Friday, January 09, 2009

Tolerance Deconstructed

A letter to the editor recently appeared in our local newspaper. I attach it along with my response.

The Citizen
Published: Friday, January 09, 2009

Dear Editor:

The "Christ in Christmas" columns and e-mails have made the rounds. If you didn't get yours, I'll paraphrase for you: the phrase "Merry Christmas" is not a salutation, but a means test of tribal purity. If you use it, you're in the tribe; if you say "Season's Greetings" you are depriving the tribe, by not pandering to them and telling them how special they are.

Put Christ in Christmas? Who's forcing anyone not to? Nobody. The only group trying to tell others what to think, what to do, and how to do it are those demanding that everyone "Put Christ in Christmas".

Atheist author George Orwell coined the phrase "double-speak" to describe such blatant deception.

The real issue here is that state and business endorsement for one viewpoint to the exclusion of all others is waning, and the previously privileged can't accept being treated the same as everyone else.

If that sounds familiar, it is -- privileged groups reacted the same way to equality for women, non-whites, and homosexuals. Identical arguments have been used against all these movements.

Religious prejudice exists year round and is only voiced at Christmas as an appeal to tradition.

This issue is important because it is part of a much wider societal struggle.

Secular society permits people to do what they want on their own property, on their own time. However, our state (including schools) and businesses cater to everyone, not just the 55 per cent of British Columbians who self-identified as Christian in the 2001 Census.

It's discriminatory for government to privilege any one religion, or religion generally. It's bad for businesses to do so, so they don't. State and business therefore wish everyone happy holidays, not just one group.

Those who "can't abide hearing Happy Holidays" are intolerant of all non-Christian religions, and all who practice no religion.

That's 45 per cent of British Columbians, and growing. Why is this bigotry still so mainstream?

Why do we have to read, every December, columns and e-mails from the same theocratic bigots, advocating the imposition of their views upon everyone else?

Sheena Shaw, Duncan


Tolerance Deconstructed

Sheena Shaw plays the role of this year's village scold with her broad brushed sentencing to the gulag reserved for "theocratic bigots" and the "intolerant", of all who support the rather modest proposal that a centuries old religious feast day and civic holiday season be referred to by its proper name. Were it not for her larger agenda, Ms. Shaw would be no more fussed about these emails and columns than she would be if the subject was whether to call that special day in February Groundhog Day or Rodent Day. Using Ms. Shaw's logic, those who insist on calling it the former are members of a privileged tribe who are prejudiced toward marmots, squirrels and others who are as perfectly capable of casting a shadow as the denizen of Punxsatawaney.

She has an agenda however, so with no trace of irony, she condemns as intolerant all who honour tradition, and inserts the very au courant attack on Christians who according to Ms. Shaw are engaged in year round acts of religious prejudice. The many non-Christians who favour the continued use of traditional descriptions of people, places and events will surely be surprised to be included in Ms. Shaw's round up of those who don't practice her secular religion.

Ms. Shaw is clearly offended by these traditionalists. Judging by the examples of the sins of the privileged she lists, I suspect she is a strong advocate of new traditions, spawned in our modern era of deconstructed tolerance. Perhaps the best example is Gay Pride Day. No doubt she staunchly demands that tolerance be afforded to this new tradition. Christians will never attract hundreds of thousands of people to the streets of every major North American city to watch a parade of joyful believers celebrate Corpus Christi. Ms. Shaw must know she is on the winning side and could as a result be more charitable to the remnant of what she labels the previously "privileged".

It is not only Christians who witness with some bemusement, the phenomena of bright and gaily bedecked floats sponsored by major corporations and financial institutions, populated by thong clad writhing young men and women, parading down our city streets in an annual extravaganza. It is starkly at odds with Ms. Shaw's thesis of an intolerant majority that such a spectacle is not only tolerated but also actively encouraged by all levels of government and business. I have not heard of any movement to attack the Gay Pride movement for having co-opted the words gay and pride, nor do people insist that the event should be referred to as Homosexualist Lifestyle Celebration Day.

So Ms. Shaw in the true spirit of tolerance and inclusivity, why don't you let us keep the word Christmas and you can have gay and pride. It is all in the spirit of fair trade.

Ben Buan
Mill Bay BC