Vision America, a pastor-led organization based in East Texas, is firing a friendly volley into the Christmas war of words.
Beginning this week, the nationally-known ministry's Web site will offer a free bright red bumper sticker emblazoned with the message "It's OK to say 'Merry Christmas.'" Behind the cheery slogan is a fierce focus that all this political correctness that has led some stores to substitute the word "holiday" for "Christmas" in advertising is É well, a lot of humbug.
"This is not just 'Happy Holidays,' it's the birth of our savior," said the Rev. Rick Scarborough, founder of Vision America, speaking Wednesday in his Nacogdoches office. "What offends me is the culture trying to act like this is not the birth of Christ. I'm not going to participate in allowing Christ to be kicked out of his own birthday party."
Scarborough, who has been interviewed in election years by media ranging from Time Magazine to CNN, is known nationally for his work in mobilizing pastors to get their congregations to the polls. He briefly paused his focus on politics this week to join a fray now called the "war on Christmas."
The battle lines were apparently quietly drawn months ago in advertising design departments. Several major retailers, from Land's End to Target, opted for generic holiday catalogues and advertising, leaving out the word "Christmas." The reworking of words has grown to include Christmas trees renamed "holiday trees" or "Dream Trees" by retailers and city governments.
The American Family Association, the Catholic League and several ministry groups have protested. Both Target and Wal-mart have battled the backlash and rumors. Both stores stress that employees are not banned from saying "Merry Christmas," and that there is no intent of a mass purge of the word "Christmas" in advertising. Target's marketing includes a "diversity of traditions, particularly at this time of year," according to a statement from the store quoted by Knight Ridder Newspapers. "Our holiday selection includes Christmas and Hanukkah merchandise, along with Thanksgiving, Kwanzaa and New Year's items."
But protesters have not been pacified by such statements. Erasing Christmas is one more confusing attack on religious freedom, they say.
"Right now, in our culture, there is a growing assault on Christianity and on Christians in particular," Scarborough said. "Christmas is the latest evidence that the hostility is growing even through it's perpetrated by 4 percent of the population. Now, 96 percent of the people in this country still celebrate Christmas."
So Scarborough and Vision America are poised to mail out thousands of bumper stickers. If stores won't use the "C" word, it can still be plastered on the vehicles filling their parking lots.
"It's imperative that Christians be reminded that it's okay to say 'Merry Christmas,'" he said. "Legally it's okay and culturally it's okay. It's a very vocal minority that says otherwise, and unfortunately, because that's the only voice being heard, corporate America has been buying into it."
The bumper sticker is available at www.visonamerica.org or by calling toll-free 866-522-5582.