Saturday, December 12, 2009

The greatest civilizing force in history deserves better.

This from David Warren, a journalist and columnist for the Ottawa Citizen:
Even so traditional an arbiter of public fashion as the White House now sends out greetings on Muslim occasions that are extremely pointed. To mark Eid, for instance, a devout spiritual message and special video were provided this year, containing a specifically Muslim declaration from President Obama, together with a reminder from his Cairo speech of how hard he is working to make sure Muslims everywhere are able to fulfil all their religious obligations.

By comparison, the Jewish Passover and Christian Easter were tossed off together with a generic statement emphasizing multiculturalism. "They are both occasions to th ink more deeply about the obligations we have to ourselves and the obligations we have to one another, no matter who we are, where we come from, or what faith we practice." Like I say: a toss-off.

Now, Jews still outnumber Muslims in the U.S., and Christians outnumber both by an extremely wide margin. Indeed, among Arab immigrants in the U.S. alone, there are probably still more Christians than Muslims. (Precise figures are not collected by the U.S. census; only estimates can be obtained.) Moreover, explicitly Christian greetings from the White House were a commonplace through previous centuries of the American experience, when it was understood that the U.S., like Canada, was a "basically Christian" country. Our people still are, our governments aren't.

Up here in Canada, even more explicit Christian greetings were a commonplace until little more than a generation ago. Our prime min ister plays his "ethnic cards" much closer to his chest and, for the most part, leaves individual members of his government to deliver the well-wishing to their respective denominational constituencies. The same politically correct syndrome is at work, however, known to everyone in the public replacement of greetings like the traditional "Merry Christmas" with the sterile and therefore slightly offensive "Season's Greetings." In both countries, self-appointed legal vigilantes from "civil liberties" lobbies are constantly at work, identifying and challenging any public display of Christian religious identity. On the other hand, organizations like CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations), which has an Ottawa office, busy themselves with similar interventions to ensure that Muslim identities are strongly asserted.

Without question, I will receive complaints from one or another of these vigilantes for simply spelling out what everyone knows to be true. I will be told, at least in e-mail, that, in effect, any pro-Christian assertion, or even a defence of existing Christian interests, is by definition a manifestation of bigotry. There will be supplementary anti-Christian and, invariably, anti-Catholic diatribes, too. I am used to this.

In the name of a redefined "tolerance" -- a virtue itself originally inferred from the explicitly Christian injunction to "judge not that ye be not judged" -- a campaign of progressive intolerance towards the Christian majority has become a feature of contemporary public life, throughout the "Western" -- i.e., originally Christian -- world. The bureaucracies of the European Union, too, have gone to tireless lengths to strip visible Christian symbolism out of public life across Europe, on the same grounds: that toleration today demands "zero tolerance." Not mer ely the anti-Christian tone, but the malicious inversion of the meaning of the word "tolerance" would have shocked our native-born ancestors only two generations ago. Many alive today are simply befuddled by the scale of this revolution in public life, and of the general inversion of societal values they have witnessed within their own lifetimes.

Elsewhere in the world, in many countries where they are minorities instead of majorities, Christians are actively persecuted. From what I can learn, this is the case in most countries where Christians are a minority. It is not as if our Western "secularization" were a response to some planetary trend, to soften public expressions of religious sentiment, for the sake of peace and quiet. To the contrary, especially in the Islamic world, but even in predominantly Hindu India, state sponsorship of religious identity has been dramatically increasing.

Against this background, it is incumbent upon Christians, everywhere, and as ever, to ignore intimidation. As the old parable goes, do not hide your lamp under a basket, but use it to cast light all around. Do not hesitate to make an example of yourself, or if need be, to be made an example of.
Warren's remarks seem to me so pertinent, I have quoted most of his November 29th column, but for the rest of it go here.

1 comment:

Kevin said...

We are in agreement on this one. It is all well and good if you wish to send Merry Christmas or Happy Hannukah or Have a good Eid or to send nothing at all or something completely banal and bland. But to send one and not another seems disingenuous.

This is my take on how tolerance can best work. The principle is to treat everyone as adults.
I happen to be a civil servant and religion is a touchy matter, especially around this time of the year. When I ran a lab we had folks from the largest of the worlds religions, Agnosticism, Atheism, Christianity, Judaism, Hindu, Islam. What I put forward was instead that everyone could decorate their workspace as they wished. But anything that could impose upon someone else, music, incense, etc. would be left out.

It actually worked rather well. I think it was because we were all respectful of one another though we disagreed quite fundamentally.

I'm disappointed in the President's handling of several things and this one joins the list. Tolerance does not mean kicking Christians and catering to Muslims: It should be expressing ordinate love of all while living your own faith openly.

Oh well preaching to the choir. :) Take care Gil.
Ad Astra Per Aspera,