Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?

When Donald J. Trump was running for president he promised that he would make it acceptable to say “Merry Christmas” again. He seemed to believe that political correctness, no doubt under President Obama (who is also responsible for the Civil War and both world wars), made it virtually illegal to say something as offensive as Merry Christmas.

Somehow I missed something. Every December that I can remember, including recent ones, even the last eight years, I have been free to say Merry Christmas and have said it to countless people countless times. No one reported me, harassed me, or brought charges against me. I have been free to say Merry Christmas in church, in shopping malls, in my neighborhood, and everywhere I have wanted to say it. And, amazingly, clerks and cashiers in commercial settings have said it to me, sometimes saying it first and sometimes responding to my greeting. Neighbors have said it to me. Strangers have said it to me. I didn’t report them, harass them, or bring charges against them.

At something called the Value Voters Summit in Washington, D. C., of all places (the very swamp that is not being drained by the Trump administration, but filled to flood stage), Donald J. Trump, now as President of the United States, on October 13 remembered that promise and assured the faithful gathered there to show off their values that we would all be able to say Merry Christmas this year. None of that happy holidays drivel for this country. After all, we really know, whatever the constitution does or does not say, that we are a Christian nation, or a Judeo-Christian nation, whatever that is. The values-voting crowd cheered the thrice-married values president. They love this man who boasts of groping women’s genitals, of kissing women he doesn’t know without even asking them, and of his serial adulteries while married. They adore this man who belittles anyone he chooses to, who campaigned by insults and bullying, and now governs by insults and bullying.

In full disclosure, I am a follower of Jesus, a Christian. At least I seek to be, however imperfectly. I am, further, a retired pastor and an adjunct professor at a Christian theological seminary in the evangelical tradition. Hence, it pains me to read and hear that something like 80% of white evangelicals voted for a person who seems to have no understanding of this nation’s historic commitment to have no state sanctioned religion; to have no understanding of the haven this land has been for oppressed minorities, people of Christian faith, people of other faiths, and people of no faith.

When December comes, I will continue to be free to say merry Christmas, or better, a joyous Christmas, to friends and neighbors that I know to be followers of Jesus. To other friends and neighbors I will likely say happy holidays or, horrors, season’s greetings (which has always struck me as appropriate every day of the year since everyday is part of some season). To Jewish friends and neighbors I will say happy Hanukah. I will offer all these greetings with sincerity and without reservation. If someone reports me, harasses me, or brings charges against me, so be it. I will not be silenced.

And to Mr. Trump I will say, “bah, humbug!”

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