Friday, November 27, 2009

Christmas Business Boycott? No Thanks.

Today I got an email from a prominent Christian ministry concerning all the businesses that fail to promote Christmas. They have a whole host of businesses rated on a scale from Christmas "Friendly", "Negligent", and "Offensive". Based on these three categories all these different stores get a rating. You can click over and see for yourself. You can then boycott the stores that use the words "Happy Holidays".

Here is how part of it reads:
Through our site, you can provide feedback directly about whether or not select retailers are respecting Christmas. Our interactive system compiles shoppers' ratings of retailers, posts consumer comments and sends your message automatically to the retailer's inbox. (my emphasis)

This is your opportunity to rate your shopping experiences and share them with others--including the retailers! YOU decide which retailers are "Christmas Friendly!" Go here to post your ratings and to see our latest customer-generated rankings for retailers.

'Tis the season to expose folly!

In our country which was founded with the ideal of providing religious liberty, we can encourage genuine mutual respect amid diversity without denying the prominent place Christmas holds both here and worldwide. Our commonsense appeal is not to encourage retailers to be exclusive but to be more inclusive by notably featuring the word Christmas.

I am very excited about this new Focus on the Family Action™ effort. puts you in the driver's seat! And I believe retailers will take note of how consumers are rating their Christmas shopping experiences.

Christmas is not only a memorable family time, it is the season in which we celebrate God's greatest gift to man. Christ is the centerpiece of our holiday season. Help us encourage the many retailers who are doing it well and urge those who censor the word "Christmas" to change their approach!
Why are we expecting non-believers to ascribe to something that means nothing to them? Does this help us promote the true meaning of Christmas? Why would we expect any different? I don't get it.

Whether unbelievers use the words Happy Holidays or Christmas is of little consequence as to their understanding of the Gospel. In my view, this kind of stuff only hurts our mission to communicate the truth of the Gospel. If you think people using the word Christmas somehow makes our materialistic holiday extravaganza more pure you are probably not paying attention very well. Boycotting secular businesses that do not exhibit the kind of behavior that we think they should is the last thing that an unbelieving world needs to see.

The main question this website asks is, "How Christmas Friendly Are Retailers?" What does retail have to do with the essence of Christmas anyway? Obviously, the true meaning of Christmas is very important to us and we want to teach our kids the meaning of Christmas, but that is not going to be found in any retail store, no matter how "Christmas friendly" they are.

Let's say that the CEO of Best Buy somehow stumbles upon this website and he happens to be a hard-core Christian skeptic. Do you think that this kind of a website is a helpful Christian witness for him? I doubt it. It serves the opposite goal. If we want people to cherish Christmas the path to seeing that accomplished is not paved with boycotts and angry comment sections on a public website.

Do we expect our unbelieving Muslim friends to acknowledge Christmas? Do we expect our unbelieving Hindu friends to acknowledge Christmas? Do we have unbelieving friends? Isn't this just a subtle (or not so subtle ) form of legalism?

What do you think?


Joanna said...

I'm so sick of these boycotts. We're making ourselves look like spoilt brats who throw tantrums every time something doesn't go exactly our way. We should be happy that with all the stress retail staff come under in the christmas season they are still making the effort to wish us a happy holidays.

If we've really gotta be campaigning about something, even within the area of what stores do there are heaps better options. Things likes ending the use of slave/exploitative labour in product production, paying staff fair wages, being environmental friendly or making stores more accessible for the disabled. Any of those would do so much more good for the world.

Anonymous said...

Good post. I think one of the major problems we face in Christianity today is the all-too-accepted and all-too-little-challenged belief that Christians exist in some way to force, whether by law or boycott, their morals, ideas, and faith on others.

Fallen people in a fallen world will act... fallen. What do we expect from sinners? Our task is to live Christ alongside them in such a way that they will glorify God, and allow HIM to take care of their sin problem.

... not that I'm calling using the phrase "Happy Holidays" a sin problem. I think the greater sin problem here is an unhealthy view of the Christian's role in his world. Since when did economic and political force become Christ's strategy for mission in the world?

Patricia said...

Very much in agreement with you, Zach. There are places I avoid (without fanfare) because their products are either offensive or don't appeal to me, Anyway, we never know where God is going to take us to share the love of Christ...or encourage a brother and sister who is likely working in many of those businesses.

Anonymous said...

There's no biblical imperative to celebrate Christmas in the first place.
Some Christians don't celebrate it either.
It's a choice. That's the best thing that can be said about it. We're free to thank God for the birth of Jesus anytime we like. Most Christians choose to do that on December 25.
It's nonsense to punish people for not doing something that God has not commanded even Christians to do.

Nick said...

I'm sure glad the apostle Paul didn't avoid places that didn't know Christ.

Thomas said...

Couldn't agree more. I too received an action email from a different yet similar organization. The Gospel is nowhere to be seen in their boycotts and, as someone else already said, there is no command to even celebrate Christmas in the gospels. In addition, I have no expectation that non-believers would celebrate Christmas.

Thanks for bringing attention to this. It needed to be said.

Unknown said...

Hear hear! We can't expect the unregenerate to treat us--and the celebrated birth of our Savior--with respect, when they don't understand its meaning. And boycotts like this run against the grain of what the Gospel stands for. Instead of boycotting stores who are "offensive" to the Christian faith, why not shop all the more there and bear the light of Christ into the darkness? After all, we're called to bless those who persecute us, not avoid them!

And Joanna is right--there are a LOT of more important things we as Christians can be doing with our righteous indignation, than fussing over whether someone said "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas."

Matthew Birch said...

It's weird that Focus on the Family will take a stand for this when they wont stand on scripture alone when it comes to mixing Catholicism with Christianity or Mysticism with biblical life and prayer. And I'll bet most of the "Christians" that will end up boycotting certain stores would have a hard time explaining to those nonbelievers that they are boycotting the true gospel. "I don't know what Propitiation means or Regeneration but I do know THEY AREN'T SAYING MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Happy Holidays!
Just kidding
Merry Christmas!

Stephen Ley said...

Wouldn't it be nice if FOTF used their influence to promote gospel-driven ways to subvert holiday materialism instead of trying to Christianize it?

Mike said...

Buying more material stuff from stores that use the word 'Christmas' simply underlines that a person is just as materialistic as the unbelievers. To celebrate the memory of Christ's incarnation enthusiastically and sincerely while truly giving to those in need (rather than exchanging dollars for stuff for our kids) would shine the light of the gospel more brightly.
We are to convert by being light and showing the gospel to give life, not by coercion through political or monetary power.

Chris Krycho said...

Heh. I tweeted almost exactly what you posted when I got the e-mail. The notion that our culture is somehow supposed to act like it understands the gospel is silly. Then again, that's what you get when most of the church doesn't really understand that the gospel is much more than a key to heaven, after which we're back to fixing everything on our own. We need a recovered vision of the power of Christ to transform everything—but He, not social action, is the power of God for salvation and trasformation.

TryonMom27 said...

I have been thinking alot about the whole "Keeping Christ in Christmas" campaign that has been around for a while. This one took the cake for me and got me pretty hot under the collar. My dh and I are constantly re-evaluating Christmas each year. Are we giving into materialism? Are we focused on the incarnation or on the gifts? We've scaled back so much. You know what I would love to see at this time of year. I would love to see Christians giving their holiday away to pay for expansion of the gospel. Admittedly, I struggle with it myself. I do kind of dream about it. Instead of griping about the retailers (which seems to fall under the "Don't Waste Your Life" category), why can't we not waste our lives and spend it spreading the gospel? I don't mean any of this to say that celebrating Christmas is wrong. It would just be a different way to celebrate. We hope someday to actually get there.

Thanks for posting this. I have wanted to write about this myself but I am not eloquent in speech. I also felt kind of alone in all this thinking maybe I wasn't thinking clearly. It's nice to find others out there that are seeing the same things I am.

God Bless.

Anonymous said...

Have to disagree with you on this. I think FOF explained the goal of its Stand for Christmas campaign quite well without being heavy-handed. The purpose of the campaign is to remind people of the meaning of Christmas – not force people to practice Christmas or Christianity in a certain way. I believe in retaining cultural symbols that connect us with our Christian heritage as much as possible. It is a door that can lead to the gospel. It was never meant to be the gospel itself.

Brendt said...

Spot on, Zach. Just one nit I'd like to pick.

I think maybe it's moreso moralism than legalism. But they do go hand in hand.

From Pilgrim's Progress:

Mr. Worldly Wiseman: Why, in yonder village (the village is named Morality) there dwells a gentleman whose name is Legality, a very judicious man, and a man of a very good name ...

Unknown said...

Great post. I'd take it one step further and suggest that it may be a good thing when the retailers separate Christ from all of the consumption of the season. What if we actually had to TELL OUR FRIENDS about Jesus? Wouldn't that be something!

amy Romero said...

I agree. Since when do Christians who claim to only celebrate the "real" reason for Christmas care about what the pushers of materialism think about our Lord? Pure stupidity. Thanks for this post.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you. FOTF talks an awful lot about spreading the gospel, but they seldom seem to get around to it.

I'm going OT, here, but I'm taking bets on when this is going to degenerate into a slug-fest about how evil/wonderful Christmas trees and presents are.

Kevin Craig said...

Why do you assume that retailers are "unbelievers" or "non-believers?" Why do you describe businesses as "secular?" Statistically speaking, most businesses are owned by people who just got through telling Gallup that they are "Christians." Some might even attend your church. But they believe all businesses must be secular, and religion has to be kept out of the workplace, even though, statistically speaking, most of their customers are also Christians who would enjoy being reminded of "the reason for the season." Christians shouldn't be intimidated. Why should Christians pretend to be unbelievers just to avoid upsetting non-Christians? Wouldn't it be better if non-Christians in a Christian nation pretend to be Christians, not because Christians bash them, but just to achieve social status?

Hampers said...

Nice blog. Just want to say that the Christmas season has come to mean the period when the public plays Santa Claus to the merchants. Have a wonderful Christmas.

Unknown said...


Douglas said...

"Do we expect our unbelieving Muslim friends to acknowledge Christmas? Do we expect our unbelieving Hindu friends to acknowledge Christmas? Do we have unbelieving friends?"

Yes, I have unbelieving, Wiccan, atheistic, agnostic and Hindu friends. No, I don't expect them to celebrate Christmas. Yes, I do expect them to acknowledge it at some level. It is a sign of healthy mutual respect among religions that they can acknowledge each others celebrations both publicly and privately. Christmas is a part of our cultural memory. To ignore it is to lose a part of who we are as a culture.

As it is, most of my Hindu, agnostic and atheistic friends not only acknowledge Christmas, but celebrate it at some level. They are as puzzled as me by the attempts to erase it from one's cultural memory. It would be like taking all Hindu references out of the celebration of Diwali and turning it into a purely secular celebration. A forced secularization of Diwali would rightly offend Hindus.

Ingrid said...

Great post! It is still circulating on FB!