Jihad for Jesus

The faithful had had enough. They were tired of seeing their beliefs ridiculed—of having their viewpoints ruled out-of-bounds simply because they were Christian. And they were tired of seeing the infidels appropriate their holiday and strip it of its religious significance. So they did what any dedicated follower of the Prince of Peace would do: They beat up Santa Claus and his elves. It’s one of the funniest scenes in a book by Chris Fabry, called Away with the Manger. The book is a reminder that as Christians we can’t win people’s minds at the cost of losing their hearts. The setting for Away with the Manger is the mythical town of Hartville. Under pressure from the village atheist, the town council has voted to dilute the nativity scene near city hall. Beside the Holy Family and the shepherds, the city fathers have added nativity characters the gospel writers forgot to mention: namely, Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. These additions prompt an irate letter to the local newspaper. Considering the council’s actions, the letter writer says it’s time to change the words of Martin Luther’s famous Christmas carol:   Away with the manger, we just don’t have room We’ve got enough tinsel and big red costumes. We’d like to hear music that goes with the day But if you sing words we’ll make you go away. We all like the snow and wreaths on the doors We love Christmas sales at department stores We want to rejoice in our good winter cheer, So keep your religion: It’s "Xmas" this year.   In Fabry’s parable, the poem hits print and a huge controversy erupts. One group, led by the town atheist, accuses Christians of wanting to cram their beliefs down people’s throats. The Christians respond by accusing their opponents of stealing their holiday. Civility completely breaks down after a visit from a talk show host who combines the worst qualities of Phil Donahue and Jenny Jones. Some zealots even launch their own jihad against Saint Nick and his elves. The tension in the air lends an ominous new meaning to the words "you better watch out." I won’t give away the ending, but a Christmas Eve crisis involving a lost child forces both sides to come together. In the process, they begin to see how silly they’ve been. And that’s the author’s point. While the annual crèche and carol wars involve serious issues, that doesn’t exempt Christians from behaving like Christians. As Chris Fabry told the Washington Times, "We could win all the battles [over Christmas displays] in the courts," but in the process we’ll lose the battle for people’s hearts. At stake in the culture war is the existence of truth itself. The most effective witness to Christian truth is a life that, as Matthew writes, causes men "to glorify your Father in heaven." Mother Teresa, to name one glorious example, has made the case for "the truth which is in Jesus" far more effectively than the most learned theologian or even the most articulate Christian politician. Behind all of its humor, that’s the message of Away with the Manger: Ultimately, the battle for our neighbors’ minds will be won through their hearts.


Chuck Colson


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