Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What Are We Standing For?

Focus on the Family is doing a campaign right now called "Stand for Christmas." I'm not going to link to it, you can google it if you'd like.

It's a rating system of how "Christmas-friendly" retailers are. The site's description is here:

Millions upon millions in our nation deeply value the great truths of Christmas and the holiday's inspiring place in American life and culture. We hope you will take a moment to "Stand for Christmas" by sharing feedback about your Christmas shopping experiences.
We're asking YOU to decide which retailers are "Christmas-friendly." They want your patronage and your gift-shopping dollars, but do they openly recognize Christmas?
People then get to rate and rank and leave comments about retailers pertaining to the Christmas decorations, if they were greeted with "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays," and a variety of other very important distinctions that we Christians should care deeply about.

Several of the blogs that I read have stumbled across this, and got all testy about it:

Jason Boyett - I saw it here first, he's quick
Rachel Held Evans - Seems most of the commenters didn't get it...strange they read her blog
Eugene Cho - Including a blog entry by someone who goes to his church on the same thing

Eugene Cho's entry has a lot about fair trade, sex trafficking, slave labor etc. Including info on:

Where to find Fair Trade gifts
2010 Sweatshop Hall of Shame
Department of Labor list of slave-made goods
Petition for the Association of Christian Retailers to adopt anti-slavery standards

As with most things, I'm late to the party, and I'm jumping on the bandwagon anyway.

First, let me say, I think there are many things that Focus on the Family does well. I do not think that "culture warring" is one of them.

Whatever good this campaign is designed to do, I believe it does 2 specific things that are...well....not so good.

1) Focusing on Appearances.

Obviously it is the outside that matters. After all, Jesus was very concerned that people clean the outside of cups even if they're full of greed and self indulgence, also if your soul is a decaying grave of rotting corpses it's best to put a fresh coat of paint on it.

Or something like that.

Campaigns like this, even if it is not their intention, cause people to focus on external and inconsequential things. Who cares if a retailer treats their employees badly, purchases goods from companies using slave labor and unsafe working conditions, or is in some other way oppressive to people. It's far more important that they have a reindeer with a Santa hat in the entrance way or a nativity scene set up in the "outdoor living" section.

2) A Bad Example

This is more about what it does to those outside of the church looking in. In my opinion, getting all upset about department stores not being "Christmas-friendly" enough leaves a very bad taste in the mouth of people of people not involved with the church. Hey, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth and I'm a part of the church.

I believe that non-church people look at this sort of thing and just chalk it onto the ever increasing list of reasons not to go to church.

Which really becomes reasons for them not to believe in God.

Despite our insistence that the church and God are two different things....they aren't. Well...if a few things:

  • If the church is truly a group of people instead of a building
  • If that group is really a body with Christ as the head
  • If God is making his appeal to the world through us

Then why wouldn't people equate God with the church? Why shouldn't they?

I think that we give others a view of what we believe God's heart to look like by the causes and interests we invest our energies into.

And I don't think that people want to believe in a God who sacrificed his son--so people can hear him referenced in the title of a holiday for a few weeks every year and get upset when he's not specifically mentioned by name.

I know I don't.

So if we're giving people a glimpse of God through our our own stances, opinions, and causes....what is it that we're standing for?