My good friend, Warren Smith, of the Charlotte World Newspaper and owner of Evangelical Press News, has written a great editorial I’d like to share with my readers. I’ve occasionally expressed my disdain for “Christian Schlock” like “Jesus is my Homeboy” gear and the latest fad-driven sermon series (ala “The DaVinci Code”). (For a hilarious website that pokes at this kind of stuff, go to www.purgatorio1.com.) Warren nails this trend with some thought-provoking observations inan editorial he recently released. Take a few minutes and read what he has to say…
The Christian-Industrial Complex
by Warren Smith
COMMENTARY–In his farewell address to the nation, Dwight Eisenhower gave a
speech that became famous because it used the expression Military Industrial
Complex. In it, Eisenhower warned of great danger if the military preparedness
of our nation came to be seen as a mere market for private industrial
interests. Eisenhower feared we would expand our military and the size of our
government for all the wrong reasons. Eisenhower viewed the relationship
between the military and industry as not merely symbiotic, but parasitic and
I use this historical example so that it might be easier to see a similar
pathological relationship emerging between the Christian retail industry and the
Christian church, what I call the Christian-Industrial Complex.
Examples of the Christian-Industrial Complex are easy to see. The Women of
Faith conferences, for example, rake in more than $50-million per year and are
part of a for-profit, publicly traded company. The Christian retail industry
topped $4.5-billion last year. (A bit of context: $30 per month can support
many pastors in developing countries. That means that Americans spend enough
annually on “Jesus Junk” to support 250-thousand Third World pastors — for 50
Another example that played out last month is the controversy over the usage of
the greeting Merry Christmas instead of the greeting Happy Holidays.
Beginning in the 1990s, some conservative Christian groups have decided that the
use of the phrase Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas is a defeat of
Christian values by the forces of political correctness. These groups include
but are not limited to the Mississippi-based American Family Association and the
Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a Christian legal aid group.
If you ask me, Christmas needs reforming, not defending. Indeed, the early
church did not celebrate Christmas largely because they rightly predicted it
would become what it has become, a materialistic bacchanal. In the 17th
century, the Puritans attempted to eliminate the observance of Christmas
altogether, believing it an unholy combination of the pagan and the popish,
and because it resulted in much public drunkenness. For these reasons, in some
New England towns, the observance of Christmas was actually prohibited by law.
Indeed, such was Americas relationship with Christmas that Congress regularly
met on December 25 until the 1850s.
Most historians attribute the rise in popularity of Christmas to Charles
Dickens, who was no advocate of biblical Christianity. The celebration of
Christmas was almost non-existent in America when Dickens already the best
known writer in the world — wrote A Christmas Carol, one of his most popular
stories. But Dickens wrote the story more out of an impulse toward social
reform than out of any desire to promote Christianity.
This forgotten history of Christmas makes the current defense of it seem almost
ridiculous. Its hard to imagine humble Mary and Joseph being at all
comfortable with what Christmas has become, let alone the carpenter from
Nazareth, whose only real fit of anger was displayed by the overturning of the
moneychangers in the temple. In fact, you could make a case that the Christian
response to the December 25 holiday would be to keep Jesus as far away from it
So what possible purpose could be served by keeping Christ in Christmas when
Christmas is what it is? The answer is money. The Mississippi-based American
Family Association says it has sold more than 500,000 buttons and 125,000 bumper
stickers bearing the slogan Merry Christmas: It’s Worth Saying. The Alliance
Defense Fund said it sold about 20,000 Christmas packs. The packs, available
for a suggested $29 donation, include a three-page legal memo and two lapel
pins. You can do your own math on this one.
This story goes beyond the ridiculous to the surreal when you learn that the
groups also publish a naughty and nice list that identifies major retailers
that use the words Merry Christmas in their Christmas advertising as nice
and those that use Happy Holidays as naughty as if identifying Jesus with
the worst aspects of the seasons materialism is something to be celebrated.
Its no surprise that it also made these groups an easy target for its enemies.
Its just a fund-raising scam, said the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of
Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. And its a scam in
the worst sense its fighting something that doesnt even exist.
I am no fan of Americans United, and normally Im on the same side as the AFA
and the ADF. But Barry Lynn got this one right. This is one more example of
the Christian-Industrial Complex at work. I do not want the politically correct
thought police telling me I must say Happy Holidays instead Merry Christmas.
But neither do I want the titans of the Christian-Industrial Complex telling me
I must send them money so they can fight battles that are either not worth
fighting, or that put us on the wrong side of the true Gospel message.
I pray that God would deliver us from both evils.
Warren Smith is the publisher of The Charlotte World. He can be reached at