Happy Chrishanukhajj

Posted On December 28, 2006

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Everywhere you look these days there’s a war on, not only a war in Iraq and Afghanistan and a war on terror, but a war on poverty, a war on crime, a war on illiteracy, a war on obesity, a war on drugs and a war on AIDS.

The newest emerging war, believe it or not, is the War on Christmas.

A War on Christmas may sound like something ridiculously funny, even if it does exist, but as another symptom of the politically sensitive minefield of growing multiculturalism, its implications should not be understated.

All it takes is one offended person of another faith to claim their religion has been excluded from Christmas and the political correctness Gestapo jump into action. The result is usually that the other, in this case Christians, ends up offended instead, which then leads to a backlash against people of other faiths in general.

Christians will rightly argue that Christmas belongs to Christianity. It is celebrated as the birth of Christ, and has been for the past 2,000 years by two billion Christians worldwide.

But it’s not really that simple. A good number of Christmas traditions were adopted from pagan festivals or are commercial inventions. The combination has made Christmas a victim of its own success and turned the entire month of December into a run-up of parties, shopping and consumption.

Herein lies part of the problem.

Nearly all of the main religions have holy days in December. The Jews have Hanukkah from December 16-24, the Hindus have Pancha Ganapati from December 21-25, the Muslims have the Hajj on December 30 and Eid al-Ad on the 31 and the Pagans and Wiccans have Winter Solstice/Saturnalia/Yule on December 21.

The other part of the problem is that some members of these faiths object when everywhere they look during the ‘festive season’, the entire holiday appears to be devoted to just one faith… Christianity.

The politically correct often make matters worse by taking actions to pre-empt incidents where the ‘other’ may become offended. Unfortunately, their actions only make Christians feel their religion is under attack.

Instead of including other faiths in the spirit of Christmas, which would be the Christian thing to do, they attempt to remove Christianity from the equation altogether, or as the slogan goes: “Taking Christ out of Christmas”.

An article in last week’s L’Osservatore Romano, the semi-official Vatican publication, said some shops had stopped selling Nativity figurines. “A misunderstood sense of modernity has trampled on sentiments and values” the article stated. It said that “the old and loved wishes for a ‘Merry Christmas’ … are being dissolved into a generic ‘Happy Holidays’.”

It cited a War on Christmas in the UK. “Some people say this ‘war’ is justified because of the need not to offend the sensitivity of believers or followers of other religions, as if non-believers and followers of other religions appeared suddenly only this Christmas” said L’Osservatore Romano.

Across the pond in Christian America, George Bush, who claims to be a born-again Christian, came under fire last year for sending out a generic card with a photo of his family and no reference to “Christmas”.

This year, Wal-Mart shops brought back “Merry Christmas” when Christians boycotted the stores in 2005 for its “Happy Holiday” policy. This is the main dilemma for those who profit more from Christmas than anyone else – big business. But our hearts should not bleed for them.

More recently at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, a rabbi asked to place a menorah next to some plastic Christmas trees and threatened legal action if he was refused. The trees were removed but put back without the added menorah when he withdrew his threat.

Washington State has now instituted menorahs alongside its ‘”Holiday Trees” but has banned nativity scenes, in a move that is sure to tick off Christians as the menorah is an exclusively Jewish religious symbol, while Christians are prohibited from having a nativity scene and being unable to refer to the trees as “Christmas Trees”. In other places the trees are now called “Friendship Trees”.

Many people blame the ultra secularist American Civil Liberties Union and the Jewish Anti-Defamation League, which annually issue guidelines on how schools and state authorities should handle Christmas symbolism, mainly by secularising it.

It has reached the point that some Christian groups in the US now talk exaggeratedly about the persecution of Christians, as foretold in the Bible for the end times. Preacher Pat Buchanan wrote: “What we are witnessing here are hate crimes against Christianity.”

Other writers say the War on Christmas is a phoney war dreamt up by religious bigots such as Fox News vitriolic commentator Bill O Reilly. For anyone not familiar with O Reilly, a fanatical supporter of the War on Terror, the fact that he appears to be leading the charge on the War on Christmas is actually sufficient to question its authenticity.

There are isolated incidents of people making demands when their sensitivities are offended, but whether it amounts to a War on Christmas or Christianity is still debatable.

Maybe it’s time to start a “War on Perceived Offences” or better still move Christmas to another month, since scholars widely accept that December 25, was not Jesus’ real birthday anyway.

In essence, the importance of Christmas lies not in the date but in the message that is supposed to surround the birth of Christ. That is: “Peace and good will to all men”. In this context, a little perspective would not go amiss.

Millions of Iraqis are suffering and hundreds of thousands dying. Afghanistan is a shambles, Lebanon is on the brink and Iran is a war target as a result of the policies of an overtly Christian nation or two.

And let’s not forget the birth place of Jesus on his birthday, and the Palestinians that are under daily siege. The Israeli-built wall is “a sign of all that is wrong in the human heart”, the Archbishop of Canterbury aptly said in Bethlehem on Friday as he surveyed its devastating effects on the city.

Yes indeed. The world is falling apart while one Christian country spends $350 billion on a war in only three years. Defence spending globally accounts for $135 a year for every man woman and child on the planet while the UN has only $3 to spend per head. This year, UN member states’ arrears topped $1 billion, of which the US alone owed $675 million, or 67 per cent.

That’s a lot of peace and good will being squandered on killing Muslims in the Middle East, while some “good Christians” are worrying about whether a shop assistant says “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”.

To quote Woody Allen: “If Jesus came back and saw what was being done in his name, he wouldn’t be able to stop throwing up.”

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