Sunday, January 10, 2010

Thoughts on the secularization of Christmas

People who heard my homilies through Advent and Christmas this year may have noticed an urgency around the theme of the secularization of Christmas. I have been surprised at how many of my friends and acquaintances wished me ‘Happy Holidays’, or inquired as to what I would be doing for ‘the holiday’.
This is a recent phenomenon, how did it happen? The best sense I can make of it is that there is a desire not to offend anyone. The flip side of that is wishing to be inclusive. The outcome is that December 25, marking the birth of Christ, is made over as a mere calendar holiday, with gift buying, a couple days off work, and a turkey, at the heart of it.
I was so pleased to hear one satellite radio station I listen to, playing ‘Hanukah’ music throughout the 12 days, and calling it Hanukah music. Another satellite radio station played ‘the best of holiday music’ through December. That would be your traditional Christmas music, Silent Night and O Holy Night, etc, among them.
I was also delighted to read Ben Stein’s piece again, that included this: "I am a Jew ….It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, "Merry Christmas" to me. I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu. If people want a creche, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away."
I was delighted to read in Andrew Hanon’s column in the Whig Standard November 23, 09: "It’s ok to wish him (21 year old student Amjad K.) a Merry Christmas. “It’s like they’ll start to say it, then stop themselves and ask, “what’s that thing you guys do at this time of year?” For the record, its Eid, the Muslim celebration that marks the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting. But he insists, ‘Merry Christmas’ is just fine. It’s not an issue."
Christians, Jews, and Muslims honour their feasts. It is not any of those groups who wish to negate a feast celebrated by the other. It is, rather, I think, a misguided political correctness at best; and a movement to take religion out of everything public, at worst. That has a destructive impact on all religious observance, not just Christian.
Canadian Sociologist Reg Bibby has discovered repeatedly in his surveys that Canadians, even non-regular church attenders, place importance on the religious significance of events in their lives.
Hopefully we will not give Christ away to secularization. Hopefully Jewish people will not lose Hanukah. Hopefully Muslims will always honour Eid. We are all at risk for diminishing religious significance when we adopt the empty message of ‘happy holidays.’
Out here in the Orchard, all creation honours the Creator. We who live here are indeed, as Ben Stein said, ‘all brothers and sisters’. May we remember to call things by their right names.

No comments: