“Civil & Religious Holidays,” Or “Why I Don’t Say the Pledge and Other Festive Idiosyncrasies”

However little it actually was, there was a bit of confusion regarding whether I celebrate Christmas. I’m posting this to help clarify my position. This isn’t directed at anyone, but perhaps it’ll be something I’ll be able to refer back to for the benefit of future visitors. Additionally, writing things out tends to help me examine my thoughts and understand beliefs better.

Perhaps the best way to do this would be to run through some of holidays and simply give my opinions on them.

  • Christmas – If there was a secular name for Christmas, I’d use it. In the past, I have eagerly defended Christmas as a Christian holiday, decrying all the “unbiblical” traditions (tree decorating, Santa Claus, and so on). However, I praise the Lord that He has cleared my perspective a bit on this, and I have come to realize that the problem with Christmas is that Christians want to make it something which it is not.

    It isn’t Jesus Christ’s birthday, and the Scriptures never even hint that we should make recognizing a day as such the biggest holiday on our calendar. Honestly, the celebration of the Eucharist ((The term “Eucharist” was in use to refer to the Lord’s Supper prior to the establishment of the Roman Catholic Church and prior to the idea that the bread & wine physically change into flesh & blood; the word itself is transliterated from a Greek word meaning “gratitude,” which I believe is appropriate. If you are a Protestant, do not be afraid to redeem the term in describing the breaking of the bread!)) ought to be of far greater importance than any other event; in it, we remember, celebrate, and show gratitude for the incomprehensible sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for us.

    So I dislike the “Christian” side of Christmas; however, as a winter festival celebrated via decoration, gift giving, and getting together with family and friends… Well, I love me some of that! It’s part of our culture, after all, ((Jesus Himself is our example here; He didn’t hesitate to attend a wine-laden wedding in His own culture, and neither should we be afraid of handing out boxes covered in foil wrap decorated with geometric snowmen, reindeer, and pudgy men in red; if you think those things are terrible, you’re probably one of those people who would condemn Jesus for making and partaking of wine, and if that is the case, I know where you’re coming from and respectfully disagree.)) and it provides us remarkable opportunity to be a light to the world — to family we never see, to friends we rarely talk to, and to strangers we may never meet.

    Certainly, I’m not saying that every secular detail of Christmas is perfect, and perhaps my biggest pet peeve is a tiny bit from the song “Here Comes Santa Claus”: “Santa knows we’re all God’s children / That makes everything right.” Whenever I hear that, I cringe; we are not all God’s children. The first chapter of John plainly states that those who believe in Christ are given the power to become sons of God; quite obviously, unbelievers then would not by God’s children.

  • Thanksgiving – I love good eatin’, so Thanksgiving is awesome. However, I disagree that I need a dedicated day in order to get my thankfulness sorted out; we ought to be thankful always. According to various commentaries I have access to, ancient Jews would read Psalms such as 100 & 136 almost on a daily basis to express their joy and thanksgiving to God.

    On the other hand, Thanksgiving does provide another opportunity to get together with loved ones, which is (or at least should be) always a good thing.

  • New Years – No particular objections to this one. Again, participating in celebrating the entering into of a new year may help us to engage the culture more thoroughly. I personally could live without this one, but you’ll likely still find me watching the ball drop in Times Square with family.
  • Halloween – Like Christmas, I’ve gone back and forth on this day as well. Let me state up front that I don’t care how previous generations have viewed Halloween; ancient ghost stories provide only a background for our culture’s Halloween practices. Dressing up, passing out and getting candy, and (like days already mentioned above) spending time with friends and family are not bad things. Halloween provides us a great day to engage the culture, and as Jeff Gill notes elsewhere, it may even be a very important day for Christians to get involved in and provides an excellent day to exercise the second greatest commandment (loving your neighbors).

    I’ve written about Halloween here in the past, and you may even wish to get creative by incorporating Reformation Day remembrance into your day’s activities; bonus points for dressing up like Martin Luther!

  • (Mother|Father|Grandparents) Day – Quite obviously we as Christians should strive to show love, appreciation, and respect for our families, especially our parents and others in generations above ours. However, there’s certainly nothing wrong with setting aside a day to specially express those things. ((Though regrettably, I fail often to do this.)) There comes a point when this becomes silly, though, when we start making up all manner of Profession Days (Bosses Day, Secretaries Day, etc.), but that still does not make it wrong for Christians to participate.
  • Birthdays – Again, nothing inherently wrong here. And just in case someone calls me on not celebrating “Jesus’ birthday” while I continue to celebrate my own… Celebrating Jesus’ birthday is a matter of worship; worship for us is defined within God’s Word, and if I am to let God Himself define how He wants to be worshiped, then I must be honest and admit that He never told us to celebrate His Sons birthday. My own birthday, however, is not a matter of worship. While the day is certainly a great reminder to be grateful to God for life & diverse blessings, it provides yet another opportunity to engage family & friends’ culture — and for them to engage yours. ((Are you sensing a pattern here? I didn’t intend for this to become a “every special day provides another chance to engage the culture” post, and I wasn’t really conscious of that fact when I began. Frankly, we need redeem what we can from the culture and make it our own — just like Paul did when he went into the Jewish culture, into their own synagogues, and preached to them Jesus Christ.))
  • Civil holidays – If I haven’t irked you yet, this one may regrettably step on your toes. The Fourth of July, Memorial Day, and so on are great in that there’s good food, fun celebrations (who doesn’t love fireworks?), and the chance to (wait for it) engage our culture. However, far too often Christians get mixed up in this nonsense that America is a Christian nation (it isn’t), that it is the greatest nation on Earth, ((To the contrary, I’d have to say the Church takes the cake as the greatest nation, for while all other nations are of the earth, the Church is holy, specially called by God Himself (1 Peter 2:9).)) and that being unpatriotic is a terrible, terrible thing.

    I am not an American patriot. I regret ever having pledged allegiance to the American flag United States of America, and I no longer sing songs in praise of America. My loyalty and patriotism are due the Body of Christ alone. I pledge allegiance to Jesus Christ and Him alone. If my allegiance is already sworn to America, what happens the day that it becomes illegal for me to teach biblical truths like homosexuality being a sin or abortion being murder? Suddenly my allegiance is torn, and if I am to remain loyal to Christ, then I must break my pledge to be loyal to America. There is, after all, a reason why Jesus told us not to swear! ((Matthew 5:34.))

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m by no means anarchist — far from it. My loyalty to Christ demands that I be a good citizen, obedient to the laws of the nation. Paul establishes that we are to be obedient to higher powers, for such governing positions are ordained by God. ((Romans 13:1-7.)) The apostle makes the case that we should be obedient to governing bodies not only because they have the right to execute us for disobedience, but also for conscience’ sake, for resisting the rule of government is the equivalent of resisting God. ((The notable exception is when we must disobey man in order to be obedient to God. (Acts 5:29) ))

    Elsewhere, Paul exhorts or encourages us to offer up supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving not only for all men, but for all who are in authority; ((Paul told this to Christians who were subject to the persecution of the Roman Empire; if they were able to be thankful for such rulers, ought not we be thankful for ours, whether they be Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, or perhaps even Hilary Clinton? Biblically, we should be.)) in doing this, he tells us that it will be conducive toward living a quiet and peaceful life in honesty and godliness. ((1 Timothy 2:1-2.))

    As I said earlier, there are aspects of civil holidays that are good and easily redeemable by Christians; however, when the culture pledges its allegiance to a nation of men, that’s when I bow out. It isn’t to be unamerican, though no doubt there are those who may think I am. But I hope I’ve explained myself well enough regardless of what those few may think.

Phew. I think I’ll wrap it up there. No doubt I could go on for quite some time. I didn’t even touch great days like Pi Day or International Talk Like a Pirate Day, after all! Astute readers may have noticed I didn’t mention Easter as well. That was intentional; you’ll have to wait until springtime for an obligatory Easter post.

Before I close I’ll again state that I believe the Eucharist to be the Christian’s most important celebration. It is spoken of quite a bit in the New Testament — certainly more than any of the days in the list above — and has been an integral part of the Church since Jesus created it. And if we get a hold of what the word “Christmas” really means, ((It literally means “celebration of Christ”; don’t believe the lies spread by some fundamentalists that “mass” means “death” and so “Merry Christmas” means “Merry Christ’s death.”)) you’ll come to see that everyday is Christmas for the Christian. There’s a reason the Jews cherished their Psalms and recited them often. It probably wouldn’t hurt us to do the same; check out Psalm 100 if you’re not familiar with it. Savor its words, and cherish its subject.

So whatever you celebrate, wherever you are, happy holidays and God bless.

8 thoughts on ““Civil & Religious Holidays,” Or “Why I Don’t Say the Pledge and Other Festive Idiosyncrasies””

  1. Still a little confused about why you must obey the law of man/country, but not honor the flag. You will have to explain. I kind of feel the same way about God at school or in the pledge or on money, but for different reasons. God and government to me should be seperate issues, but the flag reprsents my ability to feel that way. Don’t confuse me with a flag lover, but like I said I belive being a part of the country-the allegiance-I have the freedom to do as I please.

  2. I meant to say “pledge allegiance to the United States” above, not “pledge allegiance to the American flag”; the error has been corrected.

    Actually, it is public law to be respectful to the American flag; known as the Flag Code, it’s on the books as 4 U.S.C. § 1. However, the law seems to be a token law; to enforce it would violate the Constitution’s guarantee of free speech. (And to actually enforce the code would mean that the flag would show up a great deal less in society; it’s pretty strict regarding under which conditions the flag may be displayed.) So, I choose not to salute the flag because I frankly don’t want to show my approval of this countries actions as a whole.

  3. I’m a little clearer on the flag issue, but still confused on the country issue. I guess I feel I must be a supporter (not really the word I want, but a close as I could come) of the U.S. because living in this country is what gives me my freedom. That does not mean I support all the actions of our government, current administration or war efforts, but I have to believe that if I speak up (vote) I can help change things. By not using my voice I am saying I agree and by living in this country I have a voice to use. Anyway, politics and religion are taboo issues I guess because people usually don’t agree. I, however, think we believe the same things, but come to our conclusions by different means.

  4. Well, as I said above, Paul does call Christians to not only be obedient to governing bodies, but to pray for them, be thankful for them, to pay whatever tributes (taxes) are due them, and so on.

    By and large, I don’t complain about our government simply because I don’t vote and I realize that if I were complaining, then I should be actively trying to improve the situation. (Okay, I take that back; I do complain a bit about Bush being a man o’ war, but I did vote for him… and whether I vote or not, he’ll be gone soon enough anyway.)

    However, I came to the conclusion that there was no need to vote based on Paul saying that the higher powers are ordained of God (Romans 13:1); I took that to mean that everyone in political position was placed there by God. I have come to realize that the government itself — the positions that make it up (such as mayor, senator, President, and congressman) — is what is ordained by God, and that’s why we should be willingly subject to them.

    So voting wouldn’t necessarily be that far of a stretch for me. Just need some Constitution Party candidates to back. :P

    (As far as religion & politics being taboo, I think that’s one of the biggest things wrong in America; both politics & religion define how we live in this life, how we view & interact with others. Silencing the conversation only breeds ignorance — which is why an obscene amount of Christians in America know so little about Christ. The real problem is that when people bring up politics and religion, it isn’t surprising that someone involved flies off the handle and can’t handle adult conversation.

    And so rather than suffering the immature among us, the topics are avoided altogether.

    But I can personally attest that religion makes for some greatly interesting conversations — like those with you at work. I need to become more comfortable in talking about these things, though; I’m still not used to being able to talk about them with people outside of a few close friends, Dad, and of course Alicia!

  5. Rick, the “Pledge” is calling us also to pledge allegiance to the flag.

    “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America
    And to the Republic for which it stands,
    One nation, under God,
    Indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

    I should know. We recite it every Monday morning at announcements. Of course, not everyone has to, but you sort of feel like an idiot if you don’t. :D

    Your points are well taken, though. I have to take time to digest them and what not, and while my natural instinct is to be repulsed by your suggestions (for these practices I have observed hitherto), but I can find neither biblical nor logical grounds with which to disagree with you.

  6. Justin, it’s been a pleasure repulsing you. :P

    Seriously, though, you’re right about the Pledge thing; now I feel like an idiot for correcting what wasn’t a mistake. D’oh! Oh well, it doesn’t really change my points above, I suppose.

  7. Justin, it’s been a pleasure repulsing you.


    Seriously, though…

    What, you weren’t serious about it being a pleasure repulsing me? :D

    you’re right about the Pledge thing

    Like I said, I think I would know considering I have to recite it every Monday morning.

    In all honesty, however, I actually forgot how the Pledge went when I was trying to type it up for you. *blushes* Hahaha! I was trying to write, “I pledge allegiance to the flag, and to the nation for which it stands….” So I had to Google it in order to get it correctly.

    I feel like an idiot for correcting what wasn’t a mistake.

    Trust me, compared to the mistakes that I’ve been making lately, yours is nothing.

  8. PS,

    However, I came to the conclusion that there was no need to vote based on Paul saying that the higher powers are ordained of God.

    If I could make a comment:

    We need to compare governments here. Paul’s “higher powers” and our “higher powers” are two seperate things. Paul lived during the Roman Empire, where the public had little, if any, say in what goes on in their government. America, on the other hand, is a democratic republic, which means that people are a part of the government. We have a say, and a powerful one at that, about the laws of our land. The whole reason we have a House of Representatives is because the Founding Fathers, among the general populace, wanted the peoples’ voice to be heard in government. The problem is, Americans are too lazy and ignorant that they don’t write to their state representative and senator and voice their opinion. They don’t care who is elected into Congress, when they could very much vote for someone with whom they agree. And then, to top it all off, they complain about something they could have made a difference in but decided not to.

    Do you see what I’m getting at? If we were to take Paul’s words seriously, I do think that the Bible would then be calling us to vote in a democratic form of government, since the people are the government.

    Just need some Constitution Party candidates to back.

    I’m telling you Rick, you really should check out Ron Paul. I’ve been talking to a Constitution Party member via e-mail, and he says that Ron Paul is the closest candidate to line up with the CP, even though Ron Paul is running on a GOP ticket. This member that I am talking to was a previous representative in the House, so it’s not like this is just some Joe-Schmoe off the streets with an opinion.

    Out of all the candidates I’ve seen so far, too, I have been more impressed with Ron Paul than anyone else.

    As far as religion & politics being taboo, I think that’s one of the biggest things wrong in America.

    I give a hearty “Amen” to that! :D

    The way I view it: If Christians are expecting a secular government to make and enforce spiritual laws, we are only deceiving ourselves.

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