Target Jesus

How bleeped up is this? Rachel Zoll of the Associated Press reports that some big holy roller born again in-your-face-with-JEEzus megachurches will be closed for Christmas.

This Christmas, no prayers will be said in several megachurches around the country. Even though the holiday falls this year on a Sunday, when churches normally host thousands for worship, pastors are canceling services, anticipating low attendance on what they call a family day. …

… Cally Parkinson, a spokeswoman for Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill., said church leaders decided that organizing services on a Christmas Sunday would not be the most effective use of staff and volunteer resources. The last time Christmas fell on a Sunday was 1994, and only a small number of people showed up to pray, she said.

“If our target and our mission is to reach the unchurched, basically the people who don’t go to church, how likely is it that they’ll be going to church on Christmas morning?” she said.

Among the other megachurches closing on Christmas Day are Southland Christian Church in Nicholasville, Ky., near Lexington, and Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas, outside of Dallas. North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Ga., outside of Atlanta, said on its Web site that no services will be held on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day, which also falls on a Sunday. A spokesman for North Point did not respond to requests for comment.

The closures stand in stark contrast to Roman Catholic parishes, which will see some of their largest crowds of the year on Christmas, and mainline Protestant congregations such as the Episcopal, Methodist and Lutheran churches, where Sunday services are rarely if ever canceled.

Have I ever written that most of what passes for “Christianity” in the U.S. has nothin’ to do with either Jesus or worship? I believe I have.

This is stunning. Some of the same people who have their noses out of joint because clerks at Target say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” aren’t interested in a religious observance of the birth of Jesus. They want Christ in Target, not in church.

It’s not just Target in trouble with the Merry Christmas crowd. Alan Cooperman writes in today’s Washington Post that they’re pissed off at President Bush because of the White House Christmas cards.

This month, as in every December since he took office, President Bush sent out cards with a generic end-of-the-year message, wishing 1.4 million of his close friends and supporters a happy “holiday season.”

Many people are thrilled to get a White House Christmas card, no matter what the greeting inside. But some conservative Christians are reacting as if Bush stuck coal in their stockings.

“This clearly demonstrates that the Bush administration has suffered a loss of will and that they have capitulated to the worst elements in our culture,” said William A. Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

Bush “claims to be a born-again, evangelical Christian. But he sure doesn’t act like one,” said Joseph Farah, editor of the conservative Web site “I threw out my White House card as soon as I got it.”

I don’t know where in the Gospels Jesus said “Thou shalt be a judgmental, obnoxious asshole for My sake,” but I guess it’s in there somewhere.

39 thoughts on “Target Jesus

  1. From blogger Ron Franscell at

    As if a lurking bid-flu pandemic, Armageddon in the Middle East, and the hurricane carousel in the Gulf of Mexico weren’t important enough … we now have people who worry that the word “holidays” is murk-ifying the righteous Christian concept of Christmas.

    Religious conservatives have their panties bunched tighter than an alcoholic elf on Christmas Eve. Why? Because the White House’s official 2005 Christmas card doesn’t use the word “Christmas” … which is to say, they think George Bush is afraid to use the word “Christ.” “This clearly demonstrates that the Bush administration has suffered a loss of will and that they have capitulated to the worst elements in our culture,” said William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.


    The President of the United States represents a wide spectrum of beliefs, from atheists to Muslims to Catholics to Budhhists to the most devout evangelical Christians. His personal religious beliefs are hardly a closely guarded secret — just ask the Radical Left. But he leads everyone, and in this case, he’s trying to be inclusive, not exclusive.

    “The reality is you have people in Beaumont (Texas) that think the United States is a Christian country; it’s not,” a source recently told my newspaper. “It is a country that is founded on freedom of religion, but the truth is, if you look at what happens at Christmas time, there is very much a sense of Christianity.”

    Anybody who’d elevate the pathetic “Christmas-vs-holidays” tiff to a major issue — much less a “war” on Christmas — needs to go to church for a time-out.

  2. On a holiday related note, yahoo news reported yesterday that King george doesn’t know how to celebrate Hanukkah either.This year it starts on Dec 25,, not that that matters to George, he lit the first candle last night!It seems George doesn’t want to be bothered to have to do Hanukkah during HIS holiday so why not just get it out of the way now???It may well be that he is afraid for his base to see him lighting a Hanukkah candle on Christmas day, but I tend to think it was for arrogant, self serving reasons(like most things bush does), and he just doesn’t want to muck up HIS time with a bunch of religion….

    If a holiday gets in Bush’s way,, he just moves it,there is NOTHING like being more important then God if your King george,,and there is nothing like showing the world you can even give God the finger.His mouth says he is a “christian” but his actions are screaming”I don’t believe in God,he is just a useful tool to control the masses”

    As a person who respects almost every religion (the evangelicals are REALLY putting my respect level to the test) I really take this as a personally. Government should not favor any one religion over another,, and by just blowing off one religious groups holiday they ARE favoring one over another.If the christmas folks want their holiday recognized (as they scream) then they should stand up and demand the same respect for other religions.Instead they seem to be demanding ONE religion(as long as it doesn’t interrupt present opening).

  3. It’s all about the money baby….

    Apparently the megachurches didn’t get a big enough “take” last Christmas to make it worth their while to turn on the lights, even with volunteer labor. And they are having plenty of other services to rake in the money ahead of Christmas day.

    All of which goes a long way to explain some of the issues with “Christianity” in America. Our emphasis on “personal” salvation, (which demands nothing except standing up at the altar call) instead opposed to study and understanding of a philosophy within an institution, has, like so many things that started out as reasonable ideas, been taken beyond the point of excess. Hence our “Christian” President, who never goes to church, and would probably be hard pressed to come up with more than half of the 10 commandments if pressed, let alone anything that Jesus actually said.

    Fast food religion. What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. No wonder we scare the rest of the world into fits.

  4. I find it awfully hard to believe this shit…

    Like it says, the Catholics draw their biggest crowds of the year on Christmas Eve…(Will we get a “Zeig Jesus” this year?)…

    And down in these parts, our local Mega-Baptist Bunch: Bellevue Baptist (AKA “Six Flags Over Jesus”) does several shows with a cast of hundreds…Including their Trademark “Singing Christmas Tree”…

    What’ll we watch on Teevee?

  5. I wonder about this too. I grew up Southern Baptist, and Christmas Eve (and Day) was always just about THE biggest day of the year. The Pastor always gave pretty much the same sermon, but still it was packed.

  6. Weird! I thought Christmas was one of the big attendance days, I know a lot of people who only show up on Easter and Christmas. Maybe they don’t want to pay the staff overtime…

  7. Well…it would be more in line with the American corporate way to have a worship service in Walmart, now wouldn’t it?

  8. talk about dissing the faithful….
    no mass on christmas day? or maybe no mas, no mas from the socalled fundies- they don’t even desrve name fundamentalist

  9. Personal belief-Most of these “Christians” are new to the fold or have returned because they are fearful and covering the bases if they die (insert 911 observation here) and want their religion to be as convienient as the rest of everyday life..

  10. Bill McKibben had a good article on this subject in Harper’s a few months back–the subject of faux Christianity, I mean, not megachurches closing for Christmas. Here’s a link.

    I love your conclusion, by the way. “Thou shalt be a judgmental, obnoxious asshole for My sake” reminds me of the fundie gospel my wife and I were talking about writing the other day. We figured that if you wanted to reflect the preoccupations of American fundamentalists, about two thirds of Jesus’s teachings would have to be about the evils of abortion, with the rest devoted to denouncing homosexuality.

  11. I read the AP article. To be fair it appears most are not canceling, but rather rescheduling or consolidating in anticipation of low attendance. The measure by which one may ascertain the faithfulness of any given ministry but rather by the efectiveness of its witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ through it disciple making and mission work- personally I also like a good choir and and organ that just about blasts the walls out. Merry Christ-Mass. Peace and grace, Stu

  12. Stu–“To be fair it appears most are not canceling, but rather rescheduling or consolidating in anticipation of low attendance.”

    But why would attendance be low? To someone like me with an “old church” background, this is incomprehensible. In the old days church was not just a pep rally or a form of entertainment, but an act of consecration. If one believes that Christmas marks the actual day of the birth of Jesus, then “rescheduling” would not do. To fail to consecrate the day would be shirking one’s religious obligation.

    “The measure by which one may ascertain the faithfulness of any given ministry but rather by the efectiveness of its witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ through it disciple making and mission work”

    But if your converts are missing the essential nature of the religion itself, what’s the use?

    Merry Christ-Mass. Peace and grace,

    And may all sentient beings realize the Buddha-dharma. Prajnaparamita, maha

  13. I’m not that big on spending a lot of money on Christmas, I always thought it silly to spend money you cant afford for stuff people dont really want. However, I do feel like ,as a Christian, I’m being shoved into a little box. Where for hundreds of years Christianity was recognized as part of the national identity, now its as if we have become lepers to a small portion of the country so we must be bound, gaged and shoved into a small dark space out of the way. I’m not comfortable with that. I’m not for squashing anyone one elses religious freedoms because I dont want mine curtailed. That is the true problem here. Of course Christians are not quietly going into the closet without a struggle. Why on earth would you think they would? The church I go to is having a Christmas eve service as well as a Christmas morning service. I think it is wonderful and appropriate to celebrate Christ’s birth in his house. He is not just a good idea to me, he is my constant companion.

  14. However, I do feel like ,as a Christian, I’m being shoved into a little box. Where for hundreds of years Christianity was recognized as part of the national identity,

    Now we’re getting somewhere. The whole “Christmas War” thing is not about religion, but about identity.

    I plan to respond to this in a new post. Meanwhile, please don’t snark at Miki, folks. She (he?) is being honest, and I appreciate honesty even if I disagree with the reasoning behind it.

  15. miki – why do you think that our country, now trying to be more inclusive, is shoving Christians out of the way? In this multi-cultural nation, more so than ever, it is only right that other religions be acknowledged. The end of December has a number of ‘special days’ and somehow wishing a Jew, Buddist, Muslim “Merry Christmas” is not in keeping with their beliefs. The fundie Christians are being quite egotistical in their demands. Just because they do not believe as you does not make you right and others wrong.

  16. I think we all miss the point. The Extremist Christians cannot attend church on Christmas morning because their children must open their expensive and lavish gifts and parents must watch this long awaited spectacle with mirth and awe! Jesus can wait! So, even if they “reschedule” it’s the same story. Right? Think about it.

  17. As far as Willow Creek goes, do you realize that they are actually having 17 Christmas Eve services where 50,000 will attend?

    Did you know that they are having Christmas themed services all December long and that the titles of these messages aren’t glorifying consumerism or the Bush War Machine but instead are…

    Where is the church…
    when disaster strikes?
    in the lives our Latino neighbors?
    in AIDS and global poverty?

    While other christians are having culture wars, these people are trying to live a life of peace in the way of Jesus.

    I realize that other traditions value Christmas Day above Christmas Eve for services honoring the birth of Christ. In their tradition, Willow Creek values Christmas Eve.

    I think it’s fair to criticize the American Church which seems so far from the heart of the humble Jesus who cared for the marginalized and valued the poor. But if some churches like Willow Creek are actually trying to be like him – shouldn’t we give them a break, or at least do a little research before ranting about them?

  18. Tradition and personal belief dictate to me that from the 25th of December to January 6th should be properly called the Christmas season. It is then that Christians should be merry Christmas to each other. In our church, we celebrate Advent the four Sundays prior to Christmas Day. During most Decembers, then, if one is a Christian, we should be saying happy Advent to each other. For those who neither believe in Advent or Christmas, happy holidays in an appropriate secular greeting. I am inclined to want to shout out happy Advent during December just to get odd looks from just about everyone.

    The Rev. Robert A. Terrill
    Retired Episcopal Priest.

  19. I’ve been over the gospels a few times and can’t seem to find anyplace where Jesus tells his followers to make his birthday into a high holy day and force everyone else to validate it by having stressed out temp workers at the local big-box store pay lip service to it as a requirement of their employment. Perhaps most ‘christians’ could take a few minutes and review the words Jesus spoke and the way in which he conducted his life instead of taking a cue from Bill O’Reilly and crew.

  20. Why is it less hypocrytical for opponents of Evangelical Christians to be name callers? I see “fundies” used several times in this blog.
    Yes there are hypocrytes among Christians. But do understand that Fundamentalism only refects a small percentage of Evangelical Christianity. And know that Geoge Bush has been criticized among members of his own denomination for not following its Social Principles. Do some research on the history of the term “Funamentalist.”

    Al Bryan, Methodist Pastor

  21. Why is it less hypocrytical for opponents of Evangelical Christians to be name callers? I see “fundies” used several times in this blog. Yes there are hypocrytes among Christians. But do understand that Fundamentalism only refects a small percentage of Evangelical Christianity.

    You are right that fundamentalism is only a small percentage of evanglicalism. However, I skimmed through the comments and didn’t notice any snarking at evangelicals in particular, just fundies. And it’s no insult to Christianity to insult fundies. Fundamentalism is not religion. It’s a disease that infects religion. If you cared about the future of Christianity in America, you’d be working to fight the scourge instead of defending it.

    Read: Karen Armstrong, “The Battle for God”; see also “The Fundamentalist Agenda.”

  22. I hope you do start a blog about this problem of Christians being suppressed. It is obvious that some of your responders are unaware of what has been going on in this country for several years. I have a desire to understand what other people are thinking and how they arrive at the conclusions they do. I’ve tried to get into a reasonable discussion on blogs before only be viciously attacked by unreasonable people unable to listen to anyone who disagreed with them. Because of this business of simply repeating and restating a party line, I have abandoned Alternet as a matter of too much bilge water to bail. Yet I am compelled to continue reading and trying to understand how other people in this nation think. I hope we can be civil here. The discussion of why Christians are fighting back is huge. It affects our nation in many areas. It is too big to be just tagged onto this particular thread.

  23. “The discussion of why Christians are fighting back is huge.”

    Yes, but what they are “fighting back” is a bugaboo in their own heads. They need therapy more than they need blogging.

  24. That is where you are showing your lack of knowledge. As this discussion goes on, I can show instance after instance in which Christians are being suppressed. It is not just in our heads. People have been thrown in jail, Churches have been locked by government officials, children have been and are being harrassed in school because of their beliefs and those of their parents. It is NOT just a bugaboo.

  25. Here are a few somewhat well known instances. I want to make it clear again. I’m not against anyone else exercising their religeous freedom or their constitutional right to free speech. Just don’t deny me my rights ok.

    In a Texas classroom, children were told to draw a tracing of their foot, and then put a message on the drawing. One little girl wrote “Jesus Loves Me” on hers. What happened next shows the abysmal state of religious tolerance in America. The child’s teacher ripped the tracing off the board. “Don’t you ever do this again,” she said. The little girl burst into tears. When her outraged father called the school, nervous officials told the child to make another tracing. She did so — but this time, instead of scrawling “Jesus Loves Me,” she drew a tiny cross that was so small it was almost invisible. This little girl had learned her lesson well. Her Christian faith was something shameful — and she should keep it to herself.

    In a Plano, Texas, classroom, a teacher told students not to write “Merry Christmas” on greeting cards for soldiers in Iraq because it might offend someone. They were even forbidden to say “Merry Christmas” to their classmates.

    In a New York school, the halls were decked with menorahs and Kwanzaa candles. When a father asked why there was no Christmas tree, the principal said, “Oh, we’re trying to make sure we don’t offend people.”

    In Maplewood, New Jersey, fifth-graders were asked to make posters demonstrating diversity. A boy named Anton pasted on the Star of David and a Muslim symbol. When his mother suggested he add a Christian symbol, he said, “No, I don’t want to offend anyone.” These kids are being brain-washed.”

  26. To understand the position of my church Southland Christian, visit and follow the links about Christmas. Our church supports our pastor and his decision…

  27. Pretty good work with the cut & paste there Miki. I did notice that the original article doesn’t have any verification for their stories.

  28. Hey Miki,

    I don’t believe these events are actually occurring. I believe they’ve been made up by people who want you to become outraged enough to give them money and lobby on their behalf. Kind of like the “preserving the sanctitiy of marriage” BS used to mobilize the right wing vote.

    They don’t actually want a level playing field, they want a christian one. If this is happening in YOUR schools and YOUR community then YOU can go to YOUR shool board and make YOUR case about how you want YOUR CHILDREN taught.

    Otherwise, this is just BS. Nobody is being repressed except perhaps those of us who choose not to celebrate christmas.

  29. Here’s an article from the Arizona Republic newspaper that refers to a lawsuit in Plano (although not over greetings on cards) and many other “diversity doesn’t include Christian symbols” examples.

    Also, wanted to point out that Willow Creek (the church closing on Christmas after their 17 Christmas Eve services) is not actually part of the “fundamentalist” movement. However, it is true that much of the uproar over “holiday” is from fundamentalist camp. But people are confusing the two – not surprising, it’s pretty common in American these days.

  30. Good article in azcentral. Yes, that was a cut and paste of course. Why retype? Though that particular site KS linked is not the only place those incidences have been cited, the reference verification is mentioned in that article. John Gibson’s book has the specifics. I’m not going to do all the research for you, but I will be more particular to give credit and verification in the future. And as for “innocent bystander”, if you want to remain willfully ignorant, there’s no help for you.

  31. Innocent Bystander,

    That kind of reminds me of the attitude of the Germans in WWII who thought that all those stories about what was happening to the Jews was just something being made up.

    Not that I want to equate a kids drawing being torn up with genocide. The simple fact of the matter is that such inicidents DO happen. I know because it did happen in one of the schools in MY community (Monroe-Woodbury school district/ Monroe, NY) ….to the daughter of my wifes best freind, in fact.

    The school was having each child do a winter drawing to decorate the hallways. The girl was told she could not include the image of a dove in her drawing because it was a “religious symbol”. Not exactly being thrown to the lions…. but still unacceptable behavior by the school….. and just the type of little thing that contributes to the feelings of religious Christians that they are being shoved into a corner and not allowed to express thier identity.

    Their feelings of persecution may be somewhat over-exagerated but they are real and often based on small but genuine incidents. They should not be made lite of or dismissed.

    P.S. I am agnostic but am never offended when some-one wishes me a “Merry Christmass” or “Happy Chuanukah, Kwanza, Ramadan, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice, etc”. I think it’s much preferable to be offered heartfelt good wishes based upon the actual belief system of the person giving them rather then some plastic, generic seasons greetings designed to be minimally offensive to as many people as possible but which has no correlation to the persons actual beliefs. Why, for instance, would I wish some-one a happy Kwanza if I don’t happen to believe in Kwanza….. wouldn’t that be an entirely facile expression on my part?

  32. Didn’t mean to let this languish, but real life is so much more interesting.

    what do churches do w/ the money they get?? Well, they have bills like you and me to start with. Utilities,mantience, automobiles. (to provide rides for folks who dont have one) and stuff we dont like staff to run the place. They give away a lot of stuff through food and help programs for locals and members. They send money overseas to help people there. The list of charities is huge. My church personaly has already spent thousands of dollars on hurricane katrina relief as well as lots of man hours voluenteered. We also gave our facilities to the red cross for over a month to operate out of. Too often the good that churches does is downplayed and ignored

  33. Miki — I don’t believe anyone is reading this thread any more, since it scrolled off the front page of my blog several weeks ago. I see new comments only because I am the blog administrator.

    I agree that Christian churches do much good work. I have never said otherwise. Jewish, Buddhist, and other religious groups in America also do much good work. I think this is wonderful. I also approve of religions being tax-exempt. We don’t have an argument on that point.

    Re your various examples of Christian “oppression,” however, there’s not one I believe actually happened. People get hysterical and believe they heard things that they didn’t. The Plano, Texas story is an example; it was revealed to be a fabrication. Likewise, cengel’s story about a elementary school eliminating doves, for pity’s sake — I live near that community and never heard of it. And doves are a universal symbol of peace, not just a “Christian” one, so the story as told makes no sense, anyway.

    It’s wonderfully self-indulgent to believe yourself to be a victim of oppression, but it’s not real, and it’s not good for either your spiritual or mental health.

    Now, if you want to comment further, please do so on the active page:

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