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The attempts by one special interest group to claim the religious high ground in what essentially is a secular debate took a giant step forward – or backward, depending on your perspective - when began an advertising campaign claiming that if Jesus were alive, he would not shop at Wal-Mart.

Essentially the question being posed: “Where would Jesus shop?”

The 30-second commercial, aired so far in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Texas, reportedly has an off-screen narrator saying: "Our faith teaches us 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ If these are our values, then ask yourself: should people of faith shop at Wal-Mart this holiday season?''

The group also released a letter signed by 65 members of the clergy and religious leaders that challenged Wal-Mart’s policies in the areas of wages and benefits. "Jesus would not embrace Wal-Mart's values of greed and profits at any cost, particularly when children suffer as a result of those misguided values,'' the letter said, in part.

Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott responded with a prepared statement saying that the company makes plenty of positive contributions – including saving working families money, providing jobs and supporting charities with more than $200 million in cash contributions this year alone. "For that reason, we will not be deterred from our mission, despite misleading statements from paid critics whose motives are less than pure,'' he wrote.

"Wal-Mart will continue to do those things that we believe are right for our customers, associates and communities: helping people put food on the table and clothes on their backs; providing good benefits, providing career opportunity, and being a good citizen in the towns we serve.”

And Wal-Mart spokeswoman Sarah Clark said in a statement late on Friday, "Surely many Americans are deeply offended that union leadership would use religion as just another tactic in the negative attack campaign against a company that donates more money to good works than any other company in America."
KC's View:
The world has gone completely crazy when these are the tactics used by special interest groups to gather support in a debate that is completely secular in nature.

Wal-Mart has not been convicted of breaking any laws. It pays its people a legal wage and provides them with whatever benefits the law requires it to offer. Could it do more? Sure. Is this a matter in which Jesus would take a stand? Perhaps…but it is utter arrogance for these people – most of whom, we dare say, have a political agenda – to presume to speak for Jesus.

Indeed, it could be argued that Wal-Mart performs its own version of the miracle of the loaves and fishes each day as it makes it possible for people to buy more for less.

These tactics are not just inappropriate. They are both cynical and manipulative because they do not just try to take the moral and ethical high ground (which is perfectly acceptable), but to claim that the deity in which most Americans believe has somehow cast his lot with their side of the debate. This is inappropriate in politics, it is inappropriate in governance, and it certainly is inappropriate in commerce.

We have no problem is people choose not to shop at Wal-Mart, choose to lobby and protest against it, to say that their consciences dictate that they oppose the company’s policies and activities.

But this is a step too far.

It is like a disease that is spreading through our society, this ease of claiming to speak for God, to think like God, to be God-like in one’s beliefs. Aspiration is one thing, but this is quite another. The point of such an approach isn’t just to take the high ground, but to relegate everyone else to a lesser position and to exclude them from the “club.”

We are appalled.

We thought we had heard it all until we were listening to a report on KOMO-AM while we were in Seattle late last week, and heard a piece about some religious groups saying that they were upset with President Bush for sending out cards this year that said “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” That by itself wasn’t so surprising, since these were groups that felt politically entitled to a religious Christmas card from an administration they believed they put in office.

No, we were surprised to hear William Donahue, head of the Catholic League, quoted as saying that he believed that even if a Jew were elected president, it would be incumbent on him to send out cards that said “Merry Christmas.”

This is the same kind of presumption that claims to speak for Jesus, and is egotism at its inexcusable worst.