Our Christian heritage still matters

WHILE my mind’s on the subject, I thought it might be useful to try to add a bit more than Daily Mail-style indignation to the debate on “political correctness gone mad” with regards to Christmas.

It’s vital that all our communities value and respect other religions and honour their traditions. But the problem I have with the London City Hall approach – and this is replicated all over the country now, including in Glasgow – is that Christmas as a Christian celebration is now regarded as just one of a number of religious events during winter.

In fact, I don’t attach a great deal of spiritual importance to Christmas. It’s arguable that the Christmas story, romantic and beautiful though it undoubtedly is, is far less important to Christians than the Easter story. St Paul, who wrote a good deal of the New Testament (after the four gospels and the Acts of the Apostles) seems not to have known about Christ’s birth in Bethlehem and the search of the Magi. Or even of the little drummer boy, come to that.

But Britain is a Chistian country. That does not mean that most of our citizens attend church regularly, or even adhere to the central tenets of Christianity. But we have a strong and important Christian heritage, and most Britons are cultural Christians, if not religious ones. And culture still matters.

There’s nothing wrong in embracing that fact, in accepting the fact of our Christian heritage.

In Middle Eastern Muslim countries where Christmas is celebrated, would anyone object to it nevertheless being regarded generally as less important than Eid?

Why shouldn’t children be taught the Christmas story in our schools?

Why must we feel defensive about saying that in the UK, Christmas is not just one of the religious festivals in winter, but the most important?

And why do our local authorities find it impossible to recognise and acknowledge other people’s traditions without feeling the need to devalue our indigenous faith?

Here endeth the lesson.

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17 Comments

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17 responses to “Our Christian heritage still matters

  1. Jo

    I have no faith and I don’t want one. I respect other people’s faiths and try to learn what I can about their faith and why it’s important to them.

    But from where I stand (as a shop assistant), only a minority of people hold Christmas as a religious event. For the rest, it’s an annual binge of food, booze and material goods. It’s about spend spend spend and couldn’t be further away from the Christmas story if we tried.

    I think we’d be better off as a society if we all downplayed Christmas so it could become more about bring with our loved ones, celebrating the midwinter and the prospect of the days getting longer, not shorter, and less about presents and credit cards. Good food and laughs around the table sound much better than the spoilt brats I have to deal with everyday whose parents indulge them to the point of ruin.

  2. Why shouldn’t children be taught the Christmas story in our schools?

    Because it is utter tosh.

  3. Jim T

    To be honest, I agree with you here.

    In essence, the whole movement is about what you describe – splitting the cultural festival from the religious practice.

    I wonder if we’re reacting to fundamentalist christian accusations: “if you don’t believe in god, why are you celebrating christmas?”

  4. richard

    Q. “And why do our local authorities find it impossible to recognise and acknowledge other people’s traditions without feeling the need to devalue our indigenous faith?”

    A. Because they’re full of left-wingers desperate to avoid offending anyone lest they lose their cushy index-linked pensions and guaranteed jobs for life…

  5. I disagree. I have no problem with people doing what they like for Christmas, but I don’t think that a) impressionable young kids should be indoctrinated or b) my tax money should be spent on religious stuff.

    I choose to observe some of the bits of Christmas (it’s not easy finding tasteful, secular and vaguely manly Christmas cards, that’s for sure – Paperchase to the rescue) for exactly the reason you mention – it’s a shared cultural experience, but it’s hardly Government’s job to treat one religious viewpoint preferentially to another.

    Either put them all on a par, or don’t bother at all.

  6. wrinkled weasel

    That’s funny, I thought I was visiting Cranmer for a minute, there.

    You ask “why do our local authorities find it impossible to recognise and acknowledge other people’s traditions without feeling the need to devalue our indigenous faith?”

    It’s a profound question. I am trying desperately here not to be party political, so here goes.

    Local Government employees have it drummed into them that “equality” is paramount. It is an incessant background tape loop that informs everything they do. They are informed, in no uncertain terms, that “minorities” get a bad deal and that they must be given special consideration in all decisions. It leads to the rather crazy stories you get, such as the recent one in Bristol (a PC hotspot) where Stonewall was consulted when an attempt was made to clear foliage on Clifton Downs in case gay cruisers’ rights were infringed. (No one actually thought to contact local residents, whose homes look out on the Downs and who have to view a variety of perverted activities including those of doggers, whose pressure group got left out) It leads to a whole raft of local initiatives that can broadly be described as Political Correctness gone Mad. Strangely, I believe they are only doing their duty. There is enormous pressure on employees to be politically correct – inadvertently calling someone “love” or “duck” or “hinny” or “moi luvvrrr” or any of the local terms of endearment can have you before a disciplinary panel. Scary eh?

    The background to this is a pluralistic, relativistic society with a tendency to favour aetheism. Hitherto real minorities have been foregrounded. Religious festivals emanating from outwith the UK have been given special prominence, in a genuine attempt to aid integration, but in doing so some ground has been lost by the predominant, ruling ethos, which was Christian.

    Couple this with the spiritual reaction to Christians. As a genuine Christian you understand how people do not wish to be confronted with Sin – or to be more specific, their separation from God. Given the chance, they will find every excuse to run away from what we understand to be the Truth.

    This mix of PC coupled with genuine social concerns, alongside man’s innate hatred of God is toxic. It is accompanied by a relativistic and at times nihilistic world view. It is also prey the the natural desire to be at the top of the tree – as soon as a minority senses it has a voice and a foothold, it will push for more and more.

    Our philosophical abode, our legacy of popular thinking, has created a pyramid of hegemony with small groups angling for a higher perch. It has spawned an ethos that declares an end to scapegoating, but in reality it has merely created another scapegoat.

    All of this comes into play in the working out of local government policy, as applied by its workers.

    At the moment, we have an interesting dichotomy. The perceived demands of one group (e.e.Muslims) are in conflict with those of another (e.g.Gays). This is just one example of how this philosophical hook upon which local govts. hang their policies will ultimately break down. They cannot serve the demands of both communities when those communties have diametrically opposed agendas.

    Christianity has so far been an easy target. We tend to be a bit laid back about it all. Yes there are a lot of loonies, but on the whole we are cool about attacks on our beliefs. What will be interesting to watch is to see society fragment even more, when the very minorities that have been championed start fighting like ferrets in a sack. This is one Pandora’s box that will lead to a very serious rethink of local government policy, if not national policy. At least, I hope so.

  7. davidc

    richard at 12.48

    ‘left-wingers desperate to avoid offending anyone—‘

    i agree but why are they not concerned about the offense they give to us, the indiginious (more or less) people of the uk ?

  8. Johnny Norfolk

    Our family is spread all over Britain and Europe. So Christmas is special when we can try and get together.
    We are a Christian country even if most do not beleive any more, it is our heritage.
    We will go to church this Christmas for our own reasons.
    For some it is belief or tradition or to think about lost loved ones, to take time out to think about where we are, and what we are. and where are we going.
    Whatever the reason it does not matter. We need to keep our identity.
    Councils and government have abandoned us so you must do it yourself.
    Our village church will be filled to the brim with people with belief or none. It does not matter we come together as people who believe in the traditional Britain not the Labour party.

  9. RJT

    As a strong secularist I am weary of overt religious displays in the public square, but you’re right that Christmas, of course, has a Christian tradition that we should at least recognise and that we can go over the top in trying to de-Christmas Christmas time.

    Christmas for me, and for so many others athiests, can be about family, joy, love etc, without the biblical backup, as well as about food, drink, prezzies and parties. This is why it’s Christians, often of the evangelical variety, who get worked up when councils do things like remove the word “Christmas” from their town hall displays, rather than secularists when they don’t.

  10. Jane

    I agree Tom. If I remember from Census figures some 70% of the population still state they are Christian. Somehow, embracing multi-culturalism seems to state that we must not upset those with different religions. I also do not think those who are not Christian would be upset by Christmas. Indeed, I remember the Chief Rabbi saying so on the Today programme some time ago!

    If we are no longer identifying the nation as Christians, should we remove all the Bishops from the House of Lords? I presume because the Church played a role in the formation of British identity this warrants their position in the Lords?

    It is right that we ensure cohesion and that our actions are not offensive. I could of course say that every person is equal in the eyes of God. This is probably not politically correct and therein lies the problem. The politically correct brigade have thrown common sense out and this has left us all confused and sometimes angry. I am frightened now to state how I feel as a citizen as this will be interpreted wrongly. We have gone mad. The good news is that Jack Straw is revisiting the misuse of the HRA. Sanity may one day prevail.

  11. Chris' Wills

    You are, of course, correct Easter is the more important of the two. Luckily the PC & anti-religion mobs don’t seem to realise this.

  12. Chris' Wills

    You are correct, in Muslim countries that allow Christmas the Muslim festivals take centre stage.

    On the Eid bit, just a note.

    Ramadan and going on Haj are the religious events the Eids are celebrations of having succesfully completed them or of them being over for another year.

    Straight after Ramadan Eid Al-Fitr (festival/feast of Fast Breaking) starts, a celebration of having succesfully completed Ramadan obligations.

    Eid Al-Adha (festival/feast of Sacrifice), the one just finished is celebrated after the completion of the Haj.

  13. richard

    davidc @ 3.25 – Because any “indigenous briton” who’s offended by their PC left-wing mentality is clearly a racist or a Tory…

  14. I agree with Wrinkled Weasel’s comments and these are my additional thoughts on an important issue that is far wider than Christmas.

    TH – It’s vital that all our communities value and respect other religions and honour their traditions.

    SC – Big problem here is that we should operate as a single community. I once heard a Radio 4 programme about North London’s Jewish, deaf, ‘gay’ community. What’s wrong with this country already?

    It is not vital that I respect anyone’s religion. This in no way means I hate the adherents of any religion, but I don’t ‘honour’ any of their traditions. That’s one of the problems – most of us have allowed our own ‘authorities’ to treat us like doormats.

    TH – “But Britain is a Christian country.”

    SC – Successive governments have ruined that one. A generation has grown up and another on its way thinking that all religions are equal. In fact, no, that all our ways are inferior and we should feel guilty and cave in. Shame on New Labour especially for encouraging this.

    TH – Most Britons are cultural Christians, if not religious ones. And culture still matters.

    SC – Unfortunately, many people, like Martin and Alasdair, above, think you can still enjoy the benefits of a Judeo-Christian-based society after you have banished the Judeo-Christian bits.

    We are clearly seeing that this is not the case. Hopefully they will see it one day.

    TH – And why do our local authorities find it impossible to recognise and acknowledge other people’s traditions without feeling the need to devalue our indigenous faith?

    SC – I prefer local “councils” to “authorities”. The ‘authority’ is going to their heads.

    Anyway, the question is simple to answer. We have gradually been conditioned to hate ourselves, our neighbours, our customs and our country.

    Even bicentennial celebrations of the Battle of Trafalgar had the British and French/Spanish fleets replaced with reds and blues so as not to upset anyone – well, except the British, but we don’t matter anymore, do we?

    From “England expects that every man will do his duty” to “England, etc., expects everyone to lie down and surrender to the EU, local “authority,” unlimited immigration, restrictions to free speech, rights for everyone but normal British people and so on and so forth.

  15. Steady on Stewart! I’m not up for any banishing, but I do object to the state indoctrinating children. I suppose it is the Christian insistence (drop the Judeo nonsense, by the way, the Christmas story is firmly not a Jewish one) that there is some “truth” in their myth that I object to. If kids want to put plays on a Christmas that’s fine by me, but adults who want to manipulate that message should be kicked firmly into touch.

  16. I don’t do “steady on” Martin!

    I too object to the state indoctrinating children: encouraging sex of all sorts; encouraging children to go behind their parents’ backs; teaching the Theory of Evolution as truth while ignoring the facts that expose the fraud; expecting participation in Muslim and Hindu festivals, etc.

    My post was about the wider benefits of our Judeo-Christian heritage and what we lose by watering it down.

    Martin – enjoy Sharia Law when it comes, because some people still know how to fight for what they believe in.

  17. The sociological good of Christmas cannot be meaningfully separated from the Christian heritage that spawned it. Christianity has had a profound effect on the development of this country and to try and denigrate or deny this fact is to deny to generations the vital role the religion has had, and continues to have, in shaping our attitudes. Thus you are absolutely correct in this country being “culturally Christian”. This culture produces much social good and needs to be understood and taught if people are to engage with many of the ideas it continues to promote.

    Who, after all, could begin to understand the history of the Labour Party while ignoring the claim that it “owes more to Methodism than to Marxism”?

    A free society simply has to afford those who wish to dissent from the majority view the freedom to do so. It does not have to elevate that view to being on a par with that of the established religion. Obviously there are still issues regarding the status of the practitioners, but these in large part relate to matters tangential to their faith.

    And I say this as a Jew.

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