AGAR: A truly diverse society allows people to celebrate Christmas

Jerry Agar

Published:December 2, 2019

The 115th annual Santa Claus parade wove along Bloor St. E. Today with runners, clowns, marching bands, floats and of course the grand marshal himself Santa Claus himself on Sunday November 17, 2019. Jack Boland/Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network

It happens every year. Amid the jingle bells, the “Ho, ho, hos,” and the Christmas music in the malls, we hear the annual complaints about the war on Christmas.

The idea behind these complaints is there’s a conspiracy to take “Christ” out of the season and to replace the word “Christmas” with “Holiday” or “Winter” when attached to trees, concerts, parties and shopping.

I don’t think there is a war on Christmas so much as there is a confused and somewhat rude attachment to a dysfunctional definition of the concepts of tolerance, inclusion and diversity.

It comes to mind following a Twitter war — that actually does exist — when Meredith Shaw, a guest co-host on CTV’s talk show The Social, was discussing the story of Mayor Amy Schuler Goodwin of Charleston, W. Va., who renamed the town’s annual “Christmas Parade” the “Charleston Winter Parade.”

Shaw said that people who don’t celebrate Christmas should not have to live somewhere that has a Christmas parade.

Ms. Shaw’s view is the opposite of inclusive and tolerant. She is pressing for people to live in a homogenous — not diverse — community of belief in nothing. A lack of belief of any kind does not require tolerance. It is emptiness.

There is nothing to be against when there is nothing to be for.

As a Christian, I am happy to see people of other religions or of no religion put up a tree, exchange gifts, cook a big meal and celebrate with family and friends the wonder and joy of those relationships.

They don’t have to go to a candlelight service and sing Holy Night by the warm glow of so many small flames illuminating a church. They don’t have to pray. They don’t have to do anything they don’t want to do and they are not being hurt by those who practice any or all of it.

Christmas is a season of giving and it is true that you don’t have to believe in Jesus to love and honour your friends and family.

But those who avail themselves of the traditions have invited themselves into at least a part of the Christmas custom. That doesn’t then give them the right to trash the parts they don’t like. It is beyond rude.

When I have attended Passover Seders with Jewish friends, I wasn’t required to become Jewish, but I was required to be polite and respectful. I can’t have dinner and then trash the Book of Exodus and demand to be free from any mention of the actual event of Passover.

If we truly believe in diversity and tolerance, we welcome people to celebrate their own traditions and religious holidays publicly and unmolested. We celebrate with them to a greater or lesser degree as we choose, but we let them be themselves. That is the very definition of diversity and tolerance.

Perhaps Ms. Shaw believes no one should have to live in a community called Brampton where they celebrate the Diwali Festival of Lights at the public YMCA, or in Toronto where Eid was celebrated at the public Woodbine Park.

Do we all have the right to be free of a community in which some people celebrate Diwali, Yom Kipper, the birth of Guru Nanak or Eid?

Or are we in fact, tolerant and diverse?

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