmas followers to this day would go out of its way to offer a generous measure of blessing, reconciliation, restoration and welcome – even towards the evil retailers who use the words “Happy Holidays”. Perhaps especially towards them!
Dr. Dobson, we do not stand for Christmas. Christmas stands for us. Christmas is the beam of rescuing light in the darkness of our long cold winter. As the story goes, Christmas was a quiet, humble coming for us. Christmas did not stand up front, demanding to be recognized and given its rights. It tiptoed in the back way with the least of these, offering a concert of joy for a few raggedy, unclean shepherds. Christmas’ first celebrants, often called the Magi, were people who came from a very different worldview. I can’t prove this from scripture but they may even have been the kind of people who shop at Banana Republic. Yet there they were, received right into the presence of God.
God came packaged small and helpless in a stinky, dirty place, held by peasants, a gift of pure love. He did not and does not come to create fear and boycotts and divisiveness. At Christmas, God became the other; He became one of us who had been at enmity with Him. Scripture says that He became sin on the cross – think about that- He became the pedophile, the thief, the murderer, the liberal 😉 and even the Happy Holidays retailer, in order to break down every last dividing wall.
Please, please stop making people afraid. Please stop encouraging them to withdraw in fear and judgment and to hide away in Christian ghettos. Please encourage them to live in the power that is ours in the way that Jesus taught us. The Holy One came, slipped under the radar of those in charge and poured Himself into places without hope. He still brings the hospitality (same root word as hospital) of God to those who are sick. Remember the rest of the story? He died and rose again and is seated at the right hand of God on the throne. He wins. No fear! His path is our path. It’s not a path of avoidance, threats or judgment but real engagement with “them out there”. Remember that the dirty ol’ shepherds who were too stained for temple worship were His first praise chorus. Praise the Lord!
One more thing. Please Dr. Dobson, why encourage any consumerism as having anything to do with Christmas at all? Maybe instead of worrying about where we shop, you could encourage people to redeem the season by engaging in the Advent Conspiracy, a movement which encourages us to pool our Christian wealth and make a real difference in the world in the name of Christ by providing clean water for all.
Please Dr. Dobson, you influence a lot of people and they are so busy being afraid and standing for Christmas that they are forgetting Christmas, or at least they are missing the point just as the Grinch did. Please help them have eyes to see that Jesus can be found in Banana Republic and Lane Bryant and Old Navy, even if they don’t speak your language. He’s there in plain view – He’s behind the eyes of the clerk who is just trying to feed her family, and the multi-pierced dude shopping for jeans who can’t bring himself to believe that God could love him, and the woman perusing the size zero racks who is afraid to eat because she hates her body.
Grinches miss Jesus in His distressing disguise. Grinches are people whose hearts are three sizes too small. We don’t need more grinches. Please, Dr. Dobson, show them how Jesus does Christmas.