Those of you with a passing knowledge of college basketball may remember the name Bob Knight. He was fired as Indiana University basketball coach in 2000 and took a job at Texas Tech in 2001.
At the time, my cousin in Indiana had a uniform shop near the university and sold a lot of school apparel. She began selling Texas Tech shirts, and they were flying off the shelves presumably in support of the dismissed coach. She was asked by a network reporter about her decision and her comment was, “I’m not trying to make a statement, I’m just trying to run a business.”
I have gotten used to Christmas commerce starting earlier each year. I think it started in September when it is a little hard to get in the mood when the temperature is still 100-something.
I am growing weary, however, of the annual shrill cries of the “war on Christmas!”
The American Family Association (AFA) is calling on consumers to boycott Radio Shack because they use the phrase, “Happy Holidays.” The AFA wants people to take a pledge to stay away, “Until Radio Shack proves it recognizes Christmas by using it in their newspaper, radio, television advertising and in-store signage.”
They are free to do that, of course. We all have our reasons for choosing where to shop.
But looking around town lately, I doubt that there is anyone in the United Sates unaware that Christmas is coming. I also think that most of the folks who work for Radio Shack are just trying to make a living.
Holiday is the modern pronunciation of the Old English word for “holy day.” Holy means set apart or designated and the world’s religious and cultural groups all have days set aside for a particular purpose.
There are those observing the holy days of other religious and cultural traditions this time of year and there are those who keep no religious observance whatsoever who, by virtue of getting a day off, are still having a holiday.
Far from trying to offend anyone or, as the AFA claims, censor their employees I suspect that what Radio Shack is trying to do is run a business and appeal to the broadest audience.
Many businesses are struggling to stay afloat in this economy, and this time of year is often what makes the difference.
Let’s take this a step further.
What does it say to the world about Christians if we use coercion to force others to profess our faith?
Is this not the kind of persecution the early Christians faced when they refused to confess that Caesar was Lord?
Would I refuse to give a hungry man food until he “recognized Christmas?”
Is it really living out the gospel to intentionally damage a company, and more importantly the people who work for that company?
Maybe we should all lighten up just a little. Maybe instead of looking for things to be offended by, we should spread a little kindness around to those who share our seasonal celebrations and especially to those for whom this is a time of intensified stress, grief and loneliness.
Enjoy whatever holy days you observe and consider a kind word to all the hard-working clerks and sales associates who are putting in long hours this time of year.
I don’t think they need a snarky retort when they wish you “Happy Holy Days.”
• Steve Hammer is the pastor at Esperanza Lutheran Church in Ahwatukee Foothills.