>Image via WikipediaOur local school has decided not to have caroling this year. Now “caroling” is really an exaggeration. In the past, for about 15 minutes for three different mornings kids were invited (not required) to attend a sing-a-long of holiday themed songs in the music room or the gym or wherever the designated gathering place was. And, in between “Frosty the Snowman” and “Let It Snow” (sung with great gusto in our ski-loving community) there was usually one…one…Christian themed song. This is not that much different than our holiday concert with mostly secular music, but a Jewish and African American one there along with the lone Christmas carol.
But, alas, the school-time caroling is no more…at least not during school hours. There will be an after school caroling party today. And this change is for the usual reasons:
We have a couple of Jewish students and one family that it Buddhist and “we” want to be sensitive. True.
We have a principle who can be a stickler for rules and regulations and anything that could possibly end up in a complaint or, worse, a legal issue, must be avoided. This does not make the principal anti-Christmas or anti-Christian or anything. Perhaps just a bit too cautious.
We have a couple of persons who have expressed concern that the school would be endorsing one religion over others…while proponents of caroling say it’s all cultural and no one is evangelizing or anything. Admittedly, this gets tricky.
Could it be that the “War on Christmas” has come to Girdwood?
Maybe. But let’s think about this.
I have not been involved in the caroling debate. I’ve shown up at school to sing with my kids because it’s fun…not because I’ve had any role in planning this or defending it. Because I’m a pastor, I try very hard to keep my nose out of religious issues at the school. My kids still need to go there. My wife teaches there. And there are just “good parent” things I want to be involved in without having to go into the school only being seen as “Here comes the minister.” But I have put some thought into the caroling issue and how “The War on Christmas” is perceived. Here are some of them:
- Every holiday song has a point of view, a perspective, a theology, we might say. We don’t “do” Santa at our household. We talk a lot about the birth of Jesus but Santa doesn’t make an appearance. There is a mythology…a religion, as it were…surrounding Santa. It comes complete with rituals and beliefs and morals. And, I think it’s in contrast to Christianity. So, my wife and I avoid it and we tell our kids Santa doesn’t exist. I know you may do it differently in your house. God bless you. But, if our understanding of faith is that Santa doesn’t exist, should we be offended that our kids sing about Santa at school? A lot of the argument against caroling is that it pushes a religion (Christianity) on non-Christian kids. I want to argue that the other songs about Santa push a religion as well…but on Christians. I think it’s helpful to see that.
- Taking Christian caroling songs out of the school does not weaken Jesus Christ or the message of the church. If we’re relying upon our schools to teach the message of Jesus to kids, then we need to be concerned about how weak the church has become. If we can sing “Santa Claus is Coming To Town” and “I’m Gettin’ Nuttin’ For Christmas” and follow it with “Silent Night” and not see a problem in those mixed messages, then perhaps we need to look more closely at our understanding of the “Sweet Little Jesus Boy” who comes to bring salvation to the world.
- I know a lot of “The War on Christmas” seems to be aimed at retailers, such as Wal-Mart, where persons now say, “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” Sure, this is not about “the holidays” for me but about Christmas. But we need to understand that most retail places, if they thought it would increase their revenue, would tell you to “May the Force Be With You” as you entered the store. They’re out to get $$$$ from you this “Holiday Season” or “Christmas Season.” I don’t want my understanding of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, to be defined by what Wal-Mart can tell me at the door. They already own everything else. Why should I be bothered that they’ve loosened their grip on Jesus? I’m happy to say “Merry Christmas” to the greeter because that’s who I am. I think them saying “Happy Holidays” is more truthful to who they are. (Now, if they’d just say, “Happy Holidays, please buy a bunch of stuff you don’t need” that would probably be more truthful).
Look, in a little over an hour, I’m going to take our 4 year old twins to the school to join up with our 13 year old twins and a bunch of students to sing Holiday Songs. We’ll sing some traditional carols. We’ll sing Santa stuff. We’ll sing about snow. There will be hot chocolate and it will be fun. I know some people are mad that we won’t be doing it during school hours. I’m really not mad about that. If there are some non-Christian, secular, Santa-loving kids who hear “Away in a Manger” and start asking questions about “the little Lord Jesus asleep in the hay”… great. If there are some folks of other religions who hear us singing and, while they may not join us, appreciate that they aren’t made to feel forced upon by the Christian faith this time of year…great.
While there are folks who still believe that we’re a Christian nation, I’m not one of them. It doesn’t mean I love this country less than anyone else. It just means that, instead of viewing this place as a Christian nation, I view it as a nation with a lot of Christians in it. We have some great Christian (or Deist) based ideals in our founding documents because those ideals shaped our founders. Yet we are in a constant struggle to determined how to live most faithfully in a multi-cultural environment. And as many persons fight back against The War on Christmas, I think we need to be clear about what Jesus we’re fighting for. Is it the God of the Old and New Testaments. Or is it Jesus-lite…a mix of secularism, nationalism, capitalism, Santa and the sweet baby in the manger.
Now…I need to get ready for some caroling fun. I can’t wait to hear how loudly the kids sing “Let It Snow.”