I suppose, given the number of Christian conservatives who wail about the “war on Christmas,” I should not have been surprised at the number of responses to my letter in defence of secular tolerance. The news every day seems determined to remind us that the world is full of true believers determined to force their god on the unwilling majority. Even the smallest suggestion that they should back off a little and give the rest of us some believing room draws a hostile reaction. I wonder how they would feel if the Muslims demanded they fast over Ramadan with the same zeal they feast over Christmas.
Mr. Don Richardson wrote that I should not “push my politically charged religious views on others,” as that would be the same as “SINGING CHRISTMAS MUSIC!” I think he missed my point entirely. I do not oppose Christmas music, except perhaps the ‘Little Drummer Boy’, and travelled to Nanaimo this year specifically to sing them with friends. For years I have also driven to Sidney every Dec. 25 to play at their annual community Christmas dinner. All I said was that we should be aware that many of our fellow citizens have other beliefs that we should be sensitive to, and applauded the schools for trying to accommodate the feelings of the individual students.
I can assure Mr. Richardson that my applause for such sensitivity is not based on my political beliefs; they are based on a clear memory of being forced to participate in mandatory Christianity while a student in our public school system. Ms. Betty Bond chooses to question whether a seven year old can feel such oppression, but I can assure her that I could and did. Perhaps she is not aware that there are evangelical adults who have no hesitation in frightening even toddlers with tales of original sin, hell fire and damnation. By the time I was seven I had been exposed to the horrific exploits of old testament and new alike and was very aware that, if these adults were right, I was going to burn for eternity.
The great Mark Twain wrote that “it is the first duty of every Christian mother to soil her child’s mind, and she does this unsparingly.” My own mother was an exception to this rule, but there were more than enough other adults prepared to teach me guilt, shame and terror to make up for her dereliction. I’m sure they felt it was their painful duty, but in the end all they managed to do was make me appreciate my mom even more.
Ms. Bond insists that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects her right to continue this tradition, but I reply that the Charter guarantees both her freedom of religion and my freedom from hers. She is more than welcome to celebrate as she chooses, but good citizenship and better manners dictate a little more respect for the feelings of others. The zealots who insist “Jesus is the reason for the season” ignore the historical truth that the solstice festival had existed for a long time before Yeshua ben Joseph was born in Bethlehem. They may have claimed it for their own, but they do not own it outright.