Bishop Jonathan Gledhill of Lichfield is at it again: urging that Christianity should trump the true meaning of what we call Christmas.
There was a tale on the BBC Radio 4 eight o’clock news this morning, but, at the time of writing this, I can’t find it on the Beeb’s website. No doubt it’ll find its way there. You can, however, see it here on the Lichfield diocese website.
His message is that Christians ought to wear crosses and other symbols this Christmas in order to let the world know what Christmas really is.
Well, Bishop Gledhill knows as well as all of us that Christmas was a latecomer to the winter festivities on these isles. He blithely forgets that Christians hijacked the period in order to make the nasty, horrible pagans accept the story of Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild.
Christianity was a sort of spiritual cuckoo. “Get out of the nest, you heathen savages – it’s mine! Cheep, cheep!”
However, what the BBC story didn’t tell us was that this bishop had made this same plea – or a similar one – just three years ago. It’s hardly news, or indeed surprising, that a bishop wants his version of the winter festivities to be recognised above all others.
I do agree with him that it’s daft to refuse to decorate public areas or the workplace for fear of upsetting people of other religions, though. The decorations don’t have to be tacky religious ones – just tacky non-religious ones. Better still, those things that signify the continuation of life from one year to the next, such as evergreens, which is why holly and ivy were favourites.
It’s perfectly possible for those of “faith” and those of none to enjoy the winter festivities, which I’m happy to call Christmas, and not annoy the hell out of each other.
And I doubt that many Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, Jedi and worshippers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster are going to kick up a fuss because the host culture wants to put up a few deccies.
But what about cribs and straw and angels and donkeys? Well, if an organisation that happens to be a Christian one has a space in a public area and wishes to decorate it, how can I object? As long as that organisation doesn’t crib about the pagan one next door.
And, while I write for a blog that is decidedly nontheist and much against organised religion, I do reject the idea that we should shun the word Christmas. We’ve got used to it. It’s part of our history, and talk of Winterval and saying “Compliments of the season” instead of “Merry Christmas” seems a bit contrived.
I made the case for continuing to call it Christmas in a seasonal article in Gay & Lesbian Humanist last December. It’s got nice pictures, too.