Is Jesus offensive?

A family in Pennsylvania was ordered to take down a religious display on their property because a neighbor complained it was offensive. See the story here


Excuse me, but doesn’t the First Amendment of the Constitution guarantee Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion? It never guarantees freedom from anything you don’t like.

If we are going to have freedom, then we must be willing to accept that from time to time we are going to see or hear a belief or an opinion with which we don’t agree. Can you imagine what kind of world we’d have where the only religions or opinions that are allowed to be publicly mentioned or discussed are those first approved by the government? – oh wait, there is such a system – it’s called Communism.

I don’t get offended when I see a menorah in the window of a Jewish family, nor Arabic writing on the car of a Muslim. Why are these people “offended” by seeing the name “Jesus”?

If someone doesn’t believe in Jesus, no one must force them to believe, but asking us not to mention him is bigoted and intolerant.

What follows is the text of a letter to the editor I sent to our local newspaper, “The Journal News” some years back. The newspaper was pleased to publish it and I got tremendous support from many people when it appeared. Its message applies perfectly to this situation:

To the editor:

In a recent letter to the editor, Mike Stempel criticized the various organizations that are distributing buttons that read, “It’s okay to wish me a Merry Christmas,” accusing them of hypocrisy and eager to bring on religious polarization. He asks, “Do you honestly believe people are ‘afraid’ to wish someone a Merry Christmas?” The answer to that question is, “absolutely!”

Every Christmastime, organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union unleash a new round of lawsuits aimed at those who dare to mention in public anything to do with Christmas. Their intimidation is so effective that people are literally frightened into compliance for fear of being sued. In some absurd cases, jingle bells, candy canes, even wearing red or green clothing has been banned in schools and workplaces for fear that these items would be deemed offensive to others. Whatever happened to toleration? We live in a country that was founded on Freedom of Religion, yet that right has been consistently trampled by people who have nothing but contempt for any difference of belief.

A few years ago, I was shopping in a local department store, and the clerk happened to be one of my parishioners. He had to whisper “Merry Christmas” to me, because he said he’d be in a lot of trouble if his boss heard him. I can certainly understand a clerk telling someone to “have a nice holiday” if they do not know which holiday if any they celebrate, but when someone who knows I am a Christian cannot wish me a Merry Christmas for fear of punishment, something has gone terribly wrong. The button campaign is simply our way of informing people that it’s okay to wish me a Merry Christmas, that I won’t take offense at it.

We live in a religiously diverse community, and it is certainly proper to show respect for all religious beliefs. That, however, includes respect not only for minorities but also for the majority. Studies have shown that greater than 90% of Americans celebrate Christmas in one form or another. Of the less than 10% who don’t, many have no problem with Christmas, and do not feel traumatized or experience emotional duress watching other people celebrate their own holiday. The percentage, therefore, of people who have a problem with the word “Christmas” is very small, yet for the sake of that very small group the word has been effectively banned in public. Where is the logic in this? Those who do not celebrate Christmas for whatever their reason are perfectly free not to do so, but to expect the rest of America not to talk about Christmas because a small number of people don’t want to hear the word is selfish and intolerant. Those who find public mention of someone else’s religious beliefs offensive are the ones being bigoted. They should be given lessons in sensitivity and toleration, not appeased. The acceptance of the public expression of the beliefs of all people is tolerance, as that stems from respect. The attempt to censor another’s religious expression is intolerant, as that stems from hatred.


Rev. Andrew P. Carrozza



10 thoughts on “Is Jesus offensive?

  1. Jean Blair says:

    Well said. Fr. James’ sermon Sunday was very good also.

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Thanks Jean! I keep ever in mind the Lord’s words in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are you when they insult you and offer every kind of slander against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven will be great.” Being insulted by people comes with the territory of being an evangelist, and I actually rejoice when I am found worthy of suffering insult for Christ.

  2. Marjorie Maybrooke says:

    I re-read my comments, and cannot see where I made a negative turn. I was simply trying to teach you something. I do, however, apologize for calling you “white” — I forgot that you are Italian.

    Merry Xmas and all good things!

    • You don’t see where you took a negative turn? You accused me of being “unteachable” , you then insulted me by calling me part of the “white priveleged (sic) patriarchy”, and then “corrected” your “error” by inserting my being Italian into it. My question is this: what does any of this have to do with the question of “Christmas” vs “Xmas” that we were discussing? When you resort to name-calling and insults, it’s a clear sign that you have no constructive response to my rebuttal, and have thereby lost the argument.

  3. Hello Marjorie!

    Perhaps this will come as a surprise to you that I have not always agreed with the opinions of some religious sisters, and this would be one instance of that. I have a passion for the Holy Name of Jesus as well as his title of “Christ.” Following the advice of St. Francis of Assisi, St. Bernardine of Siena, and St. Paul who said “at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow”, all of whom taught us to say the name of Jesus and of Christ with great devotion, I keep his name holy and cannot conscience the thought of abbreviating it or crossing it out, no matter what the motive. His name is worth taking the time to write out long hand and to treat with respect. My heart’s devotion and my very existence belong to Christ, not to X.

    Merry Christmas!

    • Marjorie Maybrooke says:

      As a graphic design expert (can I presume you are not?), I’m trying to teach you something about “x” and its beauty from a graphics point of view. Perhaps you are unteachable? This is sometimes a problem with members of the white priveleged patriarchy.

      Also, all nuns are great!

      Merry Xmas! (Please feel free to pronounce the “x” “Christ”. Many do, and in our pluralistic society, that is fine.)

      • Hello Marjorie.

        Why the sudden negative, insulting turn in your language? Why accuse me of being unteachable when I offered a respectful rebuttal? The crack about the “white privileged patriarchy” lacks any pertinence to the discussion, and removes any respectability to your argument.

        I am happy to discuss differences of opinion with people who offer responsible and respectful arguments, but not with people who, when they cannot make a rational point, resort to name calling. That is akin to little children saying “oh yeah?” and sticking their tongue out.

        Christ’s blessings to you at Christmas and always!

  4. Marjorie Maybrooke says:

    Well, I guess if I sent out cards on those holidays, I’d consider your suggestion. But, since I don’t do that, the suggestion doesn’t pertain to me. I do think, objectively speaking, “Happy St. X’s Day” would be odd in that no one would know what day that is, but (objectively speaking) it would be terribly interesting just in terms of graphics.
    I studied graphic design in the 1960’s, when “Xmas” was just coming into style. It was generally accepted then, as I accept now, that “x” is a very interesting letter, graphically speaking. From an arts point of view, you can do many things with “x” and, hence, “Xmas” that are impossible to do with other letters and combinations of letters. My mentor in graphic design, btw, was a former nun who said there is nothing offensive in “Xmas” per se. If one prefers, one may pronounce “Xmas” as “Christmas” which would satisfy everyone, I would think.

  5. Marjorie Maybrooke says:

    I usually write “Merry Xmas” on my Xmas cards and social media, simply because I like the way it looks graphically.

    • Hello Marjorie. Thank you for your comment.

      I must say that’s a new one to me. I never heard anyone before claim that “Xmas” graphically looks better than “Christmas.” If anything, I find the letter X graphically awkward and not very appealing. But that’s just a matter of taste. My question for you to ponder on is whether the graphical aesthetics of the letter X is justifiable reason to eliminate the name of Christ. Why not use the X then for every other annual celebration? How about “Happy X of July”, or “Happy St. X’s” Day, or “Happy X King, Jr.’s birthday”? Do you see my point? Why only with the name of Christ are we so nonchalant?

      Merry Christmas, and peace be with you throughout the Christmas season and the New Year!

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