The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'theocrats'
It's December, Christmas sales are entering their third month, and Britain's right-wing tabloids are full of stories about politically-correct do-gooders banning Christmas to avoid offending minorities. The problem is, further investigation reveals the stories to be utter nonsense. Birmingham hasn't ordered Christmas to be rebranded as "Winterval" (the name was used for a three-month shopping promotion in 1998, and never since), the evil secularist LibDems in Luton haven't replaced it with a Harry Potter festival, and as for the millionaire who was banned from putting up a light display outside his home, that had nothing to do with enforcing secularism and everythign to do with the large illuminated snowmen, amplifiers blaring Christmas songs and increased traffic and crime.
So what's going on here? Well, it looks like the "war on Christmas" is a quite deliberate ploy by a loud minority of religious traditionalists trying to claim more cultural clout than today's largely secular society entitles them to.
"There's something very complicated going on here," says Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society. "It has to do with the contest between Christianity and Islam: Christians are becoming very alarmed about the progress they see Islam making in this country, and they fear their own festivals will be overwhelmed. I was doing a phone-in the other day, and everybody who rang in was saying, 'They're banning Christmas!' So I said: 'Who? Where? Who's standing outside a church saying you can't go in? Who's coming and knocking on your door at 6am and asking if there's a nativity set in your house?' It's quite dangerous, I think, to incite this kind of resentment against a perceived enemy."
This year, though, the defenders of Christmas aren't only invoking the fear that nebulous Muslim forces might be about to obliterate Britain's traditional religion. Simultaneously, they have also aligned themselves with Muslim groups, arguing that the real enemy is secularisation. It's a position well-crafted for the historical moment, and for the currently fashionable notion of Britain as comprised of groups defined above all by their faith (even though barely 10% of us regularly attend any kind of religious service).Unsurprisingly, the War-On-Christmas panic is not indigenously British, but, like many forms of religious chest-beating, imported from the Colonies, in this case, America and its culture war:
Then, last year, the War on Christmas received a massive boost when it exploded on to the American political landscape, thanks primarily to two Fox News anchormen, John Gibson and Bill O'Reilly. Gibson had a vested interest, having just published a book entitled The War On Christmas: How The Liberal Plot To Ban The Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought. (A note in the interests of full disclosure: O'Reilly, as I enjoy telling people whenever possible, accused me of "spout[ing] incredible nonsense" earlier this year after I wrote a story about a speech in which he invited al-Qaida to attack the liberal stronghold of San Francisco; previously, he had speculated that the Guardian "might be edited by Osama bin Laden".)(Btw, has the atheists-are-taking-away-Christmas thing spread to Australia yet? I imagine when it does, the federal government will swing into action, using its expanded powers to come down like a tonne of bricks on any officials daring to take the Christ out of
The BBC News has a piece on the Exclusive Brethren, who, aside from their love-in with te Tories in Australia, have been trying to get into bed with New Zealand's conservative National Party:
The group was then accused of seeking to influence post-election negotiations by aggressively lobbying minor political parties to form a coalition with Mr Brash's centre-right National party.
Most disturbingly, private detectives claimed they were hired by the group to dig up dirt on the private lives of senior politicians in the Labour party, including the Prime Minister Helen Clark and her husband.Apparently their political allegiances arise not just from the theocratic hard line they take (after all, if they isolate themselves from sinful worldly society, what's the point of electing governments to punish and straighten this sinfulness among the nonbelievers? It'd be like, say, an Orthodox Jewish group lobbying to ban pork or something.) as from their business interests:
Like all small business people, they need a world of de-regulation and lower taxes, he says, adding that their interests in the agricultural sector would naturally pit them against the Greens.Ominously enough, Australia's right-wing Prime Minister John Howard is on record as saying that he has no problems with the Exclusive Brethren's values, and that they're a lot more in line with mainstream Australia than a lot of other groups (by which, I'm guessing, he means those latte-sipping SBS-watching inner-city socialist cosmopolitanists).
As the Victorian state election approaches, shadowy extreme-right-wing religious group The Exclusive Brethren (whose religion prohibits them from voting, though apparently says nothing about exerting influence in favour of conservative parties) have beem taking out newspaper ads attacking the Greens.
A few interesting facts about the Exclusive Brethren: other than being staunch supporters of socially right-wing parties in various countries (though, seemingly, not in Britain, where they originated) and having a penchant for anonymous whispering campaigns against progressive politicians, the Exclusive Brethren are the sect into which the occultist Aleister Crowley was born.
Is U.S. foreign policy guided by Biblical prophesy? An article which argues that the dispensationalist strain of fundamentalist Christianity has a disturbingly strong influence on U.S. foreign policy, from the need to conquer Iraq ("Babylon") to tacit support for Israeli expansionism to contempt for the U.N. ("the Antichrist") and the European Union. Given that dispensationalism is all about fulfilling prophesies to bring about the battle of Armageddon and the end of the world, that cannot be a good thing.