It’s December, which means it’s time to fire up Christian consumers to wage another battle in the mythical war on Christmas.
Just in case we aren’t divided enough as a country, you understand.
Focus on the Family, the group founded by conservative James Dobson, is calling for Christians to rate the “Christmas-friendliness” of retailers. The targets are stores that substitute the word “holiday” for “Christmas” in their signs, advertising and in-person greetings.
“Millions of consumers … will spend billions of dollars this Christmas,” spokesman Tom Minnery wrote in an e-mail, apparently missing the irony in trumpeting Christian materialism. Let us fight “the misguided politically correct notion that we must remove the name of Christ from the public square,” he added.
My colleague and friend Regina Brett wrote last Sunday that American efforts to respect other faiths have “gutted” Christmas. She encouraged readers “to increase the arsenal” in the “fight against the ‘War on Christmas’” by wearing red and green pins declaring, “It’s OK, Wish Me A Merry Christmas.”
I told Regina I don’t agree that Christmas has been gutted. She smiled and told me to have at it. This undoubtedly will confuse those few who want to believe that middle-aged white women are as interchangeable as pickled gherkins, but ’tis the season to be sur- prised, yes?
Back to the so-called war on Christmas. These woe-is-we claims of oppression don’t sit well with Christians like me.
For starters, the most recent surveys show that Christians are hardly a fragile minority in America. The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life says Christians make up 78.4 percent of the population. The American Religious Identification Survey puts it at 76 percent.
So much for that underdog image.
Here’s my question: Who will be on the receiving end of these customer demands for “Merry Christmas”?
Not store owners. Not the managers. Hourly wage earners, that’s who. They have absolutely nothing to do with store policy, but being oh-so-conveniently stuck behind the cash registers puts them smack-dab in the cross hairs of cranky Christians.
Imagine the scenario: A cashier says “happy holidays” and then has to stand in silence as the customer lays into her for taking the Christ out of Christmas.
I’m sorry, but the moment we Christians think it’s OK to berate another human being for saying the wrong nice thing, we go from being champions for Christ to bullies for Jesus. No thank you.
I wrote about this issue in 2004. I thought it was just spillover from a nasty election year and soon would die out. Silly me.
I’ve quoted my mother’s definition of a Christian before, and her wisdom bears repeating:
Being a Christian means fixing yourself and helping others, not the other way around.
Mom also said that when in doubt, be kind.
I know next to nothing about the store clerks ringing up my sales and bagging my purchases. It’s a safe guess, though, that they were standing behind those registers long before I showed up and that they still will be standing long after I slide back into my car’s seat and head home.
Cashiers don’t need me or anyone else insisting it’s their job to affirm my faith in God. They do that every time they greet me with a smile, no matter how weary. If I want to practice my faith, I’ll beat them to it.
There are a lot of ways to put the Christ in Christmas when we shop. We can ask managers whether their hourly employees get health care and overtime pay, and we can make it clear that their stores will lose our business if they don’t.
We also can find out who promotes and fires their cashiers based on how many customers per hour they rush through the line. I’ve written about that, too, but I must have missed that avalanche of concern in response.
Most Christians have no interest in bullying store clerks in the name of Christmas.
To those few who do: Knock it off, will ya? You’re giving Christmas a bad name.
Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer
Prize-winning columnist for The
Plain Dealer in Cleveland and the
author of two books from Random
House, “Life Happens” and “… and
His Lovely Wife.”