Thursday, December 08, 2005

'Taking the Christ out of Christmas' - Or - 'Maybe Christmas WAS Getting to Religious'

For as long as I can remember religious groups have complained about the Christmas holiday. Many critics mostly evangelical Christians have said it has strayed to far from the true meaning of the holiday and instead focused on material goods. They say Santa, a tree, and presents have replaced the manger, the wise men, and the miracle of the birth of Christ. Finally this year the argument should be over. Christmas is officially a holiday not a holy day. Even though Christmas falls on a Sunday many will find the doors to God’s house locked. Several of the nations ‘Mega Churches’ are anticipating low attendance and are canceling services. To me this would be like shutting a temple for the High Holy Days because they land on Saturday. For us if the holiday falls on the Sabbath it makes it more important, not less. It seems counterproductive to shut a church on one of the religion's holiests days – and on a Sunday to boot – which is the day of worship.

So why are they shutting the doors on December 25th? Many of the Churches are giving a list of reasons. Mostly dealing with attendance, but some churches say Christmas Eve services are less threatening to those who normally go ‘unchurched.’ Most of the Churches that are closing their doors are Mega Churches which feature stadium seating plasma televisions and seat thousands of worshippers every Sunday for regular services. Specifically a Mega Church is defined as “Non-Catholic congregations of at least 2000 people.” They are calling Christmas a family day and quote “ We believe that you worship every day of the week, not just on a weekend, and you don't have to be in a church building to worship." To me this seems self-defeating since the thousands of worshippers shelled out thousands of dollars to build these Mega Churches to worship in.

I did some research, and it is true that most people don’t go to Church on Christmas choosing a midnight mass or a Christmas Eve service instead. However apparently it is unheard of to not have services on a Sunday apparently. So many are seeing this as a bow to secular culture. Many in the evangelical community are stunned by the shut down. "This is a consumer mentality at work, Let's not impose the church on people. Let's not make church in any way inconvenient,'" said David Wells, professor of history and systematic theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a leading evangelical school in Hamilton, Mass. "I think what this does is feed into the individualism that is found throughout American culture, where everyone does their own thing." So it’s really America’s fault that a business pretending to be a religious entity decides to close when it’s not profitable. Well, I guess capitalism is better then the alternative.

Some Churches aren’t even hiding the fact that opening up on Christmas Sunday just isn’t cost effective. One church said it would be a waste of staff and volunteer time and money to open up the church and hold a service for the very few who will attend on Christmas morning. So it goes to show you that no matter what you believe or how you celebrate Christmas will always be about just one thing: the all mighty dollar – I guess the evangelicals can say at least there is the all seeing eye of God on every dollar we spend this holiday season.


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