Attention Word Slingers readers: Beginning December 11, 2019, all posts will be available at Thank you for reading Word Slingers!

Opposing viewpoints on ‘The War on Christmas’

Opposing viewpoints on ‘The War on Christmas’


It hit me like a bolt of lightning the other day when the store clerk wished me a “Merry Christmas!” In my lifetime, most retailers have switched to the phrase “Happy Holidays!” in order to be more inclusive of people of other faiths.

The change toward political correctness has been accompanied by others, including calling them “Holiday trees” instead of “Christmas trees.” The end result has heaped more fuel on the culture wars and created one more watchword to distinguish who is on what side.

The “Merry Christmas” debate has reached such heights that two Oklahoma lawmakers have even filed a bill that seeks to protect citizens’ right to say it in all settings. This begs the question, “What does it matter?”

Continue Reading

The Christians attending the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. found out that words matter. The entire proceedings hinged, not on a single word, but on one part of one word. At this Council (which interestingly was attended by St. Nicholas of Myra, around whom the Santa Claus tradition formed) a major debate about the nature of Christ as expressed in a Greek term.

Is Christ of the same nature of God (i.e. “homoousious”) or is He only of similar nature (“homoiousios”)? The theology of the Faith literally hinged on an “iota,” and indeed it mattered more than one “iota.” The Council rightly interpreted that He is of the same nature as God and the Nicene Creed, which Christians around the world still use today, was eventually codified, and the heresy that denied the deity of Christ was defeated.

In Christianity, then and now, words matter. They have meaning for our theology and have affected our everyday lives. The British author George Orwell understood this. In the fictional nightmare vision of a totalitarian society in his book, 1984, the infamous “thought police” could control almost any behavior that would challenge the government. The tyrants in Orwell’s work, which were a foreshadowing of the Soviet Union’s government, had an even more powerful tool than the “thought police.” The Ministry of Truth created all words and created “doublespeak,” a system of made up words to control people’s minds.

Today, our culture is being eroded on a number of fronts, but isn’t it interesting that a major part of the culture war is the war on words? The English language has been changed and trampled upon so dramatically, that we can no longer say “Merry Christmas!” without it being a political statement.

As Christians, we know that Christ cares about what we say. He went so far to say, “For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned,” (Matt. 12:27) in the context of our profession of faith in Christ alone.

Words by themselves, however, will not positively change the tide of our culture. We must speak wisely with our words and loudly with our actions. Yes, let’s keep “Merry Christmas” in our vocabulary, even as we care for the poor and widows and orphans, pray for our leaders, and keep ourselves unstained from the world (James 1:27).

In doing so, we will become even more like the One who came upon that first Christmas and brought salvation. He, after all, is the real reason for the season and was perfect in word and deed. He is the One who makes us want to say with all our heart, “Joy to the world!” and yes, “Merry Christmas!”



It’s the time of year we all love.  Twinkling lights adorn festive homes, Christmas hymns fill church sanctuaries and politically-charged posts light up social media like a well-decorated Christmas tree.

In a season when Christmas joy and holiday cheer should be dominant, many Christians continue to celebrate a not-so-jovial holiday tradition: mounting a full-blown, no-holds-barred counterattack against the so-called “war on Christmas.”

As angry members of the “Merry Christmas” police decry Christian persecution, we as believers lose both our credibility and our Christian witness and the plight of the truly persecuted church is diminished.

Continue Reading

Case in point: Recently a group of Oklahoma state representatives filed a bill that would legislate defenses for the Christian holiday season and protect religious expression in public schools. Hearing children use offensive terms such as “holiday decorations” and “holiday trees” sparked one representative’s passion for the legislation.

Within hours, a local news station’s Facebook post about the story garnered hundreds of comments, many from less-than-jolly Christians upset at the increasing level of “persecution” against Christmas in particular and believers in general.

Although political correctness runs amok in American society, we as believers should not drag ourselves down into this argument, which happens to distract from the true object of our faith: Christ Himself.

After all, Christmas isn’t about what you call a certain tree or which seasonal greeting you prefer; instead, it’s about celebrating the birth of Jesus.  And at the end of the day, that’s a celebration that can neither be legislated nor forced.

Expecting Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists and any other religious or non-religious group to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ is tantamount to hitting them over the head with a Bible. Even though “Merry Christmas” should always be the starting point of our holiday lexicon, we must not ridicule others when it is not part of theirs.  Actions like that just add another log to the culture war fire and do little – if anything – to further the Kingdom of God.  In fact, it could do just the opposite, damaging our Christian witness in the process.

“Happy Holidays” is not Christian persecution, especially when compared to the situations of our brothers and sisters around the world.  Just recently North Korea executed 80 people, some simply for possessing a Bible.  In November, Muslim extremists killed dozens of Christians in Nigeria.  And in Nepal, a prayer warrior and church elder was brutally murdered by a man for whom he had been led to pray.

So this Christmas, instead of funneling our energy and attention on that store clerk who wishes us “Happy Holidays,” let’s pray for our brothers and sisters around the world who are truly persecuted.  And with that, may we be reminded of the Child in Bethlehem who was born to die for us.


I looked in the mirror, and a hypocrite looked back

I looked in the mirror, and a hypocrite looked back

It’s 8:20 on a Sunday night, and I’m lying on the couch in my 75-degree apartment.  With the heater running full-blast to combat the 27-degree temperatures outside and the TV emitting images to battle the boredom inside, my $300 iPhone5 rings with a call from my best friend.

Leaving his job at Wal-Mart, he begins to tell me about a man he met on his dinner break.  Homeless and unemployed, the man had spent the previous night sleeping in a tent underneath a bridge and was now looking for a warmer place to stay.  My friend bought him a coat and gloves before heading back to work.  Hopefully that would keep him from freezing to death, the man said.

After hearing the story, I feel convicted.  I should do something.  We should do something.  But what?  As my friend drives to my apartment, I open my MacBook Pro, click a new tab adjacent to one with Netflix and another with fantasy football, and begin searching for nearby homeless shelters.  My friend arrives, and we call a couple possibilities.  No answer.  No luck.  Nothing. 

In a city with dozens of churches, there has to be something, we thought.  But there wasn’t.  The man would have to sleep outside for another night – a night with a chance of snow, freezing rain and sleet.

Why don’t all these churches do something? Why doesn’t someone – anyone – do something?

Self-righteous anger begins to build.  Then I’m hit with a realization.  I looked in the mirror and a hypocrite looked back. 

Before my three-second Google search, I didn’t even know what possibilities existed for homeless people in this city.  The reason wasn’t because I lacked opportunity to discover these options.  The reason was that before that moment, I hadn’t really cared.  Sure, I said I cared, but that statement never materialized into action. 

In a distracted stupor I had failed to practice what I literally preached.  I had inadvertently passed on to others my spiritual responsibility to care for those to whom Jesus showed mercy – the weak, the broken, the poor, the outcast and the downtrodden. 

Yes, the call to care for the homeless is one churches must answer, but it is also one in which all Christians must personally invest.  Good intentions are not enough.  Hopeful thoughts will not suffice. 

The Gospel of Jesus Christ compels us to act.  And that should be more than enough.  Heeding that redemption-driven call for justice – whatever those issues may be – begins with me.  It begins with you. 

As we retweet our favorite pastors, pour into Christian books and Instagram our small group moments, we cannot forget “the least of these.”  And when we see problems around us, we must avoid the easy trap of blaming the church for its gross neglect. 

Instead, we must look in the mirror and see if a hypocrite looks back.  After all, we are the church.  If we don’t act, who will? 

An hour later, my friend and I drive around the city and look for the unnamed homeless man.  As the temperature continues to drop and the radar lights up with wintery precipitation, the man is nowhere to be found.

It’s now 11:45 on that same Sunday night.  I crawl in my warm bed and set my alarm for 7:30 a.m.  As I drift off to sleep, I hear the heater begin once again.

Beyond the politics

Beyond the politics

Beneath the political battle in Washington, away from the drone of cable news vitriol and behind the scenes of America’s raging illegal immigration debate is a fact that oftentimes goes unnoticed.  In a world in which Facebook statuses, Twitter posts and six-second videos garner more attention than meaningful discussion, it becomes easy to forget what, or rather, who, lies at the center of this entire debate: people.

The “illegal immigrants” or “undocumented workers” in our country are more than props for political grandstanding; more than labels and inappropriate stereotypes; and more than chess pieces in the game of United States politics.  They are, in fact, real people – people who, like all of us, just want what is best for their families.  We see them at the mall, in the park and during our trips to Wal-Mart.  These people are mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles.

Yet in the heat of our passionate debates, I fear we oftentimes diminish an entire group of people to easily-digestible terms and politically-sanitized phrases.  As believers, we must avoid the all-too-easy trap of reducing individuals to such dehumanized language; instead, we must see them for who they truly are – our neighbors, and people created in the very image of our God.

Jesus’ words two millennia ago still ring true today, as He told those around Him to love their neighbors just as they loved themselves.

Jesus went on to define that word with the parable of the Good Samaritan, ending His story with these words in Luke 10:36-37:

“Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

How grateful I am that Jesus Himself proved to be the Greatest Neighbor of all, taking mercy to such an extent that He laid down His life for us.  And because of our designation as sons and daughters of the King, we as believers are even described as temporary residents and exiles (e.g., 1 Peter 2:11) – aliens who are on our own pathways to citizenship in a Kingdom not of this world. 

If there is anyone we should relate to, it should be to those around us who are in a country that is not their own, facing head-on real-life struggles and difficulties.  In the end, this is not an issue of politics or philosophy; it’s an issue of humanity. 

The end of the illegal immigration fight may not yet be in sight, but parameters of the Christian stance should be clear: Be merciful. Show love. And reach the vast mission field around us. 

So as the protest signs go up and the Facebook posts come out, let us be reminded of the words of Jesus who, in Matthew 25, described the final judgment:

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,you did it to me.’ ”

Some may call it a pathway to citizenship; others may say it’s amnesty.  But whatever the solution in this debate, may we all call it mercy and remind ourselves that, like legal citizens, illegal immigrants are our neighbors, too.

Cambodian children’s home offers ‘shelter of love’

Cambodian children’s home offers ‘shelter of love’

KAMPONG THOM, CAMBODIA – Just two days before Christmas, the warm December sun beats down on a red cafeteria building in Cambodia’s Kampong Thom province.  Inside, the melodious tune of Joy to the World greets the 30-member audience as children confidently perform a production of the Christmas story.

Welcome to the Shelter of Love Center, a central Cambodian refuge for dozens of children.  What started as a simple idea in 2002 has now grown into a place that offers not only love, but also hope, joy and the chance at a better future.


A dark past

To strangers, the warm smiles and infectious laughter of the Shelter of Love Center residents seem like those of any other children.  For these children, however, a happy demeanor usually masks a painful past.

Fifty-seven children now call this place home, including both orphans and those abandoned by families too poor to care for them.

“Statistics show that 80 percent of the children living in children’s homes in third world countries are there not because they are orphans but because of poverty. We find that to be true,” said Sue Singleton, founder of the children’s home.  “Actually, 30 percent of our children are orphans, meaning no living mother or father. But many others we don’t know where the mother or the father [are]. Many of the children came from homes in which they were living with a grandmother or an aunt who loved them but could not afford to take care of them. Every child’s story is different.”

One of those stories includes a girl who lived under a piece of plastic on the street. Too poor for food, she sniffed glue to satisfy her hunger. Singleton said she clearly remembers the events that led to the child’s rescue.

“She was 10 years old, she had never been to school, she had never held a pencil in her hand, so her small motor skills weren’t developed,” Singleton said. “She had walked around town with a rice bag thrown over her shoulder, looking for recyclables to sell. The police actually asked us if we would take her. I will always be amazed at that, because usually the police don’t care about street children. In fact, if anything, they might abuse them. So I just could know that God had a plan for her to be rescued.”

Although the rescued girl continues to have learning disabilities, she is now in the eighth grade and will participate in vocational training in the future, Singleton said.


A brighter future

Once children arrive at the center, they are immersed in education, including classes in English, music and art.  Elementary students attend class at a Christian English school in the mornings; in the afternoons, two tutors at the center teach them Khmer studies.

When the students graduate from high school, each one will proceed to study at a university or a vocational training center.  In fact, nine students from the Shelter of Love Center are currently pursuing bachelor’s degrees in fields ranging from law to medicine, achievements that Singleton said give her hope for the future.

“I just see so much potential in them being Christian leaders,” she said. “And we need that. I look forward to what God is going to do through them in the years ahead.”

Singleton said the students’ progress makes her work worthwhile. “When I see the children develop, it does my heart so much good,” she said. “Because if they had not come here, they would probably have never gotten to really develop their God-given gifts.”

Despite the fulfillment of witnessing her students grow intellectually, Singleton said the real joy comes from watching them mature spiritually.

Yom, a 20-year-old, has lived at the center for seven years and attributes much of his success to Singleton’s care. “I think this place is very good and very nice,” he said. “It made me know a lot about everything, especially the best thing for me is I know Jesus Christ. Sue told me about Jesus Christ. I also listen and try to understand more about the…Bible and also try to listen to the pastor when he preaches on Sundays.”

Because of the impact Singleton has on his life, Yom said he hopes to one day show his appreciation.  “Sue is really good for me. I think maybe one day I can help Sue with something. I can grow up and have a good job and maybe I can do something that is good for her.”

For Singleton, the children’s faith in Christ is payment enough.  In fact, she said every older child at the center has made a profession of faith.

“Many of them came from non-Christian families, so many came not knowing anything about Jesus,” Singleton said.  She recounted the story of one of those children – a little boy named Luke.

“Little Luke was an infant. His father came riding up on a bicycle, having ridden three hours looking for a place because [Luke] was very sick,” she said.  His mother died in childbirth, all-too-common tragedy in the healthcare-deprived country.

“When I took a look at him, I thought, ‘We don’t have any provisions for infants.’ We had been open about four months, and no infants had come our way. So here was this baby. But my second thought was, ‘If we don’t take him, he’s going to die.’ He was hardly moving.”

After taking Luke to the hospital, he began to live at the children’s home.  But unlike most parents, Luke’s father continued to return for visits, which eventually led to the man’s spiritual rescue.

“He came one Sunday, heard a clear presentation of the Gospel [and] became a believer. The next week I sent two young adults to do regular Sunday Bible studies at his home. About a year after that, seven people were baptized in that village.”


A call to ‘something different’

Sitting in the sewing room of the Cambodian children’s home, tears well up in Singleton’s eyes as she recounts the events that led her from a comfortable life in North Carolina to this unknown calling in Southeast Asia.

“In 1989, on a cold, rainy day in eastern North Carolina, my husband was tragically killed by a drunken driver,” she said.  “And so in that ensuing year, I knew that God was calling me into something different. At that time, my final work in the U.S. had been owning a fabric store. I suddenly felt very unhappy with that, where previously it had been a work that I enjoyed. I knew then that God was calling me to foreign missions.”

When that calling came, she was in her early fifties.

After visiting Latin America several times over the years, Singleton said she became eager to serve God in that area.

“I said, ‘Oh yes, Lord, anywhere in Spanish-speaking Central or South America’ – because I could speak Spanish fairly well [and] thought that seemed easy. When you’re past 50, to start learning a new language is not necessarily easy. “

Unfortunately for her Spanish-speaking skills, God had other plans.

“It was a good lesson in that we don’t tell God what we’ll do but we ask Him what He would have us do,” she said. “And He will direct us. In fact, Proverbs 3:5-6 have always been verses that were very important to my life.”

Those verses would prove more important than ever as the International Mission Board (IMB) asked her to serve in Cambodia.  “Cambodia was a new country for Southern Baptists. The first couple had come in 1990 and had discovered one of the ways we could come into the country was to teach English. I got a master’s degree in teaching English as a second or foreign language. Four days after I took my oral comps, I boarded the plane to Cambodia in 1993.”

In 2000, after serving in Phnom Penh, the country’s capital, Singleton moved to Kampong Thom province and began to fill an obvious void.  “I saw so many students going back and forth to school and no missionaries working with them,” she said.  “I took on the challenge of living in Kampong Thom.”

Two years later, that challenge morphed into yet another venture as an American couple approached Singleton about building a children’s home in the province.  “I got permission to use some of my time to build the Shelter of Love Center for children,” Singleton said. “I call it my moonlighting job, because it was not part of the plan of the IMB.”

With 28 children, the center opened February 21, 2005.  The campus now includes three houses, a dining hall, computer lab, sewing room and woodworking shop.  Nearly eight years later, Singleton said she remains amazed at God’s work.

“It’s just been a real blessing to me to see children rescued from really dire situations and for them to come to know the love of Jesus. Most of them have never known their earthly fathers, so when they learn there’s a Heavenly Father that loves them, it’s just a blessing in their lives.”


Available, not able

Nineteen years after she first boarded a plane to Cambodia, Singleton, now 74, retired from the IMB October 31, 2012.  Instead of staying in the United States, Singleton said she plans to live out her retirement among those she is called to serve – the people of Cambodia.  And with that, she remains confident God will continue to provide.

“God has been faithful,” she said. “That is the thing that I would say the most: God is always faithful. And if we are available to Him, then He gives us the ability to do whatever He calls us to do.  I once heard a missionary say, ‘God doesn’t want our ability; He wants our availability.’ I now understand that very clearly, because I didn’t really feel so qualified. But I knew how to tell people about Jesus and that they needed to be saved.”

And as the Christmas songs crescendo in that red cafeteria building in central Cambodia, Singleton smiles and applauds.

“They did that. They did that themselves,” she later says proudly.  For her, however, there remains unfinished work. “I just see that there’s so much more to be done. There’s still so many people who have not heard of Jesus.”

And for Singleton, the smiles of the children at the Shelter of Love Center are just the motivation she needs.


Donations to Shelter of Love Center can be sent to:

Faith Foundation

18 Souder Court

Richmond, VA 23227


For more information: