Merry Christmas! Have there ever been two more controversial words in the English language? How ironic it is that the season intended to celebrate goodwill has become a battle between fundamentalists and secularists, and among those of different faiths. Navigating these waters in our personal lives can be challenging, but the wrong move in the business sector can be disastrous.
There is a growing movement among Christians to resist the secularization of Christmas. Wishing them Happy Holidays rather than Merry Christmas can even cause some to stop frequenting your business. For them, Christmas is a religious celebration, and to see it turned into a commercial extravaganza is offensive. To be fair, they have a point. How many retailers advertise months in advance for Hannukah or Eid al-Fitr?
But the laws of capitalism dictate that when demand is low, so is supply, and while our country is becoming more diverse, Christians still make up the majority. This is why when many Christians exclaim in exasperation that they’ve been wishing everyone a Merry Christmas for years and no one was ever offended, they are probably right. According to a 1957 Pew Poll, Jews only made up about 3-4% of the American population. Other religious groups like Muslims, Sikhs, and Buddhists made up an even smaller part. Today that 3-4% has grown to approximately 15%. And while post-World War II Jewish immigrants accustomed to religious persecution may have been less likely to speak out if they were offended, today’s generation of religious minorities understand that they have freedom from religious persecution promised by our Constitution, and may be more likely to speak out.
If you are a Christian company, promoting that can be an asset. It represents a set of values and principles that are enticing to most customers. Sending a religious holiday card can reinforce that message, when the recipient shares your faith. However, if the receiver is of another faith, it is largely seen as inconsiderate, and implies that you don’t respect their belief system. Alienating your customers is not only bad for your bottom line, it goes against the religious principles set out in Scripture. Mark 12:31 commands us to “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Loving our neighbor means acknowledging and respecting them for who they are, just as we ask them to respect us.
So what’s a Christian business owner to do? You can never ensure that no one will be offended, but the best option for someone doing business in a diverse environment is to embrace their Christian values. This means sending religious cards to those customers you know share your faith. In the same respect, choosing a holiday card that promotes peace and goodwill to those of a different faith is also a smart business move, unless your business associate is in Qatar for example, where there is no holiday celebrated. If you are a faith-based company, your customers likely know it, and failing to include them in your holiday greetings can alienate them. Choosing a card with the right tone that does not proselytize, but celebrates the principles of love for fellow man that are at the core of all major religions is both thoughtful and good business.