There is Nothing Wrong with ‘Xmas’

I remember when I was a child how offended my mother would get when she saw the word ‘Xmas’ on a commercial or at a store.  She would really become angry saying, “There they go again trying to take Christ out of Christmas.”  On some level, I can understand her unhappiness.  Today, with the ACLU and the court system actually trying to remove any reference to Christmas, it is understandable that Christians would be on the defensive.  Almost daily we are faced with stories about long-time traditional festivals that are replacing the word “Christmas” with “Holiday” or “Festival.”  Seinfeld sublimely underscored many of these attitudes with the famous “Festivus for the Rest of Us” episode.

However, Christians who become offended at the word Xmas, simply have not studied what the word actually connotes.  In early Christianty, the X was actually a Greek letter pronounced “Chi” or “Kai.”  It was the first letter in the Greek word for Christ.

Due to persecution, early Christians would use the X as a symbol meaning Christ and denoting themselves as Christians.  The familiar Fish symbol seen on many cars goes back to this tradition.  The symbols that look like IXOYE (pronounced ‘ixthus’ or ‘icthus’), are really a Greek acronym denoting: Jesus, Christ, of God, Son, Savior.  The Greek word is actually an acrostic that spells out ‘fish.’

So, you see, when you spell Christmas with an ‘X,’ you are just paying homage to 2000 years of Christian tradition.  You can even use it as a tool to teach others when you hear them asking, “Why is Christmas spelled with an “X”?

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The Santa Claus Conundrum (Or, Christian Attitudes Toward Santa Claus

Many Christians understandably get confused when they are forced to deal with Santa Claus.  If we include getting presents from Santa Claus in our observance Christmas of the Christmas holiday, are we in essence lying to our children?  How can we observe a holiday based on the birth of Christ, and incorporate a lie in the observance?  Does paying so much attention to Santa Claus take away from Christ?

Well, I don’t really think it is all that complicated.  I know several Christians who simply ‘do not do’ Santa Claus.  I think this is a shame.  I encourage my child to have a good imagination, and I think watching her pretend is a great thing, and a source of entertainment for me as well as her.  Santa Claus teaches children about giving and that being good is often rewarded (and being bad is punished).  These are excellent life lessons for a small child.

The problem seems to revolve mostly around lying to our children.  I personally do not have any problems helping my child keep up the Santa Claus façade.  As long as she wants to believe in him, I will encourage her to do so.  However, I know the day will come when she will ask me straight-up if he is real, and I will tell her the truth.  I will also remind her how much she has enjoyed pretending that there is a Santa Claus, and how she should not ruin the same feeling for other kids who still believe he is real.

I feel sorry for the parents that do not let their children believe in Santa Claus, and likewise, I feel sorry for their children who miss out on part of their childhood.  They are robbing their kids of the chance to take part in a great Western tradition, and much of the wonder that comes with being a child at Christmas.  Often, these children grow up and become embittered by the fact that they did not get to participate in the fun that their friends had.  These are not good feelings for a teenager who is facing other temptations such as sex and drugs from their friends.  I do not want my child left with the feeling that, “Maybe, my parents just don’t want me to have fun.”

On the other hand, I once knew a girl (a twenty something) who said that because her parents lied to her about Santa Claus, she could not trust them.  I have to say that this was one of the most offensive examples of an ingrate that I have ever seen.  So, the fact that her parents got her all of those gifts, and tried so hard to give her a fun childhood meant nothing to her.  In the end, I think she was just looking for a reason to blame her parents for all of her problems, which she did.

The question about whether Santa Claus detracts from Christ at Christmas is a touchier subject.  It is true that Santa Claus is a big part of the secularization of Christmas, but that just means that Christian parents have to do their job, and make sure that their children do know ‘the reason for the season.’

About twenty years ago, Amy Grant’s music was becoming so popular that it was crossing over from the Christian music stations to the pop music stations.  At the time, Christian stations found themselves in a conundrum.  Her music could be interpreted to be either about God, or maybe a friend or boyfriend depending on how you applied the lyrics.  As a result, many Christian music stations found the need to determine if they were still going to play her music or not.  In the end, most played the music because they correctly argued that having young people listen to the music might actually draw them to Christianity.  The same argument works for Santa Claus.  If you prefer, think of Santa Claus as a gateway drug that draws the world to ask, “Why are we celebrating this holiday, anyway?”  As Bart Simpson once said, “Christmas is the time of year when people of all religions come together to worship Christ.”

It is also helpful to remember that the Santa Claus legend is based on Saint Nicholas of Myra who was by all accounts a Christian that anyone would do well to emulate in his life.

Like Father…

Jesus Barragan has added a whole new demension to “Take Your Child to Work Day,” but I dod not think this is going to get him any Father of the Year nominations.  Funny,

I’ll bet his lifetime stats are awesome!

This is just funny.  giggle.  It hardly seems fair, though.

Christian Attitudes Toward Halloween

Many Christians are confused and troubled about what to do with Halloween.  The imagery, movies and media coverage associated with this the events surrounding the 31st of October often leave us wondering what is the best thing to do, especially when we have kids. 

Some Christians take the popular and age-old Christian stance that if there might be a problem somewhere with it, then it is best to run away from the situation entirely.  These people just stay home and ignore the holiday all together.  Some Churches promote fall-themed alternatives or ‘Hell-houses.’  While others simply view Halloween as a fun family activity where the kids get to dress up and get candy.

I have a friend who subscribes to the ‘Halloween is evil, and we should ignore it’ theory.  Last year we both expressed our ideas about Halloween in a few emails.  They were cordial and respectful, but we did not agree.  I have decided to break down his arguments against Halloween and my responses to him.  I think the basic arguments for and against participating in the holiday were covered pretty well by both of us.

The main point made by Christians who oppose the holiday is that it appears to be evil and that it leads to or promotes evil things.  Most people who oppose the holiday see the images of skeletons, demons, devils, witches and ghosts, and say that it is inappropriate for children to see these evil images promoted in a positive setting.  The popular Bible verse that is used by any Christian that is against anything is used here.  Romans 14:13 says, “…make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.”  They say that these sorts of activities should be avoided so that we do not set a bad example for others.

The other main argument is the ‘gateway drug’ contention.  They believe that the evil ideas that surround Halloween provide a gateway for children to become interested in other evil activities.  In this argument, dressing your child up as a fairy princess who has magic powers will lead to her wanting to dress up as a witch later.  As they grow older, the positive images created by dressing up like this as they were younger will add to the possibility of them being attracted by actual occult activities.  My friend referred to the candy associated with Halloween as ‘the trap’ that gets kids interested in the first place.

Some see true problems with Halloween activities, and paint all Halloween activities with this brush.  They see some people having rowdy parties with a lot of drinking or possibly a Ouija Board or Séance.  They also see fringe occult groups garnering attention during the Halloween season by performing actual dark rights in ‘celebration’ of the holiday.  They sometimes look at the history of Halloween, and see its negative effects on people (mostly Chrstians, by the way) in centuries past.

Finally, there are truly evil people such as pedophiles who could be having children come to their doors looking for candy.  This is a truly disturbing possibility.

There may be other arguments against Halloween, but the ones supplied above are a good example of most of them.

I, however, do not agree that Halloween is evil.  The idea, that we, as Christians must ‘flee any appearance of evil,’ is just not supported in the context of Halloween.  Christians use Romans 14:13 is a Catch 22 saying, ‘because I believe there is an appearance of evil, then an appearance of evil exists.  Therefore, I can use the argument that we must flee any appearance of evil to support the fact that the idea is evil in the first place.’  This circular logic is not even supported in the context of the same verse that it is taken out of, much less in the context of the surrounding passage. 

Romans 14 verse 13-

13Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.

We are definitely admonished not to cause each other to stumble, but leading into the verse, it also admonishes us not to stop passing judgment on one another.  These same arguments have been used for centuries by some denominations to decry drinking (at all) and dancing and other denominations to condemn music.  The point is that the Bible, for the most part, does not deal with innocuous things such as Halloween.  In fact, often these people who tend to ‘make up sins’ when they see something that they do not like, do it in the face of scripture that argues against their point of view.  For example, in the case of drinking, Jesus made the best wine when he attended the wedding.  The word used for it describes a particularly good and potent form of wine, not grape juice.   Admonitions against dancing and music also do not hold up to Biblical scrutiny. There are hundreds of examples where the Bible calls upon someone to play an instrument, and the women who condemned David for dancing, in the nude no less, were punished by God for their actions.  My point is that it is never a good practice to go labeling something as a sin or wrong just because we are personally uncomfortable with it. 

The ‘gateway drug’ argument really just expounds upon the same idea.  The thing that worries me the most in it is the hidden message that our imaginations are a bad thing.  I find it personally sad when children are not allowed to indulge the fantastic imaginations that God gave them.  There is nothing wrong with a kid pretending to be a fairy princess.  We start down a slippery slope when we start to label fairies as magical servants of the devil.  The idea of a magical fairy has nothing to do with Satan, and really neither does what most people think of as a witch.  It is all pretend.

The point is that good Christian parents have an obligation, as their children grow older to teach them the difference between pretending and true acts of evil.  If you allow your child to dress up as a witch, and they use that as a springboard into Satanism, then you have not done a very good job of parenting.  Somewhere along the way, you did not communicate the true nature of good and evil with your child.  It is the job of any parent to spend (sometimes inordinate) amounts of time communicating what it is to be a good person, a good Christian, and a good citizen to their children.  If they do not take the time to do so, their children may fall through the cracks, but it won’t be Halloween’s fault.

Regarding the argument that there are events planned by some around the Halloween holiday that do involve acts of evil, such as drinking parties and rites performed by occults, I would say that those who despise Halloween on religious grounds tend to lump too many things together.  The people who use Halloween as an opportunity to get drunk, do not do so because it is Halloween, they just want to get drunk, and use the occasion of Halloween as an excuse.  Just as NRA proponents will say correctly that ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people,’  Halloween does not make people evil, evil people can, however, use Halloween for evil things.  The same is true for occult members.  They simply use Halloween to promote the evil that they would be doing regardless of the holiday.

Remember, most sins in the Bible are sins of excess.  Almost anything when done to excess can become a sin for the person doing it.  Drinking is a good example of this, but almost anything else can become a bad thing when done to excess.  I’ll use prayer for an example.  Can prayer become a sin?  Well, if a person spent every moment of every day in prayer to the detriment of his physical body and his family, I believe for him, this would be a sin.  Drinking, dancing, music, Halloween, almost anything in excess is a bad thing, and since God wants good things for us, we should refrain from excess.  We do not, however, need to through the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.

The final argument against Halloween is that you do not know who is behind the door when your kids go up to it.  It could be a pedophile or someone that has laced the candy with something that will hurt them.  This is true.  These things could happen, and they are why responsible parents chaperone their children when they go trick-or-treating.  They only allow their children to go to houses where they know the people, and they already know where the pedophiles in their neighborhood live, because that information is available online.  They just stay away from those houses in the first place.  Responsible parenting requires parents to be extremely proactive.  If you are sitting at home, and allowing your small child to run around the neighbor trick-or-treating while unattended, I question your parenting skills.

I believe that most Christians who do not like Halloween are fundamentally wrong about what Halloween is for most people.  Halloween, like the 4th of July, Thanksgiving and even Christmas is a fundamentally American institution.  For most people, Halloween is simply a day when people decide to get together by the millions and do something nice and fun for children.  For them, it is about the act of giving a piece of candy to a child.  It is a wonderful gesture, and many parents use this as a teaching tool to reinforce good manners in their children by encouraging them to say ‘Yes, sir,’ ‘No, sir,’ ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’

Taking the argument one step further, I would make the case that those Christians who turn their noses up or pull their children away when offered a piece of candy may be further from God’s will in all of this than those who take part in Halloween.  Spend some time researching one of the strongest themes of the New Testament, that of “Hospitality.”  The Bible has a lot to say on the subject, and some of the admonitions against being inhospitable are very strong.  Paul knew he did not have to keep the old dietary law anymore, but he did so because he was Jewish.  However, he went out of his way to point out that, for the sake of hospitality, he put these rules aside.  He said that if a Christian were invited into a person’s home to eat, then he should eat the meal graciously whether it was Kosher in a Jewish home or bacon in a Roman’s house. 

If a person in a spirit of hospitality offers my child a piece of candy on Halloween, I let them take it with a smile, and I make sure both of us say, “Thank you!”  If I do not know the person, I may discard the candy later.  I may even explain why to the child, but I respect the fact that the person giving the candy was trying to be nice.

In the end, I believe that for most people and for my family, Halloween is about imagination and millions of Americans taking the time to brighten the day for the children around them.  Might it be better if we had a similar day without any of the dark imagery?  Perhaps, but this is what we have, and the great thing about Halloween is that you can make of it whatever you want.