Wishing Our Progressive Friends a Merrier Christmas

By Tom Gilson Published on December 22, 2023

This is so sad. I saw this banner on Xwitter (my name for it) the other day: “Rejoice in the birth of a brown-skinned Middle-Eastern undocumented immigrant.” There are lots of these sorts of things circulating in progressive Christianity.

Christmas could be a time of togetherness, a time to drop the fight for a while, to greeting one another with joy. Instead, it’s more politics. Just endless politics.

Our progressive friends need a merrier Christmas.

Which Jesus?

This xweet comes from Dr. Kevin M. Young, self-described “Pastor. Author. . … Post-Evangelical. he/him/rev.” He’s pinned a xweet to the top of his Xwitter feed saying, “‘When Jesus is Present, Everything Changes’ has been a central theme in my pastoring & personal life for over a decade. It refines me daily in painful and beautiful ways.”

Atop the picture of this banner he writes, “We just moved in to our new, lovely deep South neighborhood a few weeks ago. While we don’t have time to fully deck the halls this year, I felt it was important to let the neighbors know that we, too, follow Jesus.”

It sounds so Christian, but who is this “Jesus” he’s talking about? Granted, first-century Jews likely had browner skin than most Caucasians. He lived in what we now call the Middle East. As a baby he migrated from Israel to Egypt, and returned again to the largely Jewish land of Galilee. And He did it without documents: No passport, no green card, no entry visa.

And you and I both know none of that is what the words on the banner really mean.

This is Not Jesus

“Brown-skinned” in this context can only mean “a minority race suffering discrimination.” There was no such thing in His time. Romans and Greeks held Jews in contempt, but it was for their religion and their nationalistic opposition to Rome. Race had nothing to do with it. From what I’ve seen, scholars don’t entirely agree on Jesus’ probable skin color. What they decide on that isn’t as important as the fact that it’s an open question now. No one spelled it out in the Bible. Why? Because no one cared in the day what Jesus’ skin color was. It wasn’t about race.

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So “brown-skinned” in today’s context has nothing to do with Jesus. The same goes for “Middle-Eastern.” When people from the Middle East today are looked down on, it’s either because they’re Muslim or because they’re Jewish. You can bet your Christmas stockings this banner isn’t poking at anyone’s anti-Semitism. If it had been, it could have just said so. But we all know better. It’s about Muslims. If progressives think that’s Jesus, they need a very much merrier Christmas than that.

And finally, as everyone knows, an “undocumented immigrant” means a person entering or residing in America contrary to Federal law. You could even go uber-liberal and say it’s someone who’s immigrated here and is getting less than warm welcome. Either way, that’s not Jesus.

The Saddest Political Yard Sign Ever

Now, that wasn’t complicated. No one could think that banner has anything to do with Jesus. And if it isn’t about Him, it isn’t a Christmas decoration. It may be wearing Christmas clothes, but in reality it’s just another political yard sign.

And it might be the worst one ever, the way it twists the truth about Jesus Christ, and co-opting Him for political purposes. It’s one thing to say you think Jesus would support your politics. It’s another thing to invent your own “Jesus” for the purpose, and act like your fake “Jesus” is the real one. If it’s wrong for stores to co-opt Christmas for commercialism, it’s worse yet to co-opt Christ Himself with falsehoods concocted for political partisanship. And again, it’s one thing to have an opinion on what Jesus teaches on public policy. I have opinions of my own on that. It’s another thing to make up your own favorite “Jesus” to push your views.

It’s not terribly “merry,” either. Political warfare isn’t meant for joy and togetherness. Are they singing Christmas carols in their home, or are they strategizing their next campaign? I couldn’t guess, and I won’t. I’ll just make the observation that most people put their happier face out in public. I hope that’s not true at the Young house. It would make it a grim Christmas inside.

Worst of all, this kind of thing shoves Christ right out of Christmas. “Happy Holidays” replacing “Merry Christmas” is one thing. A fake Jesus replacing the real one is worse by far. Can a person who claims to follow Christ be truly merry over Christmas with a false Christ? How?

This isn’t just the worst political yard sign. It’s the saddest one, too.

Wishing Them a Merrier Christmas

Please don’t think it’s mostly about the politics, now. I’ve had my moments of ruminating on what they had to say about that, but I’ll sign off on this column and then forget about it. Because I’m not willing to make political Christmas ruin my own Christmas joy.

I can still care, though, for a family that seems so willing to set their own Christ-centered Christmas aside for a politically co-opted one. I’d say the same if anyone’s false Christ was pushing conservative politics. No Christmas like that could possibly be as joyful as it ought to be.

So I wish them a merrier Christmas: A Christmas filled with the love, grace, peace, and joy of Jesus Christ. The real Jesus, that is: God with us, the Light of the World who came to proclaim the Kingdom of God, to redeem His people from their sin, and to bring us life through His life. This is Christmas. This is the time to celebrate Jesus.

 

Tom Gilson (@TomGilsonAuthor) is a senior editor with The Stream and the author or editor of six books, including the highly acclaimed Too Good To Be False: How Jesus’ Incomparable Character Reveals His Reality.

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