As I've said before, it's my own humble opinion that the world would go round a good deal faster if we'd all act like adults and acknowledge that, at this time of year, there are BOTH a number of different religious holidays and a secular holiday related to giving gifts, getting together w/ friends and family, making snowmen, exchanging cookies, etc. For historical reasons, there's some overlap, both between the holidays of some of the newer (cough*Christian*cough) religions and some of the older (Pagan) ones. And there's some overlap between the practices of some religious groups and some of the practices of the secular holiday. But most thinking adults can figure those things out and go on about their business.
For an odd group of xian Dominionists, however, no December can be allowed to pass without an attempt to blur the lines and create a sense of persecution among their faithful. The problem is, sadly, not limited to America.
Will you be wearing a crucifix to work this morning? Have you pinned your "Not Ashamed" badge to your lapel to show the world you're proud to be a Christian? Have you noticed the concerted campaign of anti-Christian bias all over the nation? No, I hadn't either – but that may be more evidence of the attack on religion that's secretly under way, like the Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Or so some leading churchmen would have you believe.
The "Not Ashamed" campaign is the work of Christian Concern, a pressure group whose most vocal spokesman is the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey. He has been sketching out an alarming, totalitarian scenario in which Christmas cards are "censored" because some don't feature mangers and oxen, school Nativity plays are "watered down" because they dramatise festive mice and squabbling baubles as well as baby Jesus, and Christmas lights have become rubbishy "winter lights" with no angels anywhere.
"Christmas has become something of which some are ashamed," Carey thunders. "A new climate hostile to our country's tradition and history is developing." Gosh, how nostalgic the ex-Archbish makes me feel. I'm pitched back years to when, as a tiny child, I listened to our local priest, Fr Smith, smiting the pulpit and declaring to his Battersea flock that the "real meaning" of Christmas had been lost in a haze of Morecambe & Wise TV specials and the American way of calling Yuletide "the holidays".
. . .
Not even Lord Carey's own people believe in his awful warnings about anti-Christian discrimination, the censorship, the undermining. The heads of the Christian think-tank Ekklesia say they can find no evidence to back up the "Not Ashamed" campaign, although "we have found consistent evidence, however, of Christians misleading people and exaggerating what is really going on, as well as treating other Christians, those of other faith and those of no faith in discriminatory ways".
John Walsh proposes a possible reason that the xian Dominionists are so worried:
The sad truth, Lord Carey, is that people aren't hostile to religion or passionately devout about it; just increasingly indifferent. They may send religious cards, sing carols, attend Mass, inspect the crib, as they've always done – but more as a style choice than an expression of devotion. They haven't been nobbled by Christianophobes. They just don't feel any atavistic twitch of veneration any more.
When the philosopher AC Grayling was introduced on a recent radio show as "a devout atheist", he corrected his host: "That's like calling me a devout non-stamp collector." What bothers Christian Concern, and the like, is that many people just aren't disposed to collect the stamps any more.
And I can't say that I believe that acting like a petulant child who can't understand the concept of overlapping holidays is one likely to make many people likely to WANT to start collecting your stamps, but, you know, whatever works. Me, I like the quoted bit of Dickens, describing the way I like to think of the secular holiday:
"a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of in the long calendar of the year when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely..."
Picture found here.