After a nice, albeit different from usual, Christmas weekend, we went out for some post-Christmas shopping yesterday evening. We like to get Christmas cards, wrapping paper and all that good stuff when it's 50% off so off we went to Target. And therein lies the reason for this post: Christmas cards. I sorted through piles and piles of holiday/Christmas cards, with a few Hanukkah ones thrown in as well. Not a single card mentioned the birth of Jesus. Instead, they were all geared around these amorphous terms like joy and peace. If you know me at all, you know I am not an anti-culture Christian. I don't write angry letters to stores that say "Happy Holidays" or protest the removal of 10 commandment statues at courthouses. I don't expect culture to practice my faith for me. But the Christmas card thing really bothered me, because I guess I assumed that amidst all the innocuous generic holiday cards, I would have still been able to find a couple, even ugly, cards that pertained to the actual holiday itself. But no. Every card was pagan.
When I say pagan, I hope you don't immediately think Satan worshipper or druid or anything like that, although those are two examples of pagan religions. The term pagan refers to non-Abrahamic religions, sometimes but not always polytheistic in nature. More than ever before, I have come to realize that American civil religion truly is pagan. There is no room for a offensively particular Savior. There is no room for an anti-consumerism, self-sacrificing God who calls humankind to the same kind of living.
That being said, I am both troubled and relieved by this renewed realization. I am troubled because I old enough to sense at least some of the change that has taken place in culture, even in my brief 27 years and it saddens me. But I am relieved as well, because I am young enough to recognize the cheap knock-off that is American civil religion and I am detached enough from that civil religion of generations gone by to be ready and willing to let it go completely.
For me, that means letting culture off the hook for not practicing my faith for me. It means naming culture for what it truly is, pagan, and choosing a life of faith anyway. It means living a life of hope based, not on the degree of Christianity I see in our culture, but on the first advent and the promise of the second. It means rejecting apathy and choosing intentionality in terms of shaping a culture of faithful practice in both my family and in the church I am called to shepherd. No more living like a pagan, folks. God will be in all in all or God will be nothing.