Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary

11 Nov 2015

The Displeasures of God: Shenanigans of a Christian Masochist?


We’ve been hearing a lot of warnings these last few years about the coming persecution of Christians. And a look around the globe reveals that public sentiment really is turning perceptibly against Christians—chiefly abroad, but with fresh harbingers here on American soil. Unfortunately, these warnings have fostered a troubling response among some well-meaning believers. Rather than making “requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and dignity,” because “this is good, and pleases God our Savior” (1 Tim 2:2–3), a rather sizable group of believers have begun, rather unquietly and unpeacefully, to incite persecution by saying and doing ungodly and undignified things. Which is to say they are doing something bad that displeases God.

The Starbucks Coffee Cup fiasco is just the latest in a whole string of these efforts by such Christians. Because Starbucks is no longer putting snowmen, Santa Claus, and Christmas ornaments on their coffee cups, it seems that some angry and belligerent fellow has posted a video tirade about the coffee shop’s participation in the “War against Christmas.” Now, to be fair, I’ve seen hardly any Christians join this cause, and for that I am grateful. Still, this season will see more than one frustrated blog post and Facebook blurb on this topic, and even a tense moment or two at the local department store between some “Christian” shopper and a clerk who, despite her weariness, cheerily says “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”

Dear Christian, please do not do this! Note the following:

  • It is not civil society’s responsibility to acknowledge Christmas, and you cannot force them to do so. Christianity has already tried this more than once and it did not turn out well. Remember what happened when Rome baptized not only their own armies but also the Gauls and Goths and company under duress? Bad move. If a store or a clerk or a gas station attendant doesn’t like Christmas, you can’t compel him to do so! It will only make him hate Christ more, and with good reason. Please stop. You are hurting the Gospel.
  • What the world celebrates as Christmas has almost nothing to do with Christ. We’re much better off extracting Christ from what the world does. You do realize, don’t you, that when stores use Jesus and Christmas in their advertising it’s just a marketing ploy, right? Same with Santa Claus and decorated trees and sparkly snowflakes. I am rather relieved that stores are gradually weaning themselves off the use of Jesus as cheap advertising. Seeing Christ associated with this selfish rumpus has long been grotesque to me, and I’m rather happy to see it end. So if you are agitating to keep Christ in that expression of Christmas, please stop. You are hurting Christ.
  • When Christians start demanding privileged status for their faith, then whine about being “persecuted” when they don’t get it, this radically emboldens the antipathy that secular culture already harbors toward us, and accelerates the onset of true persecution (which is why I’ve labeled the war for Christmas an expression of Christian masochism). In 1 Timothy 2, Paul calls on believers to pray for tolerance, not for privilege. Christians who agitate for Christian privilege through a militant defense of Christmas in civil society are not only wrong; they also exhaust every shred of accumulated sympathy that they might otherwise receive when real persecution finally arrives in America. Please stop. You are hurting the Church.

I fully sympathize with those who worry about the secularization of society. It is in a way sad to see Christmas go the way of prayer and Scripture in school or the way of the Decalogue on the front lawn of the local courthouse. But the privileging of all things Christian in civil society has never been a right, and has historically been something of a bane for the Church. The war we ought to wage is not an belligerent war for Christmas, but an earnest struggle for the souls of men, the furtherance of the Church, and the glory of Christ.

6 Responses

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  2. Jeremiah Dewey

    First off, I want to start by saying that I appreciate your take on this issue and your recommendation for Christians to focus on seeing men saved, the growth of the Church, and bringing glory to God. However, you also stated that the inclusion of Christian symbols in civil society “has historically been something of a bane for the Church.” I would contend that this inclusion in the past could be seen an evidence of the influence of Christianity on the culture. Could you give some examples of this as a problem, both historically and in more modern situations? Thank you!

  3. Mark Snoeberger

    Jeremiah, Thank you for your kind words. You are correct that Christian symbols in civil life usually come into being due to Christian influence. But they often stay long after the Christian influence has departed, generating ill will and creating false impressions and assurances of our Christian heritage. I also find that such symbols can represent a blurring of the function of church and state, which eventually always ends up going badly for the church.

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