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Friday, 20 November 2009

Bye-bye, Christmas? We don’t think so!

Oh, dear! Christmas could be banned, shock, horror! And gay “rights” may have to be upheld (the quote marks are deliberate – read on).

The wacky UK Christian organisation Christian Concern for Our nation (CCFON) are worried about the Equality Bill, which is “so complex that interpreting it could lead to bizarre decisions by town halls and other organisations”, and are quoting bishops who have voiced this very fear.

Basically – and you can read CCFON’s concerns here – they feel that equality will mean a council, for instance, won’t be able to favour Christianity above, say, Islam or Hinduism, and so will be reluctant to call something Christian or Christmas, but wil have to bow to the other religions, too, and come up with something else.

If this really is the case, and councils will ban the use of the word “Christmas”, then that would, indeed, be a shame, because that’s what we call it. We don’t have to believe in what it means to Christians, and many people don’t understand the significance of it, anyway. It’s just a time for overeating, getting pissed and receiving presents. And, whether we like Christianity or not, it applied the name “Christmas” to this time of year centuries ago, and that’s our tradition.

We don’t complain that days of the week are named after gods such as Odin and Thor and Frigga (or Fricka, take your pick).

Even among those for whom Christmas is a more reflective time, there will be many who see it as a time for family and friends, concerts and just doing different things, but won’t “celebrate” the birth of guy two thousand years ago who may or may not have existed at all, and almost certainly not in the clinical way he’s portrayed.

But historically it’s still called Christmas, and I, for one, don’t even mind the odd carol. See my article in G&LH of last December on why I wouldn’t want to take the Christ out of Christmas – but see it only as a syllable.

However, it’s a syllable that’s part of the word that we’ve come to use historically for a time of the year when we begin the climb to spring and punctuate the darkness of winter with mirth and joy, however we decide to do it.

I do wonder, though, whether these Christians are overstating things. Quite often, tabloids come out with all kinds of horror stories about how Christmas is being banned, and it turns out they’ve got the story arse about face or are just stirring it for ethnic minorities.

CCFON also obsess, as you would expect, about sexuality, of course:

Under the provisions of the Bill, public bodies could also be forced by law to promote homosexual and transsexual “rights”. Also, churches and other Christian groups could be forced to employ practising homosexuals, transsexuals and civil partners.

Note the scare quotes around “rights”. If atheists put quotes around the word when talking of Christian “rights” (oops, I just did it!) they’d be moaning. They refuse to see that it’s not a question of rights above others’ rights, just rights to be treated equally and have relationships recognised in the way hettie relationships are recognised. What’s wrong with that?



Stuart Hartill said...

Here's a thought -
Maybe we shold start referring to Christian 'leftovers' instead of rights.
After all, most of the 'rights' they're keen to hang on to are, in fact, privileges left over from less humane eras in history.

Diesel B said...

As usual, Andy hits the nail squarely on the head. This Christian pressure group and its Fleet Street allies are prone to exaggerate the threat to the Christmas tradition. If it was really under threat, do you think the advertising industry would be pouring so much money into exploiting the concept of Christmas?
Aside from a few daft left-wing, gesture-prone councils, everyone is still quite happy to call the festival "Christmas", even most atheists, Hindus, Jews & Muslims.
This is because our society is essentially secular in character, if not in constitution. That means we are a free country that recognises that different people, coming from different religious traditions and heritages, will celebrate those tradtions, with differing degrees of religiosity (or perhaps none). We also recognise that the traditions of the indigenous population will take precedence over those of more recently arrived minorities.
For historical reasons, the centrality of Christmas in our culture belongs to all of us. At work, for example, my Jewish and Muslim colleagues will be happy to have the time off, because while they won't celebrate it religiously, they will, like atheists, enjoy the time away from work to spend with family and friends (they also have some religious festivals around this time as well, of course).
We sometimes forget that the enlightened secular humanist tradition, in large part, grew out of the progessive Christian tradition, so in a sense, we are standing on the shoulders of our Christian forefathers and have inherited a calendar and constitution largely dictated by them (and, to be honest, it's not all bad!).
Christmas is only a religious festival if you want it to be - Noddy Holder is just as much a part of it as Jesus Christ.
To borrow Stuart Hartill's concept, Christmas can also be seen as a "leftover" of our past Christian heritage, though whether you choose to spend it in church, with family and friends, or completely off-your-face in a gay nightclub, is entirely up to you. That's the beauty of living in a free, democratic, largely secular and post-Christian society.