Thanksgiving took a beating this year, arriving so late in the month that stores and shoppers stampeded all over it in their rush to the holiday shopping season. Christmas, so far, seems intact, with no highly publicized crèche battles or carol bans. But the American Family Association (AFA) has been making a list of “Naughty and Nice” retailers and checking it twice: those stores that are “For Christmas,” “Marginal on Christmas,” and “Against Christmas.”
The first group, nice to know, is much larger than the other two, allowing many options for Christians who want to patronize “For Christmas” businesses. But the AFA is also encouraging a one-month boycott of Radio Shack, a company it says “has eliminated the words that portray the reason for the season and have degraded Christmas in their stores by making the celebration of Christ’s birth a generic, bland and unholy imposter of the true meaning of Christmas.”
If you’ve ever participated in Black Friday madness at Christmas-friendly Walmart, you may not have seen anything especially holy about it, in spite of the carols piped into the store. I suspect that the management and associates of Walmart are a mix of believers and nonbelievers, like the people who constitute Radio Shack. Both stores are businesses first, and Walmart’s corporate decision to stress the “true meaning of Christmas” may be as motivated by profit concerns as Radio Shack’s decision to play down the same.
Historically, Christmas has always made room for secularism and unholy excess. That’s one reason the Puritan-led English Parliament outlawed it in 1647, only to find a revolt on their hands. Some modern-day puritans despise the holiday’s roots in pagan traditions like Roman Saturnalia and Scandinavian Yule. But heathen origins are not necessarily a problem—aren’t all of us heathens redeemed? Christmas conquered Saturnalia as Christ conquered European paganism. Dec. 25 may be uncomfortably close to winter solstice and sun worship, but that’s also fitting: “the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings”—predicted by the prophets (Malachi 4:2), fulfilled in our risen Lord, and celebrated in one of our greatest Christmas hymns. Pagans may want to take the holiday back, but they will not succeed. That war has been won.
The AFA is asking boycott participants to sign a petition and leave comments on Radio Shack’s Facebook page, and even politely but firmly advise the manager of their local store not to expect their business during the month of December. While commending the desire to honor Christ and his birth, I believe this sends the wrong message. Private companies have a right to make their own policy decisions. Christians are likewise free to shop where they wish, and thank God for that. I would just suggest that this isn’t the fight to pick. If a $49 Samsung smartphone from Radio Shack would make a perfect gift for someone, buy it—and be sure to wish the clerk “Merry Christmas.”