by JUSTIN D. BARNARD
Director of the Institute for Intellectual Discipleship
December 24, 2011 - The so-called “holiday” season is an index of the degree to which twenty-first century Americans treat religion like a pair of earrings. The privatization of religion turns religious belief and practice into a personal accessory. Christianity has no exemption from this trend.
Right on cue, the Separation of Church and State Singers have begun warming up their vocal chords to squawk yet another verse of their only holiday tune. “You’re welcome to spread good cheer,” they shriek, “but keep all references to your personal religion (i.e., Christianity) within the walls of your house (or better yet, your heart).”
All of this, we are assured, is in the interest of civility - politeness being the chief virtue of the holiday shopping season. Public religious displays, we are led to believe, are an inconvenience to some and an offense to others. Consequently, like all personal accessories, they are tokens of individual choice not expressions of the common good.
This year, it seems that the Separationist Squawkers will be joined by a chorus of Christians who have apparently adopted a privatized view of faith. According to recent reports, nearly 10% of protestant churches will not hold Sunday worship services on Christmas morning. This, according to one pastor, is because “It's not about a service. It's about being a family that serves Christ.”
A worship service on Christmas morning clearly gets in the way of individual family traditions. This is why the seasonal squawkers do a great service in reminding us to think of religious belief and practice in terms of the path of least friction. After all, the vast majority of accessories provide deep personal satisfaction without being inconvenient or offensive. We don’t order our lives around accessories; rather, we order our accessories around our lives.
Not to point to fine a grammatical point on it, but it is as if one might say . . . “It’s not about Christ. It’s about being me and (oh, yeah) Christ, too.”