>A Surprising Christmas Message

>My family and I are spending our first Christmas in England this year. It is cold and damp, yet quite cheery here in Durham. It is interesting to spend Christmas away from the good old USA and away from the good old ACLU. From an American evangelical perspective, England is known as one of the great mission fields of our day. It is described as cold, hard, and opposed to the message of the gospel. It’s funny how you find things aren’t quite what you were told when you experience them first hand. I want to share two short thoughts I had this Christmas as I plan to come out of my office, put away the books, and enjoy my family. I thought these were worth sharing.

As the Christmas season began to ramp up here in England I was surprised to find them putting up Christmas decorations downtown in the city centre. What was more surprising was the message that was posted everywhere: MERRY CHRISTMAS! That’s right, Merry Christmas in huge lights in the middle of the city centre, and on the Gates shopping mall, and at the mall in Newcastle. It is everywhere! Not Happy Holidays, but Merry Christmas. My initial thoughts were, “Well, I am in the far Northeastern part of the country, and it’s pretty rural here, maybe its a local thing.” But what to my wondering eyes do appear but this message on commercials while selling their gear. On every channel it’s Merry Christmas! It is amazing, people here say, Merry Christmas and there hasn’t been one peep out of any watchdog group saying that this violates peoples rights.

Now you might say, “Well, Mark, you’re in rural northeast England, surely it wouldn’t offend anybody there. Perhaps that is why nobody has said anything.” I don’t think so. First of all, according to American Christians this is a cold godless country. Well, not any more than our own country. It appears that way at first but I’ve found that to be untrue. Our church is full every Sunday (an Anglican church) and the people there are the most genuine I think I have ever met. However, I don’t think that’s the reason why the message goes over well. I think it is the absence of groups such as the ACLU. Let me give you another example.

Last night there was a Christmas party sponsored by Durham University (Ustinov College Family Society) where all the families living in the housing complex we live in gathered in the Keenan House common room. Obviously there are people here from all over the world studying, most of them in finance, politics, and business. So, the family society is about 80% Muslim. Most of the women where the abayas and trail behind their husbands when they are out and about. And they are some of the nicest people I have ever met. Anyway, my daughters, and two of their friends from Japan who are believers, wrote a small nativity play to present at the party. They asked the family society if they could perform, told them the nature of the play, and they gladly said, “Yes!” Well, the girls sang Hark the Herald Angels Sing, the First Noel, and many others and acted out the birth of Christ and told the story from the Bible. At least 80-90% of the people in the room were Muslim. Everyone clapped, and said they loved it! I was amazed. I thought they would get up and leave offended. But something was missing. There was no idiot fringe group standing around saying, “Your rights have been violated!”

One lady in particular, in my wife’s women’s tea group, keeps asking her questions about the Bible and the Christian faith. If this is a mission field it is not because of the Brits. They are not far from where we are.

It is truly amazing how groups like the ACLU and others are slowly destroying the fabric of our country.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night! (I hope I didn’t offend anyone)



12 thoughts on “>A Surprising Christmas Message

  1. >David,Not a problem. May the Lord bless you and your family during the coming year. Mark

    Posted by Mark Mathews | December 26, 2007, 9:17 am
  2. >I apologize for misreading you and thank you for your thoughtful response.Hope your Christmas was great and have a happy new year.

    Posted by David Cho | December 26, 2007, 1:32 am
  3. >Tis the season to be jolly!!!

    Posted by Mark Mathews | December 23, 2007, 4:10 pm
  4. >”Our development of parallel institutions alongside the secular is not helpful.”Now you’re meddling!

    Posted by Jeff Wright | December 23, 2007, 2:55 pm
  5. >—————————————As I said, people with liberal leanings like what they see in England for the absence of the Religious Right and you like it for the exact opposite reason. —————————————You have obviously misunderstood me. You are taking a very specific observation and blown it into a very general conversation about right wing and left wing groups. I am talking about the ACLU. This is what you are failing to address.I live in England and can agree with your friends. It’s nice to live in a culture where these extreme right groups don’t exist. So, I like England for the same reasons they do AND for the reason mentioned previously. I am happy that neither of these extremes exist here. There is no separation here between the secular and religious like in America. As you well know, that is an American phenomenon. So it is quite refreshing to see universities and schools that have both conservative and liberal points of view under the same roof. And its nice to see the Bible actually taught in schools that don’t claim to be religious. Our development of parallel institutions alongside the secular is not helpful. So I understand their point of view.What I am pointing out is the extreme position the ACLU takes in claiming the phrase Merry Christmas is a violation of people’s civil rights. This is absurd. Christmas is a holiday Americans have celebrated throughout their history. Now that we have people groups from all over the world, we are told we need to change our holidays or make them suitable to the other people groups. I think the other people groups should assimilate into our culture and that we should also recognize the cultures they bring into our country. This is helpful for all. But to say we need to completely change our holidays while we allow no changes for theirs is absurd and is indicative of the extreme positions the ACLU has come to take.Many of my comments on this blog and others are more of a rebuke of American evangelicalism than anything else. I have visited your blog and I understand you are still recuperating from fundamentalism, the most damaging movement to Christianity in its history. I too was involved in this kind of situation long ago and now reject that line of biblical (or non-biblical) understanding. However, your comments reveal you might have swung so far the other way that you overreact to comments (such as those I made in my post) without first thinking through them. Just because I don’t like the ACLU, you assume I am a right wing, hard core fundamentalist that is okay with all right wing groups associated with American evangelicalism. You automatically thought that I like England for the opposite reasons your friends do. This is an overreaction on your part without first think through what I was saying. The simple fact that I mention one side of the argument placed me squarely on the other side in your eyes. This is a common reaction by those recuperating from fundamentalism. This is why I like England so much, people don’t tend to think this way. You also assume that I am polarizing by my statements. However, that would only be true if I were speaking in the context that you are, of embattling groups of right and left. Well, I’m not. I am simply pointing out an obvious problem. And when I see the same type problems with Christian groups I point them out too. In fact, they keep me far busier than the other!It is troubling though to see the attitude that points out others as polarizing while taking a “holier than thou” stance of love and peacefulness, while decrying the early church as its model.First, Paul spoke specifically about speaking the “truth” yet doing it in love. I have read your post about “truth” with regard to fundamentalism and agree with your assessments. However, not all who speak the “truth” or even talk about speaking the truth, mean it in the same way as fundamentalists. You have associated certain language with certain groups and have obviously begun to categorize people by their language. This is not helpful. There are balanced groups who use this same language in different contexts. Second, be careful about taking the early church as your model since they were fraught with problems just as we are today. There is enough ambiguity as to what the early church was like that it is not helpful to make assessments based only on what we have in Scripture. A lot happened that didn’t go in there, and I’m sure it was not all pretty. Anyway, this had nothing to do with my post but came out of your reaction to the word “truth,” by which you categorize me into a particular group. When I say truth, I mean a fact that is true to anyone, whether Christian or not. Not a truth associated with a particular biblical truth. I am simply pointing out the fact that the ACLU has made it impossible for Americans to celebrate a holiday without offending someone. Whether it is a religious holiday or not doesn’t matter since most Americans celebrate it and are not religious in any way. Even these people are fed up with the ACLU. Now, let me conclude and clarify my position for you. I am not saying that England is better than America or that America is better than England. I am not saying right is better than left or that left is better than right. I am not saying Jesus was born on Christmas day (as if I ever said that) and I am not saying what the early church did or did not do. I am not saying anything about all the different connections you have made to my post. I am saying that the ACLU has made a ruckus out of something they claim is offensive to people from other cultures. Yet I am living in a housing complex in England with families from Taiwan, China, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Germany, Russia, Turkey, Japan, and Africa and have yet to find anyone offended. As I walked through the parking lot yesterday, a Muslim lady wearing her abaya yelled out across to me “Merry Christmas!” I laughed.My point is that it is not as offensive to people as the ACLU has made out. When you take people who feel like they have been marginalized and exploit them under the guise of helping them it is dishonest. This is what I feel the ACLU is best at. That’s my opinion and I have equally strong opinions against Christian groups are take extreme views as well. I hope this is clear.Either way, I am sorry this turned into a misunderstanding and I in no way wish to engage in a negative conversation. You are my brother in Christ and I love you. Therefore, I wish you a very Merry Christmas and hope you enjoy the season in which we “celebrate” the birth of our Savior.

    Posted by Mark Mathews | December 23, 2007, 11:42 am
  6. >Not to shamelessly plug my blog, but I posted an extensive article about this.

    Posted by David Cho | December 22, 2007, 11:11 pm
  7. >Well, I have lived in this country since I was 14 in 1980, so perhaps you can point to my lack of emotional attachment to the “fabric” of this nation.Living in a “truth friendly” society is not very important to me, and the early church didn’t seem see it as vital as American Evangelicals do today (besides, the “truth” in this case is that Jesus was not born on Christmas)As I said, people with liberal leanings like what they see in England for the absence of the Religious Right and you like it for the exact opposite reason. Neither side is very impressive to me.

    Posted by David Cho | December 22, 2007, 11:07 pm
  8. >——————————————I am really sorry to see Christians talking a huge part of the polarization which is ripping this country apart in the endless game of finger pointing. Both sides sounds like the Pharisee who went to the temple to pray and wallow in self-righteousness about not being liberals, ACLU members, bigots, racists, etc. etc. etc.—————————————–I certainly claim no righteousness on my own my friend. I am simply calling it like I see it. Apart form the righteousness of Christ I am just as wicked as they are. So the Pharisee bit doesn’t hold water. What I am sorry about is that we live in such a culture that we can’t tell the truth without being accused of polarizing. Look, the facts are what they are. It is the ACLU who has raised the ruckus over calling Christmas Christmas, right or wrong? Right! I agree that the Christian right groups can also go way overboard on their own issues. But there is no other group who is responsible for this particular problem. So perhaps the polarization has already been put in place. I am simply bringing up a real situation. That situation is that the US is now the only country (that celebrates Christmas) where people get called out for calling it Christmas.I agree that groups who simply engage in finger pointing are discouraging. But any normally prudent person (which I think I am) would have made the same observation, whether he were Christian or not.I lived in the US all my life. I am 43 years old. I remember when Merry Christmas was okay and when they actually talked about the birth of Christ on television in secular movies and TV shows. I also remember when all that came to a halt. Thus, having lived the last 10 years or so being told that Happy Holidays is preferable over Merry Christmas, I was a bit shocked to see it when I came to a place that I was told was a godless society. That’s all. It’s just an observation.

    Posted by Mark Mathews | December 22, 2007, 9:47 pm
  9. >Some say Happy Christmas but most say Merry Christmas. I think they used to say Happy Christmas more but since the ACLU raised so much hell in the US the UK bought all of our old Christmas signs that we’re not allowed to hang anymore!!!!!!! 🙂

    Posted by Mark Mathews | December 22, 2007, 9:20 pm
  10. >Actually, they say “Happy Christmas”, no?

    Posted by Richard | December 22, 2007, 8:50 pm
  11. >”One lady in particular, in my wife’s women’s tea group, keeps asking her questions about the Bible and the Christian faith.”Awesome. We’ll be praying about that.

    Posted by Jeff Wright | December 22, 2007, 8:10 pm
  12. >I am not sure if it’s simple like that.The ACLU can be said to react to what the Christian Right does, and visa versa.I can tell you stories from American ex-patriots with liberal leanings raving about the absence of groups like the Christian Coalition, Traditional Values Coalition, etc in England. They’d tell you how bad it is that such groups are destroying our country, and how they love it there in England (I used to be a British Petroleum employee).So the old adage applies. It depends on who you talk to. I am really sorry to see Christians talking a huge part of the polarization which is ripping this country apart in the endless game of finger pointing. Both sides sounds like the Pharisee who went to the temple to pray and wallow in self-righteousness about not being liberals, ACLU members, bigots, racists, etc. etc. etc.

    Posted by David Cho | December 22, 2007, 7:43 pm

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