Thursday, 13 December 2007

A nativity scene for modern Britain

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We all know the various Christian churches spend much of Advent moaning about how people are "forgetting the true message of Christmas", and how we secular types are devaluing their flagship festival in our desire to take time off work, eat, drink, and be merry. We also know they like to complain about depictions of Christmas scenes that don't fit the church-approved image of Jesus et al, such as the "sacrilegious" Red Bull ad we featured on this blog last week.

Considering this, it's probably fair to say that many Christians won't approve of the "Chavtivity" scene featured in this morning's Metro newspaper. The image, entitled "A Glasgow Nativity Scene", is being used widely on online Christmas cards and depicts Mary and Joseph as tracksuited "chavs" sitting in a smashed-up bus shelter while the baby Jesus lies in a Burberry-patterned pram. Mary sits smoking a cigarrette, while Joseph holds a pitbull terrier on a gold lead. The Three Wise Men are also depicted as chavs, and they come bearing gifts of booze, cigarettes and a stolen satellite box. Joseph also seems to appear on a "wanted" poster on the bus shelter notice board.

Elsewhere in the Metro, one reader, an E Mathieson of North Yorkshire, is displeased with secular encroachments on the festive season: "In these times of heightened religious inspection and introspection, I find myself faced with several issues of intellectual clarity and integrity. Is it not fair to ask all atheists to refrain from participating in all aspects of Christmas? Equally, given that December 25 is of no significance within the atheist calendar, should they not ask for the restoration of their denied right to work on that date?"

I'll throw that one out to readers of this blog...

16 comments:

Peter said...

brilliant. though, i had to look up 'chav'. :)

that's a great start - now i'd like to see all sorts of nativity scenes based on all sorts of cultures around the world. would be great!

Tim Footman said...

It's "sacrilegious", not "sacreligious". Good points, though.

Paul Sims said...

Thanks Tim. I hold up my hands, after using them to go back and change my error.

Also, any thoughts from people on the letter in the Metro? Shall we all go to work on Christmas day so as not to devalue the Christians' big day?

Kaz Augustin said...

Actually, when I was single, I used to work on Christmas Days. It was a wonderful time to get some major things out of the way without being bothered by anyone. I also did the same at Easter in all the Christian countries where I've worked.

Now that I'm married, I spend the time with my husband and children, as a loving partner and parent should. After all, when all's said and done, it is a public holiday.

In Australia, I took the approved days off for fairs and horse races, even though I attended neither. In Asia, it's the same for Chinese New Year even though I'm not Chinese...or Taoist. If the relevant society views these days as gazetted public holidays (which they do), rather than religious ones, why should atheists be blamed?

Only a curmudgeonly Christian, I think, could be so damned uncharitable to the rest of his society.

robaker said...

I suppose it takes a special kind of 'intellectual clarity and integrity' to need to ask whether it would be fair for people to be entitled to different amounts of time-off based on their beliefs.

Pete Moss said...

...given that December 25 is of no significance within the atheist calendar,...
The significance of the 25 Dec to Christians is not entirely clear to me - I mean that specific date? What about 6 or 7 Jan to other Christians?
And what's Boxing Day all about?
Ahh, wikipedia has the answer: "Boxing Day in the UK is a day when stores sell their excess Christmas inventory at slightly reduced prices."
All is clear.

Chris said...

I'd love to work on 25 December, or go to the supermarket, or something else useful, but I'm not allowed to because of laws designed to force people to observe religious festivals.

Anonymous said...

Christians, stole the holiday from our pagan ancestors who celebrated this time of year with festivities like, feasting before the food rotted among others.

All religions try to take over the holidays of the previous regieme.

Special day my humanist b....

As somone who lives where the sun sets at 4:00 this time of year, any christian who would deny me my ancestral right to party and splurge can go piety themselves.

Moz said...

For what it's worth, the 'Chavtivity' scene works quite well in Christian myth terms - Mary and Joseph in the original Bible story are a young couple, both apparently poor, she's a teenage mother, they're both away from home sleeping rough. Setting the scene in a bus shelter is no less authentic than setting it in some Alpine snowy wonderland, as is usual these days. And it strips away some of the sentimentality to recapture something of the original point of the story - that pious reaction of 'wait, this is the new king of God's chosen people, he can't be born THERE!'

Tom Rees said...

25 December is the festival of the Invincible Sun (Sol Invictus)! I think Christians should put their work ethic where their mouth is and work through until Easter - and stop messing up our mid-winter festival with their crazy ideas!

I'm distressed to find that christians are increasing appropriating the seasonal imagery - they took everybody's favourite fat elf (the one who gets pulled across the sky by magical reindeer), and called him St Nicholas, of all things! And they stick angels on evergreen trees! Pah!

PS, Io saturnalia!

Kaz Augustin said...

Yes to anonymous and Tom Reed. A very cogent article (by a clergyman) can be found here
on the appropriation of Christmas by the Christians and how it's seen by other people. Good, clear writing.

Quixotematic said...

Oh for crying out loud. One more time then. 'Christmas' is a comparatively recent rebranding of a pagan solar festival. If anyone 'ought' to stop celebrating Yule then it is the christianists themselves. Remember the last time we had a christian fundamentalist government? Cromwell tried to ban Yule because it was pagan. Having failed, the church integrated the festival, just as they have every other prechristian tradition which they could not stamp out.

All together now:

"Oi! Christians! Leave our feast alone!"

Quixotematic said...

Oh for crying out loud. One more time then. 'Christmas' is a comparatively recent rebranding of a pagan solar festival. If anyone 'ought' to stop celebrating Yule then it is the christianists themselves. Remember the last time we had a christian fundamentalist government? Cromwell tried to ban Yule because it was pagan. Having failed, the church integrated the festival, just as they have every other prechristian tradition which they could not stamp out.

All together now:

"Oi! Christians! Leave our feast alone!"

Anonymous said...

I think it should be necessary, if religionists are so intent on naming atheist-y / science-y thought a religion then we should be allowed the birthdays of all major scientists, philosophers, thinkers and humanists away from work to celebrate our "religion".

I'm just looking for a bit of consistency!

Anonymous said...

Talkin aboot????

joshly said...

that's a great start.........