Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Offended at the Bookstore?

I recently volunteered to do gift wrapping for holiday shoppers at a major chain bookstore in Metairie. This was mostly a pleasant experience, and an opportunity to make NOSHA visible and even to collect a few dollars in donations. Occasionally, someone would say they wouldn't donate to our group, and I always said that was entirely up to them. Everybody who came to the table got their gift wrapped.

One shopper, though, voiced some negative opinions. He photographed me and the table, accused NOSHA of being anti-Christian, tried to dissuade another patron from having her gift wrapped at our table, and proclaimed our presence “offensive.”

No doubt this fellow thinks nonbelievers are the cause of any number of problems for him, his church, and/or America. He needs to spend more time looking in the mirror.

I guess he felt that people in the bookstore were there to shop for Christmas, that Christmas is a Christian holiday, and therefore only good Christians should volunteer to do gift wrapping. A long list of problems with this position seem not to have occurred to him at all. For starters, we were in a bookstore, not his home nor his church. Yet he seemed to feel he should have some kind of control over the situation, determining who should or should not be performing which services.


It also seemed not to have occurred to this poor fellow that there might be customers in the store who were not Christians. I’m sure many shoppers were buying gifts for a traditional but quite secular holiday celebration, for Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Yule, for Solstice or Festivus or what have you. The days of overwhelmingly Christian demographics are long behind us. He might have felt disappointment that America isn't quite what he wants it to be, but declaring himself offended didn't change anything.

And if he was going to make an argument about atheists performing a public service during a religious holiday, why of all things would he choose Christmas? Exchanging gifts in celebration of Jesus’ birthday is not biblical. Celebrating Jesus’ birthday on December 25th is not biblical. In fact, celebrating Jesus’ birthday at all is not biblical. That’s why the Puritans in early America banned the celebration of Christmas altogether. December 25th, wrapping gifts in fancy paper and exchanging them, decorating evergreens, putting up wreaths and lights, feasting and drinking, are all aspects of Christmas that Christians have avidly appropriated from a mélange of Pagan practices. Arguing about the secularization of Christmas is the weakest and most ridiculous fight any serious Christians can pick with society at large.

Christian believers need to examine themselves for this guy’s kind of behavior. He was uncivil and intolerant. He felt he should be able to control things he had no right to control. He claimed to feel offended merely because people who are different from him existed and were visible. A few unbelievers wrapping Christmas presents at the bookstore aren't going to change anybody’s religion. But this customer’s type of behavior drives people out of churches in droves.
~Jim Dugan

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