Tuesday, December 27, 2005

*War on Christmas? Or Persecution Complex?*

Easing back into the swing of blogging and this is a relatively easy piece to comment about given the amount of space devoted to it by the pundits (mostly on the religious right and subsequent responses by pretty much everyone else).

What makes this issue interesting is the perspective that I personally have given
a) I live in Singapore,
b) Singapore has this whole multi-cultural/religious, pluralist society thing going on,
c) I'm primarily a Buddhist by conversion,
d) we don't celebrate Chirstmas and
e) we don't have the same nut-case fundies rousing issues where there are none here (though I fear tis but a matter of time).

Anyway, this fiasco started after certain members of the religious right started wailing about how the secular liberalist conspiracy was going to remove all traces of Christianity from America and their lastest slavo was the decision by certain companies to say 'Season's greetings' or 'Happy Holidays' instead of "Merry Christmas" and horrors of horrors, the Bush White House sends out 1.4 million cards which DO NOT say Merry Christmas but Happy Holidays instead. Of course, certain other columnist like that of the Financial Times pounced on it and dismissed it as a frivilous piece of PC (politically correct) action and said that non-Christians should toughen up if they couldn't stand being greeted with Merry Christmas.

That misses the entire point.

Let's first take it from the perspective of the US. Yes, it is a predominantly Christian society (76%) but also one that celebrates many other festivities at this time of the year e.g. Hanukka (Jewish), Kwanzaa (African-American) Winter Soltice (a Pagan festival that probably inspired the date of Christmas), the New Year and these people DO NOT celebrate Christmas (and arguably would be rather insulting to believe that they do, it would be akin to a Christian celebrating Hanukka). As such, Happy Holidays is a perfect greeting that is inclusive rather than exclusive. And remarkably, I feel that the White House (i.e. Government, also see Separation of Church and State) did the right thing by using that greeting instead of their more usual assetion of Christian mascularity. Furthermore, I personally think that it is a better greeting especially in a society like Singapore where Christianity is actually a minority religion (about 30%).

Secondly, I don't think it is necessarily simply a matter of being PC, primarily because of the reason enunciated above. I agree that sometimes the PC police takes things way too far, but seeing that there are other festivals being celebrated, and some of which are MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE to the celebration of Christmas, I feel that this is more of a nice gesture and goes a long ways towards the recognition of a secular pluralist society.

Thirdly, I still don't see how this is all an atheist liberalist plot to destroy Christmas much less Christianity. I mean, other than the fact that Christianity is the predominant religion, the one with the more political lobbying power, has its own cable stations, it simply beggers belief that they could honestly believe that this is a 'War on Christmas'. Which lends credence to my own personal viewpoint that this is a huge persecution complex we're seeing. Somehow, I feel as if they like being portrayed as the victims of some big evil conspiracy. But, um, sorry, ever since they stopped being persecuted and started becoming the official religion of the Roman Empire, I really can't accept this whole notion of religious persecution (except in china).

Personally, I do really care how I'm greeted seeing that it's the thought that counts. Although I am getting rather tired of people assuming that I'm Christian for reasons beyond my comprehension. I figure it's because I speak English fluently and the stereotype is still that of Buddhism being a predominant 'Chinese' religion. *Shrugg*



At 1:15 AM, Blogger gambitch said...

I think people make that assumption about you based on your name.

As for the "War on Christmas", as far as I'm concerned it's a piece of false rubbish concocted by famewhoring talkshow hosts craving attention by saying ridiculous things. And Keith Olbermann's done a pretty good job dissing these fellas.

At 8:30 AM, Blogger Shaun Lee said...

Hmmm. That's possible but we are descendents of a generation where it was fashionable to take a first name (note not Christian name) so I think it's more than simply have a first name.

It's more than Bill O'Reily you realise?

At 1:56 PM, Blogger gambitch said...

It depends entirely on the kind of education your parents got, as well. Stereotype does have it that Buddhism is the kind of thing for either lower-middle class, Chinese-educated folks or people who have had substantial interest in what passes off for Chinese culture.

It's more than Bill, but it's a pretty tight little cabal. Does anyone realize that Fox News, Bill's home TV channel, is among the leading lights who named their "Christmas decor" "holiday decor" on their webshops before the O'Reilly thing backfired on them, prompting a quick switch that was caught by critics.

Media Matters For America, among other sites, have it very well documented. I suppose you keep a bit of track?


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