Editorial: Two Messages, But Not Mixed

Within the last 24 hours, I have received two “messages” that I believe go a long way in showing where we are relative to the place of Christianity, and religion in general, in The United States.

The first message came as I viewed my first “Christmas shopping” commercial.  There may have been some before yesterday, but I did not see one until then.  A major department store is already touting their wares, complete with “Deck the Halls” music in the background.

The second message came this morning, when I received my overview of the December issue of The Atlantic Monthly.  Not a mention in it about Christmas or Hanukkah, and the “5 Best Books of the Year” editorial contained no religious volume or theme.

The messages, while separate, are not mixed.  They’re telling us the same thing.  Culturally, we can envision December with no reference to Christ or to the Jewish tradition.  But commercially, we want the money that Jesus and Judaism generate—and the sooner, the better.

The message is that we now pretty much live with a kind of spiritual “one night stand”ethos—where you get what you want without having to make any commitment whatsoever.  December now falls into place with the way many people live their lives the rest of the year.

Baby Jesus will hang on in the marketplace, because he generates gift-giving at a monetary rate that still clogs the cash registers.  But he is no longer necessary in the social milieu, because if we put him there, he might grow up and become Lord Jesus, and that would mean trading in gift giving for life giving—and that’s just not something we want to do.

The dimmer switch on the “light of the world” has been turned down another notch, as we deck our halls with holly—instead of holiness—as the shopping cart replaces the manger.

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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