Seasonal Slugfest: Religious Right Continues Cranky Christmas Carping

It's 11 days until Christmas and as each day goes by, we continue to hear more "War on Christmas" rants from the Religious Right.

The latest comes out of Alvarado, Texas, where a pastor plans to put on a production called "A Politically Correct Christmas."

Pastor Rick Hope of the First Baptist Church of Lillian told the Alvarado Post that he is disappointed that no one even remembers the true meaning of Christmas, and instead, the holiday has become "commercialized." He plans to use this play to drive home that point.

"The play is about a lady in the church named Marcie, who has been given the assignment of producing a church Christmas play," he said. "She wants it to be the best ever and yet she wants it to be a[s] non-controversial and non-offensive as possible."

The newspaper said the play will include characters such as an elf, reindeer and Santa, all who claim to be the focal point of Christmas.

Hope may believe his play, which will be performed during church services on Dec. 20, is clever and satirical – but it really just sounds kind of strange. In addition, Hope claims he wrote this play to convey his feelings about the political climate of our nation.

"Although the term 'separation of church and state' is not in the constitution, still the time has come when Christian preachers are not allowed to speak out on political issues," he said. "And it has caused the church to pull away from being involved in the political process of the country. There's a big push on to inhibit people from using the greeting 'merry Christmas' and just say 'happy holidays.'"

Again, I am lost on Hope's logic.

First, I don't know what he is even complaining about. The church speaks out loud and clear on political issues. Sure, the tax code prevents all non-profit organizations, including religious organizations, from endorsing or opposing candidates, but I would hardly agree that the church has been silenced. Pastors still have the freedom to talk on issues of the day and I'm pretty sure they all still take advantage of that. One only need look at the debate over abortion in health-care reform to prove that.

And second, since when did church political activity have anything to do with whether Americans use the terms "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays"? Seasonal greetings are a personal choice. If Hope wants to wish a Merry Christmas to his congregation, friends, family or neighbors, he has every right to do that. No one is trying to silence him or take away his religious freedom.

But for those who want to be inclusive of all during this time of year, they have the right to do that, too. Not everyone is going to say "Merry Christmas" just because Hope wants them to.

Instead, Hope should feel lucky that we live in a country where we have the freedom to choose among not just a variety of seasonal greetings, but also a variety of belief systems.

As the Rev. Barry Lynn wrote last week on beliefnet.com, "Our government officials, for the most part, have left it up to each individual to treat this season however he or she sees fit - whether that means celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa,   or any other holiday. It's the government's constitutional duty not to favor one religion over another. And because of that, our country really can be a welcoming and peaceful place for all."