An ad promoting a trip to Glacier National Park

Nothing announces the humble birth of a long-awaited savior like Nordstrom’s highly priced glass Nativity and angel figurine. Yet the presence of these costly items on the store’s website earned it a place of honor on Liberty Counsel’s 2020 “Naughty or Nice Retail List.”

The elfish workers at Liberty Counsel scoured the internet to see how frequently the term “Christmas” appeared on retail websites – rather than that evil, inclusive word “holiday.” (Never ye mind that “holiday” is derived from “holy day,” and that diverse Americans celebrate a variety of them this time of year.)

Also, the self-appointed regulators of commercial Christmastide were just bubbly over Bath & Body Works promoting its online goods as “What Christmas Smells Like” – although Christmas originally smelled like an animal stall.

Sears – hanging on to retail life like an icicle on a warming tin roof – once ruled the world of Christmas merchandizing in the olden days of catalog shopping. Yet, even now, they offer enough Christmas stuff online to make the Nice List.

Liberty Counsel did chide the company, however, suggesting its “references to Christ could stand to be more prominent.” Perhaps Sears will consider changing its familiar appliances brand name from Kenmore to Christmore to please the self-righteous list-makers.

While many Americans suffer from unmet basic needs during this pandemic-ridden year, the Liberty Counsel’s great concern is that “Christian” shoppers steer their dollars toward merchants who might reflect their bigotry and pettiness. Or, perhaps companies savvy enough to manipulate this demanding customer base – that makes the season so bright.

As if white Americanized Christianity has not damaged its public image enough with self-serving politics at odds with the life and teachings of Jesus, there is this: the sad and silly cultural war on Christmas.

This annual production of self-victimization – rooted in bad history, bad theology and bad manners – is back again as surely as your neighbor’s drooping inflatable snowman.

With ties to the famed fundamentalist Falwellian Empire, Liberty Counsel specializes in promoting anti-gay discrimination disguised as religious liberty. Recently, however, much attention by the nonprofit organization has turned to pushing false claims of election fraud.

But, hey, it’s Christmas! So why not use the birth of Jesus as well to give Americanized Christianity one more ugly blot?

While pettiness is not among the biblical fruit of the Spirit, it has risen to high priority among white, nationalistic Christians, who expect culture to accommodate and even advance their political ideologies wrapped in the ribbons and bows of religiosity.

Therefore, the Liberty Counsel’s Naughty List includes Barnes & Noble, which – although it has a whole section of Christian books, Bibles and other products – “has lost focus on the reason for the season.”

My, my, could it be that Liberty Counsel has lost focus on the reality that Barnes & Noble is neither a church nor an exclusively Christian bookstore? Perhaps the presence of Starbucks Coffee and simultaneous chatter had them thinking it was a Sunday School reception area.

More shockingly, at naughty Lord and Taylor, the “reindeers and printed Santas hide the love of the Nativity and reason for gift giving.” (Christian families, of course, would never let Santa’s arrival and internal gift-swapping take prominence in their homes.)

Likewise, Burlington Coat Factory gets some nasty ol’ Christian coal in its stocking for daring to offer “Hot Holiday Deals” — along with, aghast, “a severe lack of Christmas advertising with biblical meaning.”

The Liberty Counsel’s dismay is certainly justified since non-Christian Americans, unlike the truly redeemed, don’t shop for coats and other goods this time of year.

Then there’s this criticism of Burlington: “Each ad or marketing concept starts strong with Christmas-themed products but loses meaning through emphasis on giving and receiving.”

So, gift giving – though based on God’s generosity in Jesus and the gifts brought to Jesus, and practiced widely – causes Christmas to lose its meaning?

Oh, the Grinch must be green with envy at how these petulant “Christian” lawyers can undermine an otherwise joyous and hopeful season with such ignorance, inconsistency and ease.

At least they offer jolly ol’ Christians, who find joy in self-pity, a nice way to spend their money and the holidays – I mean, the Christmas season, although it’s really Advent now. Just put another log on the fire and boycott any business that serves a broader clientele than your circle of true believers.

Sadly, a faith so seemingly fragile cannot endure without the endorsement of government and the coercion of businesses – with no regard for the reality that firm faith has long survived, even thrived, among diverse thought and often outside of majority control.

So it’s not surprising when a fundamentalist/nationalistic organization like Liberty Counsel engages in such nonsense as dividing the “Christmas sheep” from the “holiday goats” of seasonable consumerism.

It is just one more reflection of the fear-driven way Americanized Christians fight to preserve their cultural dominance. Even if it means ignoring what that baby in the manger would later say and do as he revealed God to the world.

With great insensitivity, the religious holidays of other Americans are dismissed, disrespected or denigrated while great offense is taken should anyone dare to utter the more inclusive “happy holidays” greeting.

Well, shop where you wish. But, for God’s sake and ours, there must be a more Christ-like way to relate to others, especially when Jesus is getting more public attention right now than at any other time of the year.

It shouldn’t go unnoticed that the very existence of this list advances the notion that Christmas is primarily a cultural observance tied to consumerism, rather than a history-breaking act of God’s love and mercy.

The babe in swaddling clothes is regarded more as an acceptable tree ornament – for 50% off while supplies last – than the incarnation of God who reordered life’s priorities from arrogant self-interest to manger-straw humility.

So, if you need an enemy to fight, have at it. Grab a cup of hot chocolate or cider and sing along.

Have yourself a petty little Christmas; let your heart be cold. From now on, be pouty ’til you get your way. And have yourself a petty little Christmas frown.

My preference, however, is to find peace and joy beyond the commercial world and to extend a good wish to everyone. So, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays – however, whatever and wherever you celebrate. Cheers!

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