Are you a Grinch if you do not say “Merry Christmas?” Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church of Dallas believes so. Tired of the political correctness that surrounds Christmas, Jeffress launched a website entitled “Grinch Alert” to encourage a record-keeping of businesses and organizations that “shut-out expressions of Christmas in their interactions with the public via marketing, advertising and public relations.” These are placed on a “Naughty List.” Similarly, those entities that are caught preserving the name of Christ in Christmas are added to the “Nice List.”
What Jeffress does not address are the many organizations that do not “shut-out” the name of Christmas nor purposely preserve it. These in the middle-ground are especially subject to the whim of the reporting individual as to whether or not they end up being considered “nice” or “naughty.” Some businesses are even listed on both.
Jeffress’ lists lack much in the way of checks and balances. Just because a company does not put up a Merry Christmas sign does not mean they are outlawing “Merry Christmas” from being uttered by the mouths of its employees. But even if a company does outlaw this language, many Christians are questioning the validity of the pastor’s campaign to identify them.
While Pastor Jeffress admits that holiday greetings have nothing to do with getting souls into heaven, he feels these greetings have much to do with keeping God in our culture. In last Sunday’s sermon he said, “I believe our nation overall is going to be healthier as a nation with a public acknowledgment of God than we are if we allow the secularists, the atheists, the infidels to remove any mention of God from our public arena and that's why I'm doing this.” “I am not willing to wave the white flag of surrender and give the country over to the atheists.”
As an experienced strategic planner, I tend to evaluate the outcome of activities: Did the action step accomplish the stated goal? In the case of GrinchAlert.com, I am not sure what the goal is, except to make a mountain out of a molehill. The best I can decipher, the statements listed on the website that remotely hint of a goal include: “Help us keep Christmas everywhere,” “Help us preserve Christ this Christmas,” and “We want to know which companies are celebrating Christmas with excitement and meaning.”
Addressing each one is simple. First, it is futile to help keep Christmas everywhere when it isn’t everywhere to begin with. Second, Christ doesn’t need preserving. He takes care of that one without any help from us. Christmas, on the other hand, is another story. Third, a company reported by a random individual on a website as “celebrating Christmas with excitement and meaning” doesn’t mean that the company is. It only shows that someone thought it was. However, First Baptist may be able to accomplish something by garnering people’s opinions…but what? What do they intend to do with the information gleaned? What do they wish to accomplish with this media effort?
I hold deep respect for Pastor Jeffress, but I question the value of this Christmas marketing campaign. Has it affected change in any business or organization for the cause of Christ? What change is it causing in Christians? I believe the change in Christians is potentially twofold, at the least. On the one hand, it may be alerting Christians to the ever-increasing battle to retain freedom of speech and religion in America. It is high time believers in America come out of their bubbles and into the real world. Those who oppose the name of Christ are working diligently to remove His name from every inch of society. With this aim in mind, I applaud Jeffress for taking action rather than sitting silent as far too many do.
On the other hand, Christians who join the Grinch Alert bandwagon may be led down a negative path. One such follower said of Delta Airlines, “Though I am a frequent flyer with Delta they did not mind offending me, a Christian, with an email stating “Happy Holidays from the Delta Family”. How has “Happy Holidays” become so “offensive” to Christians? Would this person have been so offended if they had not been alerted to looking for Grinches? Have we forgotten that we, as believers, are not to be easily offended? “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11, ESV).
The Christian voice in America needs to be more positive, and far less negative. We must be known much more for what we stand for, and much less for what we stand against. We need to be focusing our mind and our time on “…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8, ESV). Instead of “Grinch Alert,” perhaps a more positive PR plan might have been called: “Gabriel’s Elves.”