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Christian Group Launches New Attack on Christmas Commercialism

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Christian Group Launches New Attack on Christmas Commercialism

There's a war on Christmas, O'Reilly recently reminded viewers, driven by those who "loathe the baby Jesus." This season, a holiday-d�cor company is marketing the CHRIST-mas Tree, a bushy artificial tree with a giant cross where the trunk should be. And the Colorado-based Focus on the Family is continuing its Stand for Christmas campaign to highlight the offenses of Christmas-denying retailers. The campaign was launched, according to its website, because "citizens across the nation were growing dissatisfied with the tendency of corporations to omit references to Christmas from holiday promotions." (See TIME's photoessay "Have a Very Ridiculous Christmas.")

But to a growing group of Christians, this focus on the commercial aspect of Christmas is itself the greatest threat to one of Christianity's holiest days. "It's the shopping, the going into debt, the worrying that if I don't spend enough money, someone will think I don't love them," says Portland pastor Rick McKinley. "Christians get all bent out of shape over the fact that someone didn't say 'Merry Christmas' when I walked into the store. But why are we expecting the store to tell our story? That's just ridiculous."

McKinley is one of the leaders of an effort to do away with the frenzied activity and extravagant gift-giving of a commercial Christmas. Through a savvy viral video and marketing effort, the so-called Advent Conspiracy movement has exploded. Hundreds of churches on four continents and in at least 17 countries have signed up to participate. The Advent Conspiracy video has been viewed more than a million times on YouTube and the movement boasts nearly 45,000 fans on Facebook. Baseball superstar Albert Pujols is a supporter - he spoke at a church event in St. Louis to endorse the effort. (See TIME's video "Bethlehem's Complicated Christmas.")

In the past four years, Advent Conspiracy churches have donated millions of dollars to dig wells in developing countries through Living Water International and other organizations. McKinley likes to point out that a fraction of the money Americans spend at retailers in the month of December could supply the entire world with clean water. If more Christians changed how they thought about giving at Christmas, he argues, the holiday could be transformative in a religious and practical sense.

The idea for their own war on Christmas came to McKinley four years ago, when he was sitting around with some of his pastor friends and they realized they were all dreading Christmas. "None of us like Christmas," he says, adding, "That's sort of bad if you're a pastor." Instead of helping their congregations focus on the season of Advent and prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ, the pastors found themselves competing with a secular consumerism that made December the hardest time to make their message heard.

Entry #933

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