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Friday, Dec. 24, 2010

A thought for the holy day


Special to The Japan Times

HONG KONG — A sad note in returning to Europe as the end of the year approaches is to see how "political correctness" (P.C.) has tried to drive out not only what is sacred but also what is important, vital and precious to our very civilization.

December 25 is the holy day of Christmas. It celebrates the day when Jesus Christ was born, God born as a tiny baby to restore the friendship between God and humanity, and to bring hope and joy and love to the world.

The Prophet Isaiah foretold Christ's coming: "For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulders, and His name will be called Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

Later, Isaiah audaciously spells out the message that the Messiah was not concerned with money or power or the conventional trappings of rulers. "The spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the afflicted, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of prisons to those who are bound."

Christmas is more than a charming story. It is, should be, a life-changing experience as well as a celebration. Yet in much of Europe today there is a concerted campaign to drive Christ out of Christmas. In some places the very word "Christmas" is taboo because we are living in a secular or a postsecular society that must be inclusive and not biased toward any religion.

Schools are told not to put on Nativity plays, in which children dress up and play the parts of the characters in the first Christmas. Instead of "Christmas" towns choose words like "Winter lights," "Winterfest" or the atrocious "Winterval" to describe the winter holiday break, which runs from Dec. 23 until early in January in many European countries these days.

Eating and drinking and making merry are OK, of course, and Christmas is a time to persuade people to part with more money than they have. Santa Claus (Father Christmas) has been hijacked as a super-salesperson for Mammon. Instead of reverent, melodious Christmas carols, the air is filled with the sound of tinkling Muzak with cringe-making lyrics, all urging people to eat drink and be merry.

It is atrocious and appalling on the grounds of taste alone. But what concerns me is that in the name of P.C., secularists are undermining the foundations of modern civilization even though it was Christianity, building upon the principles of Judaism, that set the moral rules for modern society, notions of equality before the law, equal rights and obligations, as well as the great hope of eternal life after one had lived a good and fulfilling and God-fearing life on this earth.

Pope Benedict commented: "As Europe listens to the story of Christianity, she hears her own. Her notions of justice, freedom and social responsibility, together with the cultural and legal institutions established to preserve these ideas and hand them on to future generations, are shaped by her Christian inheritance."

Perhaps the only way of dealing with the idiocy of P.C. is to mock the mockers. There is a popular Christmas carol that tells of the good news of the birth of the baby Christ being announced first, not to the rich or powerful, but to poor shepherds, outcasts of the society of their day, watching their sheep in open fields. Suddenly, so the Gospel (Good News) says, an Angel of the Lord appeared to tell them of the birth of the Savior.

The carol says: "While shepherds watched their flocks by night All seated on the ground, The Angel of the Lord came down, And Glory shone around."

My friends in charge of P.C. (Safety Branch) tell me that the Union of Shepherds has protested that the carol contains serious breaches of safety regulations. The union is demanding that appropriate seating arrangements must be provided for shepherds to watch their flocks, so seats, benches, stools and orthopedic chairs must be provided. It is winter with likelihood that the poor shepherds might catch a chill, especially during frequent inclement weather, so the union requests that CCTV cameras should be installed and centrally heated observation huts set up, so the shepherds can watch their flocks in cozy comfort.

As for the Angel of the Lord, the union has issued a strong safety warning and been reminded that before shining his or her Glory all around, the shepherds must be issued with glasses capable of filtering out any harmful effects of UVA, UVB, not to speak of Glory lighting.

There is another famous Christmas carol that celebrates the birth of Christ in humble circumstances, traditionally in a stable or cave or outhouse because the hotels and inns were full. It begins: "Away in a manger, no crib for a bed. At this point the P.C. police halted everything, yelling, 'Alert, alert, call Social Services immediately, child abuse."

Have a very Happy Christmas and spare a thought for the original meaning. Even if you are not a Christian or a believer in God, think of the humble birth of the small child who promised a changed world and reflect that if more people followed his precepts, the world would be a better and safer place.

As Isaiah says, "He shall judge between the nations, and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore." Amen.

Kevin Rafferty was editor of The Universe, the U.K. Catholic newspaper.


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