Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose, being damned from a truck at the town Christmas parade…
Wait, that’s not how the song goes…
But that’s what happened for thousands of Crestview Christmas Parade attendees, who witnessed unusual negativity for a family friendly event as a street preacher denied Santa Claus’ existence and shouted anti-gay slurs and judgment from a megaphone.
The News Bulletin asked one of the street preaching truck’s organizers for his reaction to some residents’ outrage.
His answer? The ministry believes it’s simply spreading the Gospel — a reasonable explanation, as firebrand fundamentalists believe many of today’s Christians submit to a touchy-feely God who “lets everyone in,” regardless of sin.
However, this strict adherence and literal interpretation of the Bible tends to ignore a key passage: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” In John’s Gospel, Jesus advises the scribes and Pharisees to avoid judging a woman caught in adultery. Therefore, since everyone sins, it’s hypocritical to call out others’ mistakes and pass judgment — that’s the Word of the Lord, for believers.
Thus, despite claims to the contrary, the preaching interrupted a family outing without just cause, effectively calling on folks to worship a false god that allows a mere mortal to declare another mortal’s eternal fate.
This god, demonstrably, is not the Biblical Jesus, and rather is a deity that groups likeWestboro Baptist Church worship. Thatentity takes pleasure from other people’s pain, with campaigns that “thank God for AIDS,” proudly tell people “You’re going to Hell” — the church’s website even has parodies of popular music with this message — and lodge disparaging remarks about various lifestyles they disagree with.
Utterly lacking mercy and grace, pursuing instead a message of hate, groups like this one destroy community and demonstrably counter the Biblical Christ.
Further, such mean-spirited messages counter Christmas’ very essence.
Christians who see, increasingly, civic actions to remove even secular mentions of Christmas — ignorantly opting for inaccurate, insulting terms like “holiday tree” in a wrong-headed pursuit of fairness or separation of church and state — would like nothing more than to focus on “the reason for the season.”
That precludes a counterfeit Christ co-opted by some to divide a country that typically grows closer during the holidays.
Increasingly, readers wrote to us, Saturday’s divisive messages “killed” the Christmas spirit for their families.
That’s not surprising, as this and a couple of other displays compromised children’s innocence, the season’s backbone.
The theme of Saturday’s procession was “Blessed are the Children.” Many people believe children are somehow closer to God, as they’ve lived for a shorter period. Not fully experiencing a fabricated world’s hardships and injustices, they experience things differently than adults do and hold awe for life’s simple pleasures. The adage “ignorance is bliss” rings true, as kids can’t fully comprehend life’s ugly side, where people sometimes have sinister motives, ends justify means and corruption runs rampant.
For kids, every day is a roller coaster of adventure and discovery. Revelations about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the tooth fairy come with maturity, but before the illusion wears off, these characters do more than give parents reasons to give gifts; adults temporarily rekindle their long lost innocence and wonder as they experience the season’s joy through their children’s eyes.
Snatch Santa Claus from kids and you snatch him from adults who could use a break from work woes, relationship problems and other stress factors.
Christmas is the ultimate time to “pay it forward” — that is, help someone different from someone who helped you, ultimately making the world a better place if everyone does the same. Like a story from the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series, Santa Claus, and everything he represents, seasonally calls on us to put our best self forward and think of others.
That helps create a chain of love.
For instance, Monday, upon leaving the grocery store, I dropped a dollar in The Salvation Army kettle, knowing my dollar — in addition to others’ contributions — would help those with addiction problems, aid one of the organization’s social programs or help a stranger find a lost family member.
I won’t pass that kettle this season without giving to it. Knowing my small contributions here and there can transform someone’s life helps me grow spiritually, mentally and even physically, as living for others ultimately gives you more energy and drive than living for yourself.
Those kettles wouldn’t be there if not for Christmas.
Indeed, Salvation Army Capt. Joseph McFee wanted 1,000 of San Francisco’s poorest residents to have a free Christmas dinner in 1891 — and he made it happen with a large iron pot, according to the nonprofit’s website.
It doesn’t matter if you’re Christian and celebrate Christ’s birth or a non-believer who enjoys the secular symbols and gift-giving traditions, Santa, and everything he represents, has an overarching, positive purpose.
When we give thanks, look outside ourselves and help others, world peace and social justice prevail.
But when we damn others and denigrate the very holiday that — secular or not — consistently drives charitable efforts and togetherness, we have a problem.
Now, the Main Street Crestview Association must find the solution.
Undoubtedly, the association worked hard and gave heart to pull off a family friendly event.
Unfortunately, for many people, just one negative thing can spoil what, over all, was an enjoyable evening.
And there’s more to come.
The preacher who caused such a furor gleefully announced Monday on the News Bulletin’s Facebook page that he plans to appear in next year’s parade.
Meanwhile, a number of residents have questioned whether the association can set standards to ensure that future parade participants adhere to their family friendly theme. That means no “ladies night” advertisements or revelers carrying signs that read, “HIV began one person at a time and it will end one person at a time.” (Like parents should have to explain sexually transmitted diseases to their 5-year-olds!)
Perhaps “Blessed are the children,” as a theme, resonated after all.
Blessed are the children who had to be there.
Contact News Bulletin Editor Thomas Boni at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbeditor.
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