Friday, October 19, 2007

When Substitutes Are Insufficient

Today’s Seattle Times reports that Sea-Tac Airport is attempting to head off holiday controversy this year. As you may recall, around Christmastime 2006, a rabbi contacted airport authorities and demanded that an eight foot menorah be prominently displayed somewhere in the airport. Why? Because he thought that was only fair since there were Christmas decorations displayed throughout the airport.

The Christmas decorations the rabbi referred to were decorated trees, not a crèche or Christian nativity scene. The airport authorities reacted swiftly by removing all the decorated trees literally in the middle of the night in hopes of avoiding controversy. Their thought was that no decorations of any kind would equal no controversy. They were wrong.

An uproar exploded that went national in what most considered overreacting, political correctness gone crazy and another episode in the “culture war”. I truly had some sympathy for the airport authorities because their real job is ensuring that we have safe and efficient airline transportation, not PC holiday decorations.

This year the airport authorities have planned “wintertime decorations” that are free of all religious implications. The pictured model is of handcrafted birch trees nestled in imaginary snow drifts.

Some cultural commentators will no doubt be adding this story to their list of evidences that there is a war on Christmas with the intent of suppressing if not removing Christmas in the ongoing attempt to secularize America. These issues are of interest and importance to me but they are secondary at best.

My first concern is about the prevalent and many times unconscious substituting that takes place in the lives of my friends. Sea-Tac is going to substitute wintertime decorations for Christmas or Hanukkah decorations. What’s ever so much more important is when we substitute spirituality for relationship with God.

Getting outdoors and being inspired or moved by the lakes or mountains is wonderful but it is no substitute for a relationship with God. Having days off of work to gather around a table for a “thanksgiving meal” begs the question, “To Whom are you giving thanks?” Just having an attitude of gratitude is insufficient. The coming insanity around gift buying and gift giving is void of eternal significance if one fails to connect with and celebrate God’s gift to us in Christ. The Sunday ritual of sleeping late, reading the paper, drinking coffee and watching football is an awful substitute for experiencing God in a faith community of worship.

Some substitutions don’t matter a lot. Other substitutions are the difference between true living and mere existence.

1 comment:

Christina said...

Very good article. Thought provoking.