Today I wish to direct your attention to a post on Rachel Held Evans’ blog about the War on Christmas and the general persecution complex that many evangelical culture warriors tend to get around this time of year. Her post is entitled “Are You Being Persecuted?” and comes with a rather helpful chart to clarify the issue.
I have spent enough time in the sort of evangelical circles that tend to get geeked up about the War on Christmas and other such things, that I can understand what is happening here. Not that I agree with it or that I excuse it, just that I understand (sorta). Many evangelicals believe in a Prosperity Gospel of sorts which operates at the national level–even if they would deny the Prosperity Gospel to their dying breath (at an individual level). They believe that God blesses those nations which bless Him and curses those nations which curse Him. They get this from verses such as “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord”. Thus if our God is the Lord–that is, America acknowledges God and Christianity in all the ways that matter to the culture warriors–then God will bless us. If not, then God will bring judgment upon us and it will be bad for everyone, including us. Which is why it is incumbent on us to fight the War on Christmas or whatever the big cultural crusade of the day happens to be.
Yet the whole story of Advent is about how God showed up in a nation which did NOT acknowledge Him by any stretch of the imagination. He showed up as a Jew in the Roman empire–an oppressed minority in one of the most violent and powerful empires in all of history. Moreover, if tradition is correct, He showed up as an Essene, a member of a sect which lived on the margins of said oppressed minority. When He arrived on the scene, no one acknowledged Him except a handful of poor shepherds.
The whole story of Advent is the story of how God can’t be kept out. God is present. God is with us. God shows up—not with a parade but with the whimper of a baby, not among the powerful but among the marginalized, not to the demanding but to the humble. From Advent to Easter, the story of Jesus should teach us that God doesn’t need a mention in our pledge or on our money or over the loudspeaker at the mall to be present, and when we fight like spoiled children to “keep” God in those things, we are fighting for idols. We’re chasing wind.