Monday, December 19, 2011

[Moon-dæg] December and Religion

The idea behind Monday entries is that they vary along a set pattern, just as the moon itself (Monday's namesake) does. So, seeing as how this Monday the moon will be in its last quarter here in Southwestern Ontario, my treatment of today's topic is going to be more critical than praise-filled, essentially bringing the idea of that topic into a waning state. But what is today's topic?

The idea that there is a "War on Christmas."

Currently living in Small Town Ontario as I am, signs and stickers with slogans like "Keep Christ in Christmas" are fairly common. But the idea that these signs put forth is not entirely as pure or wholesome as those posting the signs and stickers may think.

True. Within Christian faiths Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ and is so positioned to turn the symbolism of the days getting longer toward a Christian meaning, but secularizing the seasonal celebrations throughout the month of December has nothing to do with taking Christ out of Christmas.

First, Canada is often touted as a multicultural society. The last time I checked - fairly recently, by the way - Canada is still distinct from the United States and so the approach to different cultures here is supposedly to offer them a safe environment to practice their customs within the law of the land. The recent naqib controversy has stirred quite a bit on debate on this topic, but my point in bringing up multiculturalism here is that it is necessary to recognize that Christians (nominal or otherwise) may have built this country from settling it, Confederating it, and [] it, but they did so not so that it could be a safe haven for Christians only.

Much like our southern neighbours one of the ideas within the Canadian Bill of Rights and Freedoms is freedom of religion. Stephen Harper is a Christian. Sure. Okay. Dalton McGuinty is Catholic. Cool. Whatever. But the idea behind freedom of religion, at least in my own interpretation, is that explicit religion is to be removed from political policies. Religion - the governance of a soul - and politics - the governance of a people - are to be separate matters in that politicians recognize that their constituents are not necessarily all Catholics or Lutherans or Presbyterians or Jewsh or Muslim or Hindu. In this sense policies that keep Christmas and its vocabulary out of the public sphere of a community, or at the least out of a prominent place in that community are not meant as attacks on Christians by some sort of heathen governing body, but rather to remind Christians that there are other celebrations occurring in December that they should be mindful of.

I think that the idea that there is a variety of special events around the time of December also points to a major flaw in messages like "Keep Christ in Christmas." Those who don't celebrate Christmas, because they are of a different religion or of no religion at all, aren't going to care very much about keeping Christ in Christmas. Christians who acknowledge a nativity scene with a nod or a "that's nice," aren't going to need convincing. The signs, it seems to me, are not so much saying "Hey - keep Christ in your minds and hearts Everybody!" as they are "Hey you reading this sign, guess what - the people in this house/car are Christians." It's a kind of print form of the fire and brimstone which I hear in the voices of religious speakers in many debates and talks (for a good example of this listen to Rabbi Shemuly's tone in this debate with Christoper Hitchens at the 92nd Street Y a [listen<--Link] and compare it to his opponent's). Such a tone suggests that an ardent case is being enthusiastically made, but that enthusiasm does little to bring people who are diametrically oppossed to that stance, or completely unconcerned, into the fold. Moreover, this kind of tone does more damage than good in most debates because it puts the one using it in danger of sounding much less reasonable, while also potentially helping an opponent to seem calmer and more well-reasoned by comparison.

My next point comes in the form of an analogy, so brace yourselves.

It seems to me that religious expression that gets into people's faces or that politicians feel so uncomfortable with that they outright ban it from their communities, is a lot like a ball being tossed about violently by a group of kids. A parent comes along and takes away the ball saying something along the lines of "If you can't play nicely with the ball, you can't play with it at all." Just as the kids might feel slighted ("we were just playing!" "come on, just give us a chance!") the religious get upset and start to feel like they're being singled out (hello "War on Christmas"). But I think that taking the ball away is an effective measure. If one religious group is pushing their message in such a way that it seems to be encroaching on other religions, then no one should be able to push a message. Efforts and messages from governments should be secularized.

It's true that a tenets of many sects of Christianity is to go out and tell people the good news of Christ and such, but I think that an being an exemplary Christian is better than being one with some words for those who disagree or differ with you. This rings especially true today, since modern cynicism can be more easily circumvented by actions than by words. People can say anything, but they will only do what they truly believe and have convinced themselves is true. That conviction is what's necessary for Christians to follow their mandate to spread the word, and being vitriolic or pushy about their ball being taken away is much more harmful to their cause than simply putting up a nativity scene or writing "Merry Christmas" in lights on their house or in a window. People will get offended, but if the message doesn't carry the fire of "Keep Christ in Christmas" then those who are offended won't spit the same back.

No comments:

Post a Comment