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Jesus Christ - Still the reason for the season
Christmas time is a mixture of everything from issues of deep faith, family unity, excitement and joy, to crass commercialism, drunken immorality, painful loneliness, tension and frustration, even religious and community anger and disharmony.
Some left-leaning proponents of multi-culturalism have contributed to this tension and disharmony.
For example, in the Nature and Character of Racism section of the Western Australian Government’s August 2004 Racial and Religious Vilification Consultation Paper (p.9f) ’cultural racism’ is described in ways which could lead many to believe that the Government and the framers of the Consultation Paper were too dismissive of Australian cultural traditions and values, and too ready to reject these in favour of allowing other cultural values to be expressed.
The effect of such thinking has become very evident, with school principals banning traditional Easter, Christmas, and even ANZAC Day activities - in case these activities were offensive to Muslims and other minority ethnic and religious groups. This was the case in April 2003, when the Koondoola Primary School principal, Rudy Rybarczyk, decided an Anzac Day remembrance was inappropriate for his school because of the religious and racial diversity of his students. His action, in sympathy and keeping with the sentiments expressed in the WA Government’s Consultation Paper, raised deep concerns around Australia, not just W.A., and provided more than ample ammunition for critics of political correctness. In no way did his actions advance improved understanding and relationships of religious and racial differences.
Such ’politically correct madness’ has increasingly focused on Christmas, with businesses and councils going to ridiculous extremes to ’delete’ any religious significance, especially things like nativity scenes, from Christmas community and store displays in order to avoid offending non-Christians.
In December 2002, Toronto city official’s decreed that a 15-metre-high pine tree was NOT a Christmas tree. They decreed that the large decorated tree in the city centre — erected for December celebrations — was a non-religious ’holiday tree’!!
The Toronto city officials’ actions caused repercussions and ridicule that went way beyond Toronto city limits.
One local shopper opposed the declaration, and stated: ’I am a Christian and it’s a Christmas holiday and it’s a Christmas tree. The Christmas comes from Christ, so to call it a holiday tree doesn’t make sense to me as a Christian.’
Christians were not the only ones to object, however.
Orthodox Jewish Rabbi and religious studies professor, Barry Levy, declared, ’I believe that this is an unnecessary attempt to secularise Christmas.’ He added: ’That object is identified as a Christmas tree - it’s not a Hannukah bush, it’s not a winter tree, it’s not a festival tree - it’s a Christmas tree - we all know it for what it is. Quite frankly I’m offended on behalf of Christians for whom it’s a symbol of some importance - that they should have a religious symbol converted into a secular one just in order to accommodate it into public display.’
In spite of such examples of actions bringing ridicule, and being spread around the world through the media and the Internet, many with ’multi-cultural’ agendas (if not, outright anti-Christian agendas) seem slow to learn, and the same errors of poor judgement and lack of sensitivity to community values and standards, continue to be perpetuated.
This December (2004) saw anger in the Italian city of Como, after Primary school teacher, Antonio Fogazzaro, became responsible for ’a serious mistake, an offence to the entire Christian community,’ for substituting the word ’virtue’ for ’Jesus’ during rehearsals of the school Christmas play, and for abolishing all Christmas carols referring to Christianity (and Jesus) from the programme. The Mayor of Como, with the city council, declared that, ’as city administration, we condemn this teacher’s behaviour, and we will decide on what measure to take.’
Early this December Ms Clover Moore, Lord Mayor of Sydney, caused an angry reaction over her efforts to ’neutralise’ Christmas in Australia’s largest multicultural city. Citizens were angered by her limiting the city’s main Christmas display to a single decorated tree at the town hall.
News reports compared other cities with their Christmas displays and the ’barren’ Sydney scene, with The Daily Telegraph asking in its large front-page banner: ’As the great cities of the world light up, Sydney asks... WHERE’S OUR CHRISTMAS?’ Other reports noted that radio talkback programmes had ’been inundated for two days with angry callers accusing left-leaning independent Lord Mayor Clover Moore of pandering to political correctness with paltry festive season decorations’ and stated: ’2004 is the year Sydney forgot Christmas and across the city, people are infuriated.’
Prime Minister, John Howard, publicly weighed into the controversy and declared it a ridiculous effort at politically correct blandness. New South Wales State Premier, Bob Carr, publicly disagreed with the approach of Lord Mayor Clover Moore, and called on her to be more inclusive, stating that no-one, including people from non-Christian faith communities, would be offended with a better Christmas display.
Moore claimed that the Council was trying to have decorations that ’embraces all cultural and religious communities at Christmas time and tries to bring Christmas magic alive.’ She, and the city council, completely misread the Sydney community and caused a very strong and angry reaction instead.
In contrast to Sydney, the Melbourne City Council had spent double the Sydney budget on Christmas decorations. The Lord Mayor of Melbourne, John So, declared: ’When you live in a multicultural society, you should be inclusive and add things to a society, not take things away.’
Churches in Denver, Colorado, USA, decided this month to protest over the city’s annual Christmas parade’s ban of any religious theme participants. Organisers of the Parade of Lights, which went through city streets on Friday and Saturday 3rd and 4th December, had refused to allow one of Denver’s Churches to enter a float in the parade and the Christian community decided it had had enough. Concerns were widely expressed about the anti-religious approach of the organisers.
As one Christian declared: ’Jesus is the reason for the season. They are just being too politically correct, and it’s pathetic. They don’t have any problems making us Christians feel bad.’
Around 1 000 people from various churches in the city joined together, preceded the actual parade singing Christmas hymns such as: ’Joy to the World’ and ’Silent Night’, with some also handing out hot chocolate drinks and invitations to Christmas church services. The joyful Christian ’protest’ before the annual parade itself got under way, did not cause any disruption and was reasonably well received by the hundreds of thousands of onlookers.
One Christian, participating in the ’protest’ and involved in handing out church Christmas pageant invitations and free cups of hot chocolate to the sidewalk crowd, explained: ’We just wanted to come out and show them the love of God and what Christmas is all about.’
The chairman of the parade organisers acknowledged the many complaints received, telling one newspaper: ’Many of the messages were the same — “We’re the majority, quit treating us like a minority and stop your political correctness.”’ He said that the organisers would reconsider their policy for next year.
Most Australians are becoming, if they haven’t already become, deeply troubled by the rejection of traditional religious and cultural heritage activities and displays. It is incredible that the majority of Australians, whether committed or nominally Christian, or of no religious persuasion, should have to accept the banning of nativity scenes at Christmas because it may offend some members of ethnic or non-Christian minority communities.
Such actions and expressions of reverse religious discrimination, and reverse cultural racism, are largely tolerated, and generally remain unopposed, in order to accommodate the views of minorities — often minorities within minorities.
This situation is incongruous when research and discussion reveals that the majority of minority faith group members, including Muslims, see no problem in allowing the celebration of Christian festivals; in Katanning the local Muslims are very involved in Christmas celebration activities and have won competitions with some of their Christmas displays; in Singapore, a very multi-religious and multi-cultural society, all major religious faiths are encouraged to have displays and other activities to celebrate their festivals — which has led to major, larger-than-life nativity scenes in very public places at Christmas time. Part of the Singapore Christmas approach now also includes Christian groups publicly singing Christmas hymns and songs.
Why not have family (or Sunday School — youth group — home/cell/care group) discussions of implementing activities to help put Christ back into Christmas, as the reason for the season? In spite of everything, HE still is the fundamental reason for the season.
Here are some ’starting suggestions’ for ’Christianising’ your Christmas — having a more Christ-centred Christmas:
Send Christmas cards with a ’Christ’ theme;
Cancel at least one shopping day - relax for the day with a loved one — child, spouse, friend;
Make worship at church the main focus of your Christmas Day celebrations;
Visit sick or lonely friends or acquaintances;
Relax with a good Christian book — devotional or a novel;
Invite a visitor or stranger home for Christmas dinner;
Pray for world peace;
Pool some of your collective resources to help someone in need;
Buy some Christmas gifts for others through a missionary or welfare agency;
Smile, greet, wish a Happy Christmas to weary shop assistants and fellow-shoppers;
Take time to read a Gospel account of the birth of Christ;
Tell the story of the First Christmas (Jesus’ birth on earth) to a child.
(From TACL Vol 25 #6 Dec 2004)