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



“Xmas”: Embrace it or X it out?

One of my personal pet peeves is the use of “Xmas” instead of “Christmas”. I’ve always complained that it is “crossing Christ right out of Christmas” and have argued that it should never be used. I have encountered many people who share my feelings about this. On the other hand, I have encountered people who disagree with me, sometimes adamantly, that there is nothing wrong with using Xmas, that the X is actually the Greek letter chi, the first letter in “Christ” in Greek, and that it was used in ancient times during persecutions by Christians to identify themselves to each other when they could not mention Christ publicly; therefore, it is a pious action to write “Xmas” which gives great honor to Christ. So which is true?file000

I guess we could never know for certain without asking Jesus Himself. I think, however, He would consider the intention behind its use. Certainly, during the days of persecution, He would have been well-pleased by this pious use of the Greek letter X to represent Him. But how about today? It seems to me it would depend upon why we are using the X. When someone writes “Xmas” today, is he using it because he is thinking of the ancient Christians and their struggle during persecution, and is uniting himself with them and honoring them by using their symbol as his own in prayerful worship of Christ? If anyone thinks he truly is, please contact me, as I have some swampland in Arizona for sale, really cheap! Come on, get serious. He’s not doing it to honor Christ, he’s doing it because it’s faster, and the explanation of the X as an ancient symbol for Christ is just an excuse he’s using to justify continuing to use Xmas. Furthermore, priests who use the “chi” argument to defend this practice are in my mind guilty of accommodation to secularism. Just that fact that people call it “Xmas” rather than “chi-mas” shows they don’t know a thing about the Greek alphabet and are not using it to honor Christ. The reason people are using it is simple: it takes less time to write an X than to write out “Christ”. Is not the Holy Name of the One who became man and endured the agony of the cross to save us from our sins worth taking the time to write out? Do you realize that Christmas is the only feast in the entire calendar that has the name of God in it, and it is the only feast whose name we feel the need to abbreviate? We write out “Valentine’s Day”, “Independence Day”, “Memorial Day”, “Thanksgiving Day”, yet with Christmas we resort to “Xmas”. Why are all these other days worthy of the time to write out longhand but the Holy Name of Christ is not? And if you think about it, “X” in mathematics is the unknown number, the answer we’re trying to figure out. So in writing “Xmas” we are perhaps prophetically declaring one of the biggest problems of Christmas: that lots of people have no clue what they are in fact celebrating. Perhaps it is for them a great feast of the unknown!

Yes, the Greek letter chi (X) was once used as a pious symbol for Christ, but symbols change their meaning over time, and what was once appropriate has now become a symbol of the secular “no-Jesus” Christmas. While some people would argue to preserve “Xmas”, I say we cease using it and take the time to write out “Christmas,” as the Holy Name is worth the time. In a world so determined at times to wipe Christ out of it, let’s make a concerted effort to put Christ back, and the more the world tries to mask Him, the more we will reveal Him. Let’s cease saying “Seasons Greetings”, “Happy Holidays”, and “Merry Xmas”, and start again using “Merry Christmas!” His Name is worth it!