This past Christmas season, folks on the Fox network prompted alarm among some churches because Wal-Mart and other retailers were greeting people with “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” Some seemed to think that we are in grave danger of losing Christmas to the politically correct crowd.
This fear shows how out of touch many of us are about the real meaning of Christmas. The church that claims to represent the God of the universe should in no way want, or need, Wal-Mart to help proclaim the birth of its Lord. A Lord that Wal-Mart could support would not be at all like Jesus.
The Babe of Bethlehem grew up to say on many occasions that the first shall be last and the last first. Wal-Mart is first and they don’t want to hear any Lord that proclaims that they are in for a great fall.
The Jesus who blessed the poor might have a little too much to say about the $17.5 million that Wal-Mart pays its CEO, Scott Lee, Jr.. Every two weeks Mr. Lee is paid about as much as his average employee will earn in a lifetime.
At Christmas the church generally talks about peace. I don’t think Fox News and the Christian Right want to talk too much about peace, since they have taken their stand with “the powers that be” that have the United States at war.
Jesus is the Prince of Peace, whether we say so or not. Jesus is the Word of God. The Word that will not return void said, “Love your enemies” and “He that lives by the sword dies by the sword.” That Lord will always have a voice; if the church will not speak of peace, soldiers will.
The last five-star general of the United States Army, Dwight David Eisenhower, was not a church member until he decided to run for president. President Eisenhower said of war: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientist, the hopes of its children…. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”
Omar Bradley, a World War II general who was beloved by his soldiers, said, “We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount.”
“Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants,” Gen. Bradley continued in an Armistice Day speech in 1948. “We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living.”
One of my favorite quotes by an American soldier is from an 1854 oration by Chief Seattle of the Suquamish Native AmericanTribe: “Revenge by young men is considered gain, even at the cost of their own lives, but the old men who stay at home in times of war, and the mothers who have sons to love, know better.”
Soldiers warn people of dangers to their souls when the church has lost it voice.
Kurt Vonnegut, another American soldier who was a prisoner of war in Dresden when it was completely destroyed by allied bombing on Feb. 13-14, 1945, is not a Christian but a humanist. In his 2005 anti-war book, A Man without a Country, he says of Jesus, “If Christ hadn’t delivered the Sermon on the Mount, with its message of mercy and pity, I wouldn’t want to be a Human Being. I’d just as soon be a rattlesnake.”
If the church doesn’t proclaim Jesus, then his Kingdom will be proclaimed by unbelievers.
Mark Twain, another humanist, said of war: “Man is the only animal that deals in that atrocity of atrocities, War. He is the only one that gathers his brethren about him and goes forth in cold blood and calm pulse to exterminate his kind. He is the only animal that for sordid wages will march out … and help to slaughter strangers of his own species who have done him no harm and with whom he has no quarrel …. And in the intervals between campaigns he washes the blood off his hands and works for ‘the universal brotherhood of man’–with his mouth.”
Luke 19 says when Jesus entered Jerusalem the crowd cried, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”
The Kingship of Jesus will always be proclaimed, if not by the church, by others, and if not by people, the rocks. God will always have a voice.
Christians should join together and warn their respective countries that war does not make us safe and cannot bring us profit. How do I know? The Bible tells me so.
Larry Wilson is pastor of First Baptist Church in Biscoe, N.C.