Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Christmas Decorations and The Sun: Some Thoughts Upon

Occasionally I check out The Sun to see what absurdities it is purveying at any particlar time on its front page. Today offers us nothing on Iraq, nothing in print on Brown's pre budget statement or global warming or indeed anything recognisable as news at all. Instead we are treated to a blast on the subject of Christmas decorations which some local authorities are banning in case they offend people who are not Christian.

Well, apart from judging this a pitifully unimportant headline story- but we're used to soap stars' private lives or even the plot lines of soaps occupying the banner headlines of our best-selling 'newspaper'- I happen to agree with Murdoch's mouthpiece that such PC restrictions in a Christian country are manifestly ridiculous. But I'm forced to add that I do have a kind of related objection- unrelated to political correctness of any kind- and that is to displays on the exteriors of houses depicting, in glorious technicolour neon lights, such scenes as Santa driving his sled though the snow or huge Christmas trees winking 'Happy Christmas' at passers-by.

I know this is my inner Victor Meldrew speaking and that such displays do little or no harm to anything except my blood pressure, but I just find them so mind-numbingly inane and tasteless, I cannot imagine what the houseowners concerned are seeking to achieve. [Sorry about this- my Meldrew got the upper hand].

I have an objection to describing our country as "Christian". One million out of sixty attend church every week. We are "Christian" only in the sense that the head of state is also head of the church. But this is not legitimate: it remains so only by virtue of our conservative constitution. To say our country is "Christian" is to judge countries and institutions solely by their past performance, ignoring any facet of cultural change.
Yes, but our official religion is Christian and culturally Christmas has long been celebrated in a Christian fashion- though I'd agree the real religious content has been vestigial for recent times.
My point was that we should ignore what is "official" or "constitutional" when aspiring for an accurate description of Britain. Rather, we should bear in mind two things. First, a generic rule: that it is misleading to describe Britain, which has significant social cleavages, as anything other than "diverse". Secondly, we should look to the people, not the political system, which inevitably lags behind societal change. And when I look at Britons, I see lots of religious beliefs (mostly Judeo-Christian), even more agnostics, and a fair few atheists. To describe this cocktail as "Christian" is misleading, and, when applied politically, has the potential to result in hugely unjust and damaging legislation.
Britain is a christian country. The overwhelmingly majority of British people describe themselves as Christian, even if they are slow to follow the doctrine. If that offends people then I don't care. No in fact if that offends people then I am happy. They are welcome to leave the country at any time they, or perhaps in the future we, choose. My wife is not a Christian, but would never have dreamt of complaining about the culture of a country that offered her hospitality.

Agree about the stupid decorations. Almost like a freak show in parts near to where I lived. Ban it. Public nuisance. End of.
Skipper one use for them is that they help guide drunken students home. At the end of the road on which my student house was located, there was one of these monstrosities- but it did make coming back after parties in december really easy- no danger of not being able to see anything, the whole road was lit up like a...

Christmas Tree.
It's rare but somehow kind of pleasant to find we agree on something.
Accept this utility of the 'monstrosities' but what about car drivers being distracted by them?
The Christmas decorations are as tasteless as the Sun which loves them. And it is wonderfully ironic that the Sun, a newspaper which is about as far away from the charity of Christianity as it is possible to be, should be championing it. We are a christian country if our heritage and tradition has any part in determining our present cultural status, and it does; we are clearly not a christian country in terms of active belief - and the lights that councils want to ban are a fantastic testament to the non-Christian materialism of this season, so we could always ban them as being offensive to Christianity....?
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