How the War on Christmas lost me

I used to wear one of those little buttons that the American Family Association distributes every year, the ones that say something like “Keep Christ in Christmas” or “Jesus is the Reason for the Season.” Little old ladies greeting customers at Sam’s Club in Colorado Springs wore them, too.

Back in high school and early college, I also religiously followed AFA’s lists of stores to boycott because of supposed liberal agendas, which included being too wishywashy about Christmas. AFA and Focus on the Family’s newsletters told me this was persecution. The Voice of the Martyr magazines described the suffering of Christians in other countries in lurid detail, and they often quoted these believers saying that they prayed American Christians would suffer to purge their worldliness and renew their passion for God.

I’m still not sure how I missed the irony in comparing retail holiday greetings to torture and martyrdom. I just remember thinking that if I did not fight, if I did not stand up for what was right, if I became one of those American Christians who was too comfortable, then persecution would come to the United States.

I started my freshman year of college almost certain that gunmen would come one day, I’d have to stand up for my faith just like those kids at Columbine, and I’d be shot. I lived to be a martyr, which I want to write more about later.

Six semesters later, I learned my fellow homeschool alums grew up believing the same thing. We thought that we, like Jesus, were born to die. And, like my peers, I wasn’t dead yet. I was still alive.

This led me to question AFA’s other stances. In December 2013, I wrote a piece for my college newspaper that ‘Happy Holidays’ boycotting is more Scrooge than Christian.

“The heart of Jesus’ message was to include the excluded. Love God with all your heart. Love others as yourself. He did not say to wear AFA’s Merry Christmas buttons all month in protest,” I wrote. “So-called ‘Christian’ activism loses sight of its own philosophy when groups take offense at a well-meant greeting.”

So this Christmas, the same sort of people decided Starbucks was not trying to embody minimalism in their holiday cup design, but instead that “Starbucks REMOVED CHRISTMAS from their cups because they hate Jesus.” 

I lost patience.

Every time I went to Starbucks in the last several weeks, I requested a red cup and told the baristas how much I loved their cups and thanked them for serving us during the holidays. Since I live in the South now, I figured they might actually run into some of the haters.

I am so tired of Christians pretending that we need to “stand up for Jesus” with ineffective boycotts and putting crosses in our yards. Jesus said that the greatest thing his followers could do was to love God and love others. That this was how the world would know who his people were.

The culture wars are a giant distraction.


My favorite red cup memes:

5 thoughts on “How the War on Christmas lost me

  1. Brilliant insight Eleanor. Christmas as Christians observe it is not even the real time of year Jesus was born . He was born in the spring. All the holiday traditions are from paganism and from other religious traditions. So sill these boycotts and getting upset. Jesus said they will know we are Christians by our love for one another. Not by our little buttons and protests.


  2. Part of Christianity’s appeal to me as an adult was the emphasis on making meaning out of suffering, that redemption can come out of the worst possible situations. It baffles me that I’m reading the same bible stories as the rest of America, yet many American Christians are coming away with this idea that the Christian life is about being coddled and safe. The early church thrived in the midst of persecution. How did American Christians get so wimpy?


    1. Good question. The strange thing to me is that American Christians also obsess about suffering and martyrdom. Everything is about taking up the cross, every small thing is another trial to bear. It’s… silly.


  3. I love this! I actually work for a church – but it’s a very non-churchy church. You know, one where we love Jesus and people and that’s pretty much it? The whole Red Cup controversy hit about 5 days after we mailed thank you notes to some of our key volunteers. Said notes happened to include Starbucks gift cards. We all thought it was perfect!


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