Time for Grown-Up Christians to Confront Materialism

Linda Thompson-Jenner and David Foster wrote a song entitled “My Grown-Up Christmas List” about three decades ago. No, it wasn’t the kind of “grown-up” list that Hugh Hefner or Howard Stern would have handed to Santa. It was about world peace, enduring marriages, friendship, justice and emotional healing – that sort of thing.

But it was also about Christians growing up, emerging from the materialism that gradually overtook American childhood – and children’s Christmas – in the 20th Century. “Heaven surely knows that packages and bows can never heal a hurting heart.” It was a prayer, actually. Heartfelt, poignant, and yet optimistic.

But 30 years later, materialism has strengthened its grip on Christians. Adults are, if anything, more materialistic than children. Our Christmas list needs to grow up.

We have a family friend who is very “churchy.” She sprinkles her conversation with Biblical aphorisms, enforces modesty of speech and dress in her family, and rarely misses Sunday worship. But she shops at Target.

I don’t know how she could be unaware of the boycott against Target, or of the reason for it: Target allows grown men into women’s restrooms and changing areas, no questions asked.

The American Family Association has documented several incidents of menace and voyeurism against girls and women in Target restrooms, in Texas, Oregon and Idaho, to name a few. But the corporation has refused to revoke its dangerous policy, and is counting on a strong Christmas shopping season to redeem its disappointing sales thus far this (boycott) year.

How heartbreaking that a Christmas tradition would strengthen depraved executives against decent believers, against girls who just want privacy where they remove their clothes. But how decent are Christians, anyway, who continue to shop at Target? Have the libertines called our bluff? Have they correctly calculated that we don’t really care?

Last month in Massachusetts, a man dressed as a woman followed a 10-year-old girl into the ladies’ room in a Target store. He knocked on the door of the stall where the girl sat. He complimented her T-shirt, offered her candy and changed his clothes while they were alone in the restroom, her father waiting outside. Is that OK with Christian shoppers?

Target’s Christian clientele would deny, of course, that they intend any endorsement of the corporation’s policy to allow men into the women’s restrooms. And that may be accurate. But they have to stare pretty hard at the ceiling to avoid seeing that their patronage accommodates and acquiesces in the worst impulses of Target executives. By prospering Target executives, Christian shoppers are giving the gift of impunity, and inviting further victimization.

Bible Belt shoppers may calculate that transgenders are rare in this zip code, so the Target policy’s not a serious problem here. But that’s faulty reasoning, a non sequitur. The problem at Target isn’t so-called transgenders. The problem is predatory male aggressors who are empowered and emboldened by Target’s restroom policy to menace girls and women behind closed doors, undeterred by security, retail staff or the victims’ own male family members. It’s a green light for voyeurs, exhibitionists and assailants.

At the very least, Christians who shop there have to admit that they have subordinated their values to their materialistic desires. Whatever they’re selling in those stores must be more important to them than decency, privacy, modesty and the physical safety of girls and women. The only alternative to that conclusion is that they do not hold those values in the first place.

It’s not just Target. In February, Walgreen’s announced it too will allow men in the ladies’ room in its 8,100 stores. They announced it in self-flattering language about equality and respect, but the bottom line is that Walgreen’s executives have shrugged off the privacy and physical safety of girls and women in 8,100 restrooms nationwide.

It’s not always clear where a Christian should shop. Human Rights Campaign, a potent Sodomite advocacy organization reports this year that 609 major businesses earned a perfect rating for “LGBTQ equality.” The T in that acronym is for “transgendered.”

Sometimes it’s unclear because a company has some Christian-friendly practices and policies, as well as some hostility. According to conservative watchdog 2ndVote, Wal-Mart contributes to three pro-abortion organizations and two prolife organizations. It contributes to two organizations that favor same-sex marriage, and to one that favors traditional marriage.

The American Family Association posts an annual “Naughty or Nice” list that rates retailers on their attitude toward Christmas. If the retailer is reluctant to use the word Christmas in its promotions and marketing materials, it ends up on the naughty list.

This year, that would be Walgreen’s, Family Dollar, Nordstom, Gap, Best Buy, Foot Locker, Barnes & Noble and 11 others. They list eight stores that are “marginal” (neither naughty nor nice), including Kohl’s, Dollar General, CVS and Safeway. The good news is that there are 48 retailers on the nice list.

There’s certainly room for disagreement whether we want Christmas associated with commercial activity in the first place. It’s not entirely clear that we should direct our patronage to retailers who say “Merry Christmas” instead of “happy holidays.” But this much is clear: it’s time for grown-up Christians to re-think our Christmas list.

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