Please Dr. Dobson

This post goes in the category of Those Who Have Too Much Time On Their Hands:

Focus on the Family has released a list of stores that are Christmas friendly, Christmas Negligent and Christmas Offensive – the latter ones being those that say “Happy Holidays” or “Holiday Tree”, instead of Merry Christmas or Christmas Tree. One should shop only in Christmas friendly (and perhaps by grace, Christmas neutral) stores in order to Stand for Christmas.

It seems too silly to be worth blogging about except that this type of thinking hurts so many of my friends. They are deeply confused by this divisive, fear-driven form of Christianity. This list follows on the heels of a Letter from 2012 in Obama’s America written earlier this fall by James Dobson. The letter creates a future scenario of horrors that he worries will transpire from having Obama as President. It is a bitter drink of pure fear. As a result, some of my friends responded to the election results with sheer terror. Since when are Christians to be motivated out of fear? Is there an epistle I missed or something? His letter describes a conservative’s view of hell on earth but it contains no reminder that God has conquered hell. That is what is most troubling- it reads as if there is no God. (For further reading on this, Jim Wallis offers a response at his God’s Politics Blog.)

And now once again, the battle is about how retail stores handle Christmas. To shop at the right stores is to Stand for Christmas.

Please, Dr. Dobson, Christmas will come whether someone says Merry Christmas, or Happy Holidays or Happy Kwanzaa. It will come whether people shop or not. It will come no matter who is President. It will come even if you decide to boycott some already struggling retailers. (Focus says it’s not a boycott but they do influence the choices of many people.) No matter what happens, there is no stopping the coming of God into this world.

Like The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, it is easy to believe that if you can steal (or at least control) all the presents, then you can make the point you desire. But remember, the Grinch never suspected that Christmas had nothing to do with where people shopped or what they bought or whether they got presents at all. Christmas came despite the Grinch’s best efforts to stop what he didn’t like. He found that Love was born into the world that day, and Love remains. It seems that this Love that lives in Christmas followers to this day would go out of its way to offer a generous measure of blessing, reconciliation, restoration and welcome – even towards the evil retailers who use the words “Happy Holidays”. Perhaps especially towards them!

Dr. Dobson, we do not stand for Christmas. Christmas stands for us. Christmas is the beam of rescuing light in the darkness of our long cold winter. As the story goes, Christmas was a quiet, humble coming for us. Christmas did not stand up front, demanding to be recognized and given its rights. It tiptoed in the back way with the least of these, offering a concert of joy for a few raggedy, unclean shepherds. Christmas’ first celebrants, often called the Magi, were people who came from a very different worldview. I can’t prove this from scripture but they may even have been the kind of people who shop at Banana Republic. Yet there they were, received right into the presence of God.

God came packaged small and helpless in a stinky, dirty place, held by peasants, a gift of pure love. He did not and does not come to create fear and boycotts and divisiveness. At Christmas, God became the other; He became one of us who had been at enmity with Him. Scripture says that He became sin on the cross – think about that- He became the pedophile, the thief, the murderer, the liberal 😉 and even the Happy Holidays retailer, in order to break down every last dividing wall.

Please, please stop making people afraid. Please stop encouraging them to withdraw in fear and judgment and to hide away in Christian ghettos. Please encourage them to live in the power that is ours in the way that Jesus taught us. The Holy One came, slipped under the radar of those in charge and poured Himself into places without hope. He still brings the hospitality (same root word as hospital) of God to those who are sick. Remember the rest of the story? He died and rose again and is seated at the right hand of God on the throne. He wins. No fear! His path is our path. It’s not a path of avoidance, threats or judgment but real  engagement with “them out there”. Remember that the dirty ol’ shepherds who were too stained for temple worship were His first praise chorus. Praise the Lord!

One more thing. Please Dr. Dobson, why encourage any consumerism as having anything to do with Christmas at all? Maybe instead of worrying about where we shop, you could encourage people to redeem the season by engaging in the Advent Conspiracy, a movement which encourages us to pool our Christian wealth and make a real difference in the world in the name of Christ by providing clean water for all.

Please Dr. Dobson, you influence a lot of people and they are so busy being afraid and standing for Christmas that they are forgetting Christmas, or at least they are missing the point just as the Grinch did. Please help them have eyes to see that Jesus can be found in Banana Republic and Lane Bryant and Old Navy, even if they don’t speak your language. He’s there in plain view – He’s behind the eyes of the clerk who is just trying to feed her family, and the multi-pierced dude shopping for jeans who can’t bring himself to believe that God could love him, and the woman perusing the size zero racks who is afraid to eat because she hates her body. 

Grinches miss Jesus in His distressing disguise. Grinches are people whose hearts are three sizes too small. We don’t need more grinches. Please, Dr. Dobson, show them how Jesus does Christmas.

grinch


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Showing 32 comments
  • marta
    Reply

    Duuuude… you rock! Seriously.

  • RJ
    Reply

    YES!!! Thank you so much.

  • LeeAnn
    Reply

    Wow! Excellent thoughts, Ellen. This feeling of fear is so pervasive in the Christian faith & I feel so frustrated each time I encounter it. It goes beyond just Christmas. Thank you for being a voice of reason, a voice crying in the wilderness. And thank you for expressing the concerns of my heart.
    Grace& Joy,
    LeeAnn

  • LeeAnn
    Reply

    “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
    2 Timothy 1:7

  • Lore
    Reply

    Dr. Dobson, it’s publicly embarrassing stunts like this that make people think that *I need to be saved* when I first tell them I’m a Christian.

    p.s. Mom, you forgot to wish Dr. Dobson a HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

  • lindy
    Reply

    Preach it, Sister!

  • lindy
    Reply

    Yes, I am very concerned about so many in the Christian community giving in to this fear mongering. What do we have to be afraid of? If Christ is with us, who can be against us?

  • Paula
    Reply

    Could not have said it better myself. Christmas stands for us!!!

  • Michelle
    Reply

    Amen!

    A couple of years ago, my SIL and I agreed that in lieu of shipping stuff they didn’t need to Singapore, I could give a gift to Heifer in my nieces’ names. It worked for all of us!

  • Lore
    Reply

    Dear Dr. Dobson,

    On second thought, this Christmas-friendly store list thing might have some merit.

    Here is a list of “stores” I will be giving my patronage to this holiday season:

    Advent Conspiracy
    The Uncultured Project
    Save The Children – Child Hunger Crisis
    Healing Waters International
    Colorado Spring Rescue Mission
    Denver Rescue Mission
    Kiva.org
    Street’s Hope
    HIV Carelink
    and, of course,
    The Gap

    Up yours, Dobson, and Happy Holidays.

    -Lore

  • Todd Lowther
    Reply

    Wow. Preach it, sister. LOMCC DNA at its best. does your husband know what a treasure he has?

  • Todd Lowther
    Reply

    At the same time, James Dobson helped me as a baby believer many years ago. Let’s not forget Grace with a capital G.

  • MARY OLD ELF
    Reply

    WAY TO GO EDALF…EH…ELLEN,

    YOU HAVE SUCH A WAY OF EXPRESSING YOUR THOUGHTS AND THOSE OF OTHERS. THANKS FOR WRITING THIS!

    WAY TO GO ALL OF YOU WHO RESPONDED ABOVE…AGREE WITH EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU. EHHH…MAYBE “THE UP YOURS” WAS A LITTLE STRONG FOR THIS OLD ELF 🙂 AND I ESPECIALLY LOVED WHAT LEE ANN QUOTED ABOUT GOD NOT GIVING US A SPIRIT OF FEAR…ONE OF MY FAVORITE BIBLE VERSUS.

    DR. DOBSON, YOU WERE MY MENTOR VIA YOUR RADIO BROADCAST AND YOUR BOOK “DARE TO DISCIPLINE” WHEN MY CHILDREN WERE YOUNG – MY CHILDREN ARE “GROWN” AND GONE AND I HAVEN’T LISTENED TO YOU FOR YEARS…BUT I DO NOT RECALL YOUR MESSAGES BEING OF FEAR BUT ALWAYS OF HOPE AND LOVE AND FAITH.

  • Brian N
    Reply

    Well said, Ellen. Thanks for diving in the deep end!

  • ellenharoutunian
    Reply

    Wow this post struck a deeper chord than I thought. Todd, thanks for your words on grace – I agree. But grace does not preclude that we will disagree and even speak up about it when people are being hurt and confused. Grace does challenge us all though, on many levels. 🙂

    Mary – I don’t get to “see” you often enough! Thanks for your words and reminder – I agree – “up yours” is too strong, but people are hurt and angry so we will let them express that too.

  • Barb Dokter
    Reply

    Thanks for leading us in grace to the feet of Jesus, Ellen. May we truly not give in to fear and small hearts but live out of the very large heart of God himself…

  • Mike Reid
    Reply

    Way to go, Ellen. This has given me my first good shot of Christmas spirit for 08. Jesus came to drive out fear and replace it with faith, hope and love. All of these were present in your words and those who replied. May God bless us, one and all – even the Grinches.

  • Karey Swan
    Reply

    I linked your post to my blog. I always love hearing your heart. Rather than wake praying a hedge of thorns, giving Satan too much attention, I’d rather wake, “Good Morning God, what would you like us to do today?!”

  • chrisd
    Reply

    Totally totally totally agree with you. I used to love Focus on the Family but it got too political and angry so I stopped listening. It’s too bad because there were a lot of wonderful speakers on that radio program and I enjoyed it.

    Great post!

  • pam w
    Reply

    Great Ellen. And how about store that are slave-free in their supply chains, not poisoning the waters and lands of the developing world in order to maximize shareholder value in the west, committed to social justice and community development…

    If we are going to consume tied to the celebration of Jesus’ birth, we should consume with companies that care about the common good and invest in the poor.

    Miss you!

    Shalom,
    Pam

  • Lore
    Reply

    The “up yours” was actually not supposed to be published, as it was just an ill-placed joke. Sorry everyone.

    Dr. Dobson does continue to hurt a lot of my generation (and others). But we in particular missed the time when he spoke about hope, and often miss the good things that first came out of FOTF because they are overshadowed by the bad. When we see people in pain because of his words, it’s very hard for many of us to associate him with a God of Love at all.

    And while that does not mean he doesn’t deserve grace from others, and while I could have stated my anger much more eloquently, the anger and hurt is still there. And I think it’s okay to express that anger publicly; he is a public figure and leader, and his words influence a lot of people. I tried to make an unsuccessful joke with that anger instead, perhaps in poor taste.

  • ellenharoutunian
    Reply

    Well said, Lauren. Do I have an amazing kid or what? Excuse me – not a kid. An awesome young woman. 🙂
    Love you!

  • Steve Smallwood
    Reply

    My sentiments exactly!! I so wish the wonderful Doctor would stick to his original mission—writing helpful books for families! It seems that his FOCUS left the family and joined up with the crowd that’s known for what they’re against vs. the Kingdom life of grace and mercy we’re called to model and extend to others. I for one do not want my yuletide celebration to be in front of a book burning fire! Come on Jimmy—remember the wonder of the Christ-mass as a little child shaking presents under O Christmas tree?!! Lighten up as you light your tree this year—how about simply focusing on your family! Remember, thousands upon thousands have received pink slips this year, countless more have watched their nest eggs shrink, and still others are worrying if their loved ones will make it home from the foreign soil on which their fighting!

    And yet, we’re still blessed by the promise of the arrival of a baby in a manger to bring peace to the earth and good will toward all mankind! So, I choose happy holidays to be my family’s focus, and I reject the fear and divisiveness sadly has come to consume the FOTF organization! In fact, I’m going to take the list of Christmas offensive stores and do all my shopping there—remember Jesus? Wasn’t he known as a friend of sinners??

    “O God of the guiding star which brought the Gentile kings to worship the Christ-child: strengthen and encourage us who now follow the star, and lead us into all dark places of the earth, letting the light of Christ shine on through us. May that day come when all men shall pay due homage to the King of kings, even Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN”

  • LeeAnn
    Reply

    Lauren:
    Not to worry about your “ill-placed joke”. You have the gift of youthful exuberance on your side and we have all said things in anger that we wish we could take back. Thank you for sharing the younger generation’s thoughts. It is refreshing reminder of those that follow in our footsteps.
    LeeAnn

  • Jennifer
    Reply

    Beautiful, Ellen. Especially “Christmas will come whether ….people shop or not.” and “we do not stand for Christmas. Christmas stands for us.” Thank you. I think freedom and joy have more of a place in Christmas than fear. I will be referring people here.

  • Winn Collier
    Reply

    Amen.

  • Rrronda
    Reply

    I first read this blog a few days ago… after I had participated in the Rite of Welcome in my local Catholic Church. Your thought offering and the Catholic Catechism both ache with the passion of people determined to stay true to what their heart tells them is right There is so much beauty in the Catholic worship, liturgy, and history. And yet a web search for “Catholic heresy” will quickly reveal that “Protestantism” is considered heresy. I am considered a heretic who must receive a special grace from the Lord to accept several doctrines that are so unnatural to my bible belt heart. I am not sure what the outcome will be. There are truths that divide and Truths that multiply. I would that the latter was more prevalent.

  • Larry Linn
    Reply

    Dear Mr. Dobson, as well as Sen. Buttars, I was raised in the Mennonite Church, and both of my parents were protestants. On the street where I grew up, my neighbors were Mormons, Roman Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Armenian Orthodox, Mennonites, Buddhists, Shintos as well as atheists and agnostics. All were American citizens. My next door neighbors were Japanese. The father was a Buddist and a Shinto. Both of his two sons were born in the Manzanar Japanese Concentration Camp. Both served in the U.S. Army when they became young men.
    I live in downtown Los Angeles, and within a mile of my office, there are six Buddhist Temples, a Jewish Temple, the Catholic Cathedral, a Zen Temple, several Protestant Churches, as well as an Islamic Temple and a LDS facility near USC. All are American! Mr. Dobson and Senator Buttars, you did not serve in the U.S. Military, and may not understand, but when I served in Vietnam, freedom of religion, and the other freedoms in the Bill of Rights was what I was fighting for. I was not fighting to institute a religious theocracy.

  • Jenny
    Reply

    Ellen-

    I felt so angry after reading Dr. Dobson’s letter…some of the anger lingers still. I keep asking myself, how do I love this? Thanks for offering some persepctive and for voicing the heart of one who is in the mess because that’s where Jesus can be found. That’s where I want to be too.

    grateful for you and your words,

    Jenny
    Merry Christ-mas and Happy Birthday!

  • candice
    Reply

    yup you are right, and if the last line was too strong, I think we have a right to use the language we are equipped with, and the anger is Godly anger against those who wear the robes of the godly, yet are not cleansed.
    I think Dobson is old and under attack. He may be saying things he has been coerced, or bent into saying by much pressure and of course the enemy wants him misunderstood too. Guess Grace is my middle name, I want to believe the best and I do believe that we are children of God and saved by the very grace we are called to give out.
    So as in heaven so be it on earth, lets give as much love, grace, mercy and peace as possible. Speaking the truth in Love at all times.
    Thanks for this and your last one about not signing that Manhattan document.
    I could really get to know you by reading this, thanks.

    • ellenharoutunian
      Reply

      Hi Candice!
      yes, there’s no reason to believe the best about him – which is why I asked something of him, instead of dismissing him. All of us are on the journey!
      Blessings to you and Dave.

    • ellenharoutunian
      Reply

      Hi Candice!
      Yes, there’s no reason to believe anything but the best about him – which is why I asked something of him instead of dismissing him. All of us are on the journey!
      Blessings to you and Dave.

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