Yesterday I posted an article about the debate over saying either “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas.” Today Robert Jeffress appeared on CNN to discuss his new website grinchalert.com. Jeffress is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, one of the largest and most influential Baptist churches in the country. This website is a forum for people to put businesses on either a naughty or a nice list based on whether they say “Happy Holidays” (naughty) or “Merry Christmas” (nice). The actual words on the website are to identify the naughty are,
When companies use misplaced political correctness to halt the celebration of Christmas, they belong on the “Naughty List.”
Nowhere on the website does it specifically identify the use of a greeting, but the contents of the lists and Jeffress’ comments on CNN clearly indicate that this is the major test.
Watch the video of Jeffress’ appearance on CNN. You will be hard pressed to find a more striking example of legalism in the name of Christianity. Which is no Christianity at all. Watch the video (you will have to click the video link since the embed video was causing some problems with my feed) and find my response below.
1. Jeffress claims this is a positive action. I don’t think so.
2. Jeffress claims this is just a fun way to communicate with businesses.
3. The message to businesses is that “they don’t have to bow to political correctness.” So instead we want them to bow to legalistic correctness.
4. Jeffress cites a statistic that 91% of Americans celebrate Christmas. Still doesn’t make this right.
5. Jeffress quotes Dr. Seuss as support for his actions. Really??? But since you can’t really quote the Bible for this type of legalism, I guess Dr. Seuss will have to do.
6. Jeffress demonstrated political speech at it’s best when he tried to wash his hands of his role or of the role of First Baptist Church in posting the entries. Really? You provide a forum with instructions, but avoid responsibility? He claims not to have hinted at a boycott. Is he naive enough to think that some of his followers will not use the list for such purposes?
7. Jeffress cites “free speech” for those who put a charitable restaurant on the naught list. So free speech is being used to squelch free speech. Makes sense to me.
8. Jeffress closes with recalling a conversation about a “naughty” restaurant. They do great charitable work, including feeding 600 children of our fallen warriors. But in the end, Jeffress wants them to say “Merry Christmas.”
Some readers might think I am being too harsh on the pastor. The book of Galatians might very well come to mind. Paul lashed out strongly against the legalists of his day. We have simply replaced circumcision with “Merry Christmas.” Circumcision was okay in Paul’s day, but not to be enforced. It is okay to say “Merry Christmas”, but any attempts to force the use of it only diminishes the value of it.
Let’s assume that every person in the world begins addressing everybody else with “Merry Christmas.” Would that really make Christmas more Christ focused? Would it spur more people to consider the claims of Christ? Probably not. Instead this approach will probably make Christ’s claims less palatable. That is the danger of legalism.