A small request: please read this article in its entirety, or not at all. I am making a gentle point, not attacking anyone, and if you stop reading half way through you will most likely think I’m saying something completely different from what I am saying. Thank you!
This image has been floating around on the net lately:
I totally understand the sentiment, and I’m terrified I’ll be seen as rude to those friends who may have shared it via Facebook, on their blogs, or via email recently. I am not attacking you, and I completely respect your feelings over this holiday. However, I feel that sentiment should be mutual.
In my life, I moved from one culture to another when I married, from one country to aonther, and from one continent to another, when I emigrated. I now live among people with a culture different from mine, in a society rich with immigrants from all over the world, giving me opportunity to meet an even wider variety of people. It opens your eyes like nothing else to have the profound differences between people brought home to you in such a concrete way (as well as the astonishing things we have in common no matter how vast the differences between us). From that perspective, I have trouble with the image.
There are in excess of 700 established religions in the world. Divide them into their sects, and the number soars to a few thousand. Then you have people who have no religion, a part of the population which is growing rapidly. A huge number of these people also celebrate Christmas, and they don’t do so because they are celebrating Jesus’ birth. They could have a number of reasons for celebrating Christmas: peace, unity, tolerance, generosity, love, sharing, family, gratitude, fun, rest – the list is a long one.
Claiming this holiday for a specific religion is, I believe, unwise, and unlikely to gain any appreciation for your religion from those who don’t share it. Instead, it claims motivation on others’ behalf which they simply don’t have. If I were to post an image claiming greed is the reason for the season, you could rightly take offence if for you, it’s seriously about the birth of Jesus, and you’re motivated by a desire to celebrate that. Just so, for you to claim motivation for the holiday season in that way can make others feel uncomfortable, and achieves the opposite of what you’re aiming for – if you’re aiming to convey the message that Christianity is a good thing.
This might seem over the top and hypersensitive, and it is. There’s a reason for that. Christianity has some seriously bad history in some places in the world, where it is associated with coersion and force. Perhaps that’s why I couldn’t just ignore this: I am surrounded by people who are often angry with the way Catholicism was pushed down their throats, and the severe harm the forceful, coercive element of the faith did, that assumption of a right to push what you believe onto others. The thing about sharing a sentiment online is that you must consider a worldwide audience.
Why not change one simple thing in that image, which changes everything:
Just think about it.