By Mark Rodgers
There are few seasons in America during which religion's place in the public square is as hotly debated as Christmas. This year, however, the context has not just been church-state separation, but our culture’s growing victim complex. Cultural (in)sensitivity may be an unexpected topic for our annual Christmas reflection, but how we respond to perceived (and real) offense is at the core of a healthy, functioning democracy and at the heart of the way America has modeled e pluribus unum to a world which too often resolves its (often religious) differences through bloodshed. I believe that the first Christmas offers us our guiding Star. The Evangelical reaction to the nuanced color shading of this year's Starbucks' cups shares much in common with the the outrage at Yale over Halloween costumes. Why would evangelical Christians expect Starbucks, a publicly traded commercial venture, to missionally affirm the doctrine of the incarnation? Is the fact that the snowflake is off the cup a fundamental rejection of Christianity? Is Starbuck's calling their seasonal coffee "Christmas Blend" and selling advent calendars not enough? We all have read about the Yale college students who have deemed politically incorrect the two professors who were trying to affirm the students' own right to express themselves through Halloween costumes.At Yale, college students deemed politically incorrect the two professors who were trying to affirm the students' own right to express themselves through Halloween costumes. It is ironic that this Christmas, public universities like Ohio State, while trying to give guidance to their communities regarding navigating the season without creating offense, only succeeded in offending everyone in the process. The only web trace left for Ohio State’s policy reads: "The content of the webpage referenced was an effort to help facilitate celebrating holiday traditions of all faculty, staff and students. It is not a mandate or university policy. To avoid misinterpretation or confusion, the webpage has been removed." This would be laughable but, as the Atlantic Monthly points out, many college students today would be offended rather than laugh. How easily we are offended. And how quickly we respond with offense. Off with their heads, we cry! Boycott their stores. Slam and jam their inboxes. Confront their baristas. In contrast, I thought of the pregnant teenager traveling in a foreign land with her new husband, shamed by her out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Homeless, they were refused refuge ... turned away at every turn. They ended up sleeping on a dirt floor with a bare roof over their head. Not a refugee today, but … 2000 years ago. Jesus was a born a victim, but he wasn't a victim. He was a victor. The stable was the first station to the cross. The offense was returned with the command "love your enemy", "turn the other cheek" and plea "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.”Religious liberty. E Pluribus Unum. Religious pluralism. You have heard it said “an offense for an offense” but weren’t we told to return offense with love? Perhaps all we need is to follow the Star again.