I know that in many Christian homes the sending of Christmas cards is an activity fraught with uncertainty and guilt: Should we buy separate religious and secular cards? What about the hybrid cards, with secular graphics but a religious message? (The picture to the right, by the way, illustrates one of our trifecta of card designs for this year, carefully chosen for each recipient based upon his or her anticipated reaction.) Am I "ashamed of the Gospel of Christ" if I don't send an explicitly Christian Christmas card?
Well, this year Fellow Traveler and I, as guests in our children's home, got to see firsthand the reaction of non-churchgoing, non-religious individuals to the reception of such cards.
Some background: The Kids are getting heavy pressure from Son #2's biological father and his partner to have our grandchild baptized -- preferably in a Roman Catholic church, although I understand that Grandpa, without consulting me, offered my services for a marginally acceptable substitute baptism. (I told Daughter-in-Law that I both understood and appreciated her viewpoint that making religious vows that she and Son #2 have no intention of keeping in regard to their child's religious upbringing is not living with integrity.) So religion has become a newly prickly issue.
Then, to make matters worse, The Kids received a stealth-Christian Christmas card from maternal Grandpa -- someone who has no discernable religious affiliation, whose bad behavior has estranged him from his children for some time -- featuring a quaint English village illustration, with a non-sequitur Bible verse tucked inside.
With this subtext in mind...let's just say that the reaction was not pretty. "What the hell?..." I think was the common response of both kids to Maternal Grandpa's stealth CHRISTmas card.
- Christmas cards that look religion-neutral but have Christian stuff written in them are interpreted as being pushy and proselytizing in an especially creepy way.
- Both overtly and covertly religious cards, if sent by schmucks, are subject to particular scorn and ridicule. If you don't live it, then don't try to promote it.
- An alternative interpretation of a religious card sent by a family member to another family member known to be non-religious: They must have pulled this one out of the bottom of the drawer. If they really knew or cared about us, they'd know we wouldn't appreciate this.
Even though Fellow Traveler and I were not on the receiving end of this sentiment (we are not dumb enough to provoke our children to anger by sending them potentially objectionable holiday cards)...I for one still felt like I was taking one for the team listening to this excorciation of Christmas-card stupidity.
Why are Christians so pushy? Why do we think that some non-believer is going to have a metanoia moment reading a context-free Bible verse cut-and-pasted into a cheesy Christmas card? What are we proving, and to whom? Do we have a fantasy that God, working on the heavenly Excel spreadsheets, is saying, "Ah -- LutheranChik took a defensive stand in the War on Christmas by quoting the Gospel of Luke in her Christmas cards! Well done, good and faithful servant!"? Oh, please.
So Fellow Traveler and I will be, for the foreseeable future, maintaining our custom of multiple card designs for our multiplicity of friends, and hope that, for people who have issues with organized religion, what we do all year long says more about our faith than what Christmas card we send.