Mark Bahnisch in Larvatus Prodeo has a post celebrating the start of the festive season (for political junkies, who had to get the election out of the way before they even noticed that the decorations were up in October). In passing, he comments that:
it’s interesting to note, just quietly, that it’s almost always business groups not the dreaded Maoist teachers or socialistic councils who do the “kill Xmas for multiculti thing”.
It struck me how true that is. Ten years ago, I was one of the people at my company agitating for non specific seasons greeting cards, rather than our traditional Christmas cards, because we were expanding into Asia (particularly Malaysia) at the time, and it seemed sensible. (I am ashamed to admit that until writing this post it didn’t occur to me that there were quite a few non Christian members of our own staff at the time, including one third of our celebrated team which contained a Bosnian Muslim, a Bosnian Serb, and a Bosnian Croat – only one of them an actual war refugee, the Serb, from memory).
And the reason that it makes good business sense to be non specific about Christianity at Christmas time is that there are real people in Australia who are not Christian, who would prefer not to be marginalised by everyone just assuming that they are Christian.
In contrast, at Chatterboy’s government school, his Year 1 concert contains two dreary modern Christmas songs, which have led to us having to explain the whole Christmas story in great detail, something we’d avoided till now.
Of course one of the things that education does is indoctrinate (all business is trying to do is sell things), which is the reason that there is so much passion from the Christian side complaining whenever a specifically Christian celebration (such as the end of season school concert) is watered down by a school recognising the diversity of cultural backgrounds that might exist there.
For me, I love the choral aspect of Christmas – Handel’s Messiah, the four part a capella Christmas carol singers you often get around town, and the traditional english carols (God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen is a personal favourite) which were part of my anglican childhood. And even though it makes little sense in our climate, those decorations which invoke the cosy winter cottage bulwarked against the snow always give me a warm inner glow.
But evangelical Christians are trying to subtly influence our school. The local Anglican minister is having an influence over the Christmas concert by maximising the religious content, and minimising the more traditional carols that are harder to understand and might therefore lead to less religious conversion. As an atheist, I find it slightly irritating, but it’s a good opportunity for the comparative religion lesson that we wish was available at school*. And our boys don’t seem too fazed by their difference from the mainstream that comes from us explaining to them that we don’t believe in God. But we celebrate an essentially secular Christmas anyway (with presents and decorations). It must be much harder if your religion precludes you from general participation.
Under the current provision for special religious education it is not possible for schools to provide alternative subjects in time set aside for special religious education. Only approved religious persuasions can operate lessons during this time.
So Chatterboy general gets to sit in the library and read his current book, which suits him down to the ground.