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Sometimes Naughty Can Be Nice

by
http://SteveFrazee.com

Does SBNR.org belong on the Naughty list at First Baptist Dallas?

Sometimes Naughty Can Be Nice

When I was younger and single, I had been known to don a Santa hat and to spend Christmas parties asking the ladies if they had been naughty or nice.  “Nice!”, most would say.  “Too bad!”, was my response. “I’m not that kind of Santa.”

Sometimes naughty can be nice.

Yesterday I read that Rev. Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Dallas has launched a website in which he is calling for what Cathy Lyn Grossman of USA Today labels, “essentially, a public shaming of anyone who doesn’t toe the Christmas line he requires”.   In short, he wants to create his own Naughty and Nice lists.  Those on the naughty list might also be announced publicly on the church’s radio station. Sam Hodges at the Dallas Morning News reports that Jeffress thought this would be fun.

The website, called GrinchAlert.com, invites visitors to “add a Business or Organization to the Naughty & Nice List.”  Groups that “shut-out expressions of Christmas in their interactions with the public via marketing, advertising and public relations” go on the Naughty list.

Currently there are only eight entities on the Naughty list. They are Sears/K-Mart, the Tulsa City Council, Target, Nordstrom, Macy’s, Barnes and Noble, the Crowley City Hall in Crowly, Texas, and Mi Cocina Restaurant, a local Dallas Mexican food chain.  For the most part they all made the Naughty list by promoting the phrase, “Happy Holidays” in lieu of “Merry Christmas”.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that First Dallas Baptist is some small extremist church like Westboro Baptist that pickets the funerals of American soldiers in protest of homosexuality, and that today picketed the funeral of Elizabeth Edwards.   First Dallas Baptist is a Dallas institution located in the heart of the city’s downtown and is just a few blocks away from my condo there.  The Mayor of Dallas attends First Baptist Dallas, and recently the church raised $115 million to reshape their downtown campus.   Rev. Jeffress is an outspoken Christian conservative who calls Islam a religion which promotes pedophilia, and he also preaches that the United States of America is a Christian nation.

It’s fair to say that I don’t agree with my neighbor, but what really miffs me is that he has brought the Grinch into this. That’s sacrilege!

I’m a big fan of Dr. Seuss and specifically of his story, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”.  The animated version, released in 1966 with Boris Karloff narrating and providing the Grinch’s voice, is among my favorite childhood memories.  Remember the Grinch’s revelation at the end of the story? “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.  Maybe Christmas … perhaps … means a little bit more!”

Christmas has always been more than just Christians celebrating the birth of Jesus.  Christmas has been a melting pot celebration since before the third century.

The date of Christmas isn’t based on Jesus’ actual birthday, but rather was selected because of its connection to the ancient Pagan celebration of the winter solstice.  In 325 CE, it was the Emperor Constantine, who considered himself the spiritual leader of both the Pagans and the new Christian cults, who fixed the date on December 25th, during the same year that he held the Council of Nicea which established the Holy Trinity, the date of Easter, and the statement of Christian belief called the “Nicene Creed”.  It is said that there were 300 Christian bishops in attendance at the Council of Nicea, and one of them was the Bishop of Myra, also known as Bishop Nicholas.

Nicholas of Myra had a reputation for secret gift-giving and was revered by the early Christians.  After his death in 343 CE, tales of his kindness became a thing of legend and, while he was never formally canonized, he became known as Saint Nicholas.  The Feast of St. Nicholas, or Saint Nicholas Day, still is celebrated in countries around the world in December.

Christmas in the United States continues to be, as it always has been, an evolving fusion of celebrations related to the Feast of St. Nicholas, the Pagan winter festivals, and the Christian celebration of Christ’s birth. The American Christmas of today, however, is very different from what it was when our country began.

American Puritans in the 1600s did not consider Christmas a holiday and it actually was outlawed in Boston between 1659 and 1681.  In the 1700s the topic of Christmas was subject to debate among Christians and non-Christians.  Ironically, Baptists, Quakers and Congregationalists tended to oppose the celebration of Christmas.  The Christian celebrations that did occur were quiet family gatherings.  Christmas was considered an English holiday and so fell out of favor with many of our revolutionary Founding Fathers.  It remained a playful day for the working class with more of a Mardi Gras feeling than that of a religious holiday.

Surprisingly, the image of the “traditional” Christmas celebration was the invention of the writer, Washington Irving, in 1819.  In his collection of essays, called “The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.”, Irving paints a picture of Christmas as a peaceful, warm-hearted holiday during which people might connect across social boundaries. The book also includes Irving’s stories “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “Rip Van Winkle”. It wasn’t until after the American Civil War that the celebration of Christmas really took hold, and it became a federal holiday in 1870.

The story of the evolution of Christmas from its Pagan beginnings to the massive cross-cultural American celebration it is today is fascinating.  Some of what Christmas has become is delightful to me, but other parts of it I could do without.  Regardless of all that it is now, Christmas still invites us to focus on peace on earth and goodwill to all people, and on our connection to each other.

When I offer a “Happy Holidays” to someone, I’m really saying, “I don’t know your spiritual or philosophical perspective, but whatever it is I want you to know that I recognize you as a human being and that I wish you well in this season and in every season.”  “Happy Holidays” is just easier to say.

If I know a person is Jewish or Christian, I will wish them a Happy Hanukah or a Merry Christmas respectively.  Christmastime greetings are verbal presents, and should be chosen for how they might best be received, and should be wrapped with the energy of compassion.

Rev. Jeffress is welcome to his opinion, but I believe Christmas has never been solely a Christian holiday, nor will it ever be. If that perspective puts me or SBNR.org on his Naughty list, I’m OK with that.  As a matter of fact, I may just add myself and SBNR.org to that list.  If being on the Naughty list means being kind to all people regardless of race, religion, and sexual orientation, then you can consider me a very naughty boy indeed.

Sometimes naughty is nice.

Happy Holidays,


Steve Frazee
Executive Director, SBNR.org

Share your thoughts. Leave a comment:

10 Responses to “Sometimes Naughty Can Be Nice”

  1. Pam Reynolds
    December 11, 2010 at 7:27 pm #

    We live in a melting pot of different religious and spiritual beliefs. I agree with you, Steve. If the person is known to you then Merry Christmas is appropriate but for those you don’t know well, a hearty and heartfelt Happy Holidays is a wonderful blessing! I work in customer service for a PBS station and we have viewers who call from all backgrounds because of our diverse programming. I would never dream of picking out a specific holiday to say to someone calling on the phone and I’ve never had a single complaint when they hear “Have a Happy Holiday”. In fact, many have been suprised when we even mention it and have said “And you do the same”.

    Tolorance, understanding, acceptance and love should guide us in our holiday greetings and every day.

  2. Chuck Clendenen
    December 12, 2010 at 5:38 pm #

    Christmas is a wonderful and loveable mongrel, religious and secular, deeply moving and gratingly over-commercialized. It is a time for children and the young at heart. Christmas is a time for joy and not taking oneself too seriously. Listen to the guy with the beard. Ho, ho, ho!

  3. Dry Bones
    December 14, 2010 at 2:59 pm #

    When Christians say the USA is a Christian nation it should not be taken as “everyone in America is Christian,” because that is not what is meant. Peter Singer, in a debate with Christian apologist, Dinesh D’Souza at Biola University (1), said Time ran a story which stated that even though America has 5% of the world’s population it boasts 25% of the world’s inmates. (That doesn’t exactly lineup with the hallmarks of true Born Again believers (John 3:3) in the epistle of 1 John.)

    What is meant by that statement is that America is Christian in its founding. Nothing more; and very little research is necessary to validate this truth. Next, the actions the Westboro folks are disgusting, enough said. Moving on: Muhammad took a 6 y/r girl as a bride and consummated the marriage when she was 9. So, in honor of Muhammad, this practice is common the Islamic nations today. (Again, a little research will validate this truth. The Koran records this action of Muhammad and secular newspapers report that child brides are common in this day and age.) If that is not pedophilia I don’t know what is; and I hope we can all agree that pedophilia is disgusting and uncalled for. Next, not shopping at certain stores is nothing more than consumers boycotting based on personal proclivities. (And why not? The stores use the PC verbiage to do away with any mention of Christ. The reason the stores make so much money this time of year is because of Christmas gift giving. So, in other words, consumers are saying, “You can have my money is you can acknowledge the reason your taking my money.” )

    The true meaning of Christmas is to give glory to the One it foretold: Christ Jesus. (Hence the name: we all “mass” around “Christ” – or “Christ’s Mass”. Yes, its origins are Catholic, and no, I am not Catholic. However, in light of why it “fell out of favor” with the Puritans – or “Nonconformists”, as they were called in England – is obvious when we look at American and Catholic history. (To read some excellent writing for the understanding of true Christianity, and not the heresy that most often passes for it here in the States, please visit http://www.ccel.org. ) “Happy Holidays” is also appropriate. Ramadan is 1) Islamic and 2) has rotating calendar dates for its celebration; so it cannot be included in the “holidays” here. Instead, it includes Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s. Hanukkah, if you have studied it, looks forward to Christ, while Christmas celebrates the fulfillment of Genesis 3:15 and many, many other Messianic prophecies in the sacred Jewish texts; New Year’s on the other hand is pagan in its true origin. Holiday means Holy Day, and that is the word’s origin. So I agree in that Hanukkah and Christmas are Holy. Most Americans celebrate Christmas; however, most people don’t give gifts to celebrate “The True Reason for the Season,” to be sure. The reason we give gifts is to remember the Gift God freely gave us: the Redeemer, Christ. It has nothing to do with the Grinch or the movie, A Christmas Story.

    However, we cannot deny the Holy Day’s true reason, Jesus, for reasons of Political Correctness – that would just be silly. He is the true “Reason for the Season”, because, whether we like it or not, there would be no “Season” without Him. (We can have days set aside for children or the “young at heart” anytime of the year, so why would it happen to fall on December 25th? Because we want to keep the house while evicting its owner – that is why.)

    I find it ironic that some true Christians, not including professing believers who have no hope, would agree with Mr. Frazee. They say Christmas is pagan in nature and should be done away with. Others, like me, don’t want to throw the baby out with bathwater. So Happy Holy Days and have a very Merry Christmas!!!

  4. Steve Frazee
    December 15, 2010 at 8:43 am #

    We need not agree on the ‘reason for the season’ any more than we need to agree on the stories we tell about why we exist or what might happen after we pass. But I hope we can agree to work a little harder to connect with each other regardless of spiritual perspective in this season and every season.

    As Dry Bones noted, even Christians are not in agreement about Christmas. We do not need to agree, only to respect each other and find effective ways to co-create this world we live in.

  5. Dry Bones
    December 15, 2010 at 3:22 pm #

    Steve,
    You said,”We need not agree on the ‘reason for the season.’” For what other reason might Christmas have come into existence? I respect your veiws, but I respect truth more. Truth is not now, nor will it ever be subjective. Merry Christmas.

  6. Steve Frazee
    December 15, 2010 at 7:48 pm #

    Maybe the only objective truth is that all other truth is subjective. 🙂

    Dry Bones, while I respect the depth of your faith, I do not share it. I have no need for objective authority, morality or truth.

    I honor your personal spirituality up to the point where it requires me to believe as you do.

    A common thread thread among SBNR people is that they do not need others to believe as they do for their beliefs to have value.

  7. Denise Rowe Hawk
    December 16, 2010 at 7:11 am #

    I just nominated First Baptist Dallas for the “Naughty List”.

    Here is the comment I submitted:

    Dear First Baptist Chuch Dallas~
    I am agnostic and it does not offend me in the least when someone wishes me a “Merry Christmas”. I accept their positive and love-filled gift with the same joy in which they delivered it. Why should someone (specifically your church) be offended if someone wishes you “Happy Holidays”? I say accept any derivative of positive, happy energy in whatever wrapping it comes in.

    It seems sophomoric and a little tacky that your church, a Christian organization (as well as a tax-exempt one), would target other businesses and organizations just because they aren’t doing it exactly like you do.

    You’re absolutely right when you say “It’s Okay to Say ‘Merry Christmas'”. But it’s also okay to say ‘Happy Holidays’.

    To quote a line from the movie ‘Stripes’: “Lighten up, Francis.” 🙂

    Most sincerely,
    Denise Hawk

  8. Denise Rowe Hawk
    December 16, 2010 at 7:41 am #

    And finally, as Steve mentions in the above article, there are some current versions of Christianity that do not celebrate Christmas. I wonder what Rev. Jeffress would think of his church’s placement on one of their ‘Naughty’ lists?!

  9. Jennifer Jurgens
    January 4, 2011 at 12:01 am #

    If ever truly at a loss for words I suggest quoting the great words of my 5-year old son Gavin; “Happy Harmonica”. It’s sure to get a smile and spread the spirit of the season regardless.

  10. Candy
    January 5, 2011 at 4:22 pm #

    I wished someone a Merry Christmas recently. It was meant as a sincere wish for a Happy Holiday. In my heart the holiday season means a time to step back and look at all the “wonderful” around you. We are all so busy with our “important” lives that we often overlook what is the one important thing… the only thing that matters. Those who we love and those who love us!! When I wished this gentleman a Merry Christmas I was really feeling the love for my family and friends. This gentleman turned to me in a very hateful tone and said “what does an idiot fat man in a red suit have to do with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”?
    I was so taken back and kind of hurt because it felt like an attack and was so unexpected. I just couldn’t believe he would be so defensive about my friendly gesture..
    Steve I really enjoyed all the facts about Christmas!

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