The reason for the season

24/12/2019

Jim Hopkins remembers Christmases past:

. . . Christmas always stirs strong feelings and vivid memories for me.

I grew up south of the tracks in Christchurch when coal was king and fired the steam trains that thundered through. Dad was the vicar at St Mary’s Addington and, for him, Christmas was one of the most important times of the year.

Which should come as no surprise, though it may do now.

A birth in Bethlehem is, after all, the reason we actually have a Christmas holiday. And that birth used to be an integral part of the celebration.

Recognised in school nativity plays, on the wireless, in newspapers, its story touched most people’s lives.

Mary and Joseph and the Three Wise Men shared the limelight with Mr Claus and his elves.

Needless to say, the vicar’s offspring took their place in the pews – along with the rest of the community. Service first, pud and presents later. That was the drill.

I can still see the interior of that old church, dark timber beams, dust motes drifting in the light filtered through stained glass windows. I can hear the carols. I can smell the Christmas lillies. These memories return every year, as time grows longer, becoming ever stronger.

But the Christmas I remember is a faded thing. As the churches have lost (or surrendered) their influence, so faith has left the festive season.

Christmas today is a strictly secular affair with scant public recognition of its religious roots. The establishment avoids them and the media simply ignores them.

Bad for business or just old hat, anything biblical is off the agenda. Those who run the fourth estate may argue that’s because fewer people say they’re Christian, to which the reply might be, maybe that’s because you’ve spent decades dismissing their beliefs.

Whatever the reasons, it saddens me that the spiritual dimension of Christmas has withered as it has. Because the nativity story literally marks the beginning of a faith which, whatever the woke folk may say, is a core piece of our heritage and the foundation of our morals, manners and laws. For that reason alone, it has a place on Christmas day. . .

A few days ago I read a media release from a government entity (which I now can’t find) explaining how it’s sensitive to employees who don’t celebrate Christmas.

Fair enough, but sensitivity shouldn’t mean pretending it’s something else, especially when it’s not applied to celebrations for other religions.

No-one pretends that Diwali isn’t a Hindu festival, we’re not asked to skirt round, we shouldn’t be offended if someone wishes us happy Hanukkah so why the pussy-footing around Christmas?

You don’t have to be a Christian to understand and acknowledge the reason for the season.

You don’t have to believe what Christians do.

And Christian or not, we’d all be better off with more reflection on the real message of hope, joy, peace and love.


Religious minority victims of violence

18/10/2008

TV3 reports  that people from a religious minority have been victims of violence in India.

Indian church leaders have said that Christians killed in recent clashes were “sacrificial lambs” targeted by hard-line Hindus seeking an advantage in upcoming national elections.

The All India Christian Council said the toll after nearly two months of sporadic violence has reached 59 dead and 50,000 displaced. Officials in the eastern state of Orissa, site of the worst violence, say 34 people have been killed.

The recent violence began after Hindu activists blamed Christians for the slaying of a Hindu leader killed in Orissa on August 23. Retaliatory attacks left scores dead, dozens of churches destroyed and thousands of people homeless, despite the government’s claim that Maoists killed the Hindu leader.

I’d have thought a religion which holds cows sacred might have a similar regard for people. But then, is there any greater hypocrisy than that which prompts people to use a creed that promotes the sanctity of life as an excuse for violence?


Don’t have to be Green to be green

04/08/2008

He had been drinking and there was something about his eyes that suggested he had been popping outside to smoke something other than tobacco, but there was no doubting his conviction.

 

“If you’ve got any concern at all about the environment and the future of the planet you’d have to be Green,” he said.

 

I told him that was like me telling me he couldn’t be a Christian unless he was a Presbyterian. He didn’t get the analogy, nor did he believe it was possible to share his concern for the environment without supporting his politics. While he is not necessarily representative of the Greens his attitude helps to explain why his Party’s dealings with farmers do little to dampen fears of their policies and agenda.

 

There is an evangelical zeal to some of their pronouncements and beliefs which makes many who share their concern for the environment uncomfortable. This discomfort is increased because much of what they stand for and advocate is at the radical left end of the political spectrum, not just in environmental matters but in social and economic areas too.

 

However, it is possible to be not just concerned about, but committed to improving the quality of our air, soil and water; conserving scarce resources; and generally minimising our environmental footprints while also supporting free trade and an open economy.

 

The Green missionary in the bar couldn’t accept that conventional farmers can be environmentalists too, but when our land is our biggest asset it is in our best interests to look after it. And if they can’t credit us with doing this for its own sake there is also a strong financial motivation for implementing good environmental practices. Increasingly competitive markets and sophisticated consumers are demanding proof that the food they eat and fabric they wear come from clean, green farms.

 

With a higher value on quality there are financial gains from being green, but some struggle to realise the reverse is also true and that environmental improvements do not just come from, but require, better financial returns. Attaining and maintaining high standards of air, soil and water quality is not cheap. It takes a lot of money to conserve native bush; plant trees to provide shelter, reduce erosion, counter CO2 emissions; fence then establish riparian strips along water ways and do all the other things necessary for environmental protection and enhancement.

 

It may be a cliché, but it is still true: good farmers are not land owners; we are stewards with a very real responsibility to ensure we look after it for future generations. And when we are faced with evidence, day by day, year by year, that literally and figuratively we reap what we sow; it is easy to understand why we must be green. Although contrary to the belief of the bloke in the bar, that doesn’t mean we also have to be Green.

 


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