Sunday, November 12, 2006

Non religious Christmas

Miliband Christmas Card.

I feel I need to express my dismay at the standard of entries for David Miliband's Christmas card this year. As in previous years he has invited suggestions from South Tyneside schoolchildren for the design of his personalised card, judging will be a collaboration between John Szymanski the editor of the Shields Gazette, and the town's MP, Environment Secretary Miliband.

We saw a few of the entries in the local paper a couple of nights ago and they smack of the overbearing hand of secularism and political correctness. Perhaps it is something pervading in local schools, but not a single one of the designs on show carried a single element of the Christian message of Christmas. Not a single image of the infant Christ, not a single image relating to Bethlehem, not a single depiction of Mary and Joseph, no three Kings bearing gifts and not a shepherd in site!

I wonder if our schools have given up on teaching the meaning of Christmas, is Christianity hidden away in a filing cabinet? How can we promote "peace and goodwill to all men" and at the same time offend Christians by erasing the message?

I find myself in agreement with the Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu who spoke in Newcastle on Friday about the "systematic erosion" of Christianity in public life. He blames "illiberal atheists" who aim to prevent causing offence, by removing faith from public life, but "end up offending everyone".

I suppose we should be happy that a member of the Jewish faith is prepared to mail out Christmas cards, but how can we be satisfied with a Christmas without reference to Christ?


Sunday Sun

I have been thinking same thing,
and it seems to be like a taboo,
don`t speak, give things to flow. . .I would like to ask, what is the purpose then and who is suffering????

Nice time to you and your family!
When John Sentamu was elevated to the See of Birmingham, he began to blow like a breath of fresh air through the CofE. That blow is gradually building up to a howling gale since his arrival in York. If Miliband sends out a Christmas Card without the Christian message firmly imprinted on it, then I hope the Anglican clergy of South Shields will follow the lead of their Archbishop and let our MP know how offended they are. He may be Jewish, but if he does not accept that Christ-mass is about the birth of the founder of the Christian faith, then he should steer clear and not send cards that mean nothing.
I guess I don't understand the culture in your country (and I don't know who the person is you're discussing), but here (USA) nobody would expect someone who is Jewish to send out a religious-themed Christmas card. It's just a given in the US that (most) people send out cards that express their own faith, and send it to all their friends/acquaintances/colleagues regardless of theirs. Or, if they don't want to impose their own views on others who don't share them, it's also quite common to send out one with more of a "season's greetings" message with a snowman, or a bird, or whatever. I'm Jewish, don't celebrate Christmas, and I always send out holiday cards - my cards usually say something like "Wishing you Peace and Joy" (and of course have pictures of my kids - that's VERY common here!
It's easy to blame the non-religious card designs on some perceived 'pc' attitude of the schools, but it's the children who are designing the cards, based upon their own perceptions of what they think of as Christmas. Where do the kids get most of their images of Christmas? I suppose it will depend on whether they are brought up with Christianity, but the main influences of the meaning of Christmas won't be from school.

Since Christmas has been commandeered to sell, sell, sell, its images are used to flog more stock. Religion isn't used in mainstream advertising, and anyway, big names don't want to dilute their brand. Christmas is in the hands of the big brands and retailers.

The predatory adverts for the big retailers shown during childrens' tv shows use the same Christmas images over and over, reinforcing for children the ideal portrayal. Children have no chance - they are being exploited and programmed, and such conditioning will be reflected in what they think are representations of Christmas.

If you want someone to blame for the de-Christianisation of Christmas, don't blame it on the schools, pc do-gooders or any other easy right wing cliché target; blame it on those who are really responsible - the ones who are willing to cash in, and buy in, on Christmas, and the ones who consent to the whole consumption madhouse every year. All of us.
David Miliband is our Member of Parliament and Secretary of State for the Environment. He is also a representative of Her Majesty's Government who advise the Queen on the appointment of Bishops and other clerics within the Church of England.
You have a fair point when considering an individual of one faith sending cards to people outside of that faith, however, as a member of the government, unfortunately Mr. Miliband will be seen as representing a lot more than just himself, and I fear that a Christmas Card without the Christmas Message erodes the link between Church and State just that little bit further.

I can accept your position about the commercialisation of Christmas and the undue influence of big business on the minds of schoolchildren, however I cannot accept that schools bear no responsibility for the perceptions that children have of Christmas.
When you and I were at school we were taught the biblical significance of Christmas, we enacted the scenes of the Nativity for our parents, (and we were taught a little about other faiths too.) However, and this is fact, many schools now will charge parents a fee to watch their children partake in a Christmas play devoid of the Christian message, the fee is collected to reimburse the school for purchasing the rights from the authors to stage these secular scenarios.

Schools too are keen not to upset people of "other faiths", much as the Archbishop of York suggested.
Thanks for the explanation, Curly. I forget that you guys don't have that "separation of church and state" thing that we supposedly have. (Though many here argue that we never really had it and shouldn't!) Is it usual that someone responsible for the environment is also responsible for advising on the appointment of bishops? It seems like two such different areas of expertise - and the latter seems an especially odd job for someone who's Jewish!
Is it your point that he shouldn't send a Chrismas card at all if it doesn't have a Christmas theme? Because I still think it's weird for a Jew to send out a Christian-themed card (but am perfectly willing to accept that the customs are so different there that I just don't get it!) Anyway glad I stopped by to visit - I really like your photoblog!
There are two main points to my argument Jenny (a) that it seems that we are encouraging children to discard the message of Christmas and (b) in our haste not to offend those of differing minority faiths, we manage to offend the majority! Hence, we create fertile ground for those of the extreme right to attack Islam.
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