Parents are demanding a day-long campaign against against snobbery
Nothing wrong with Christmas, as long as there’s a bit of self-improvement for our children as well as the festive jollies. And you can see why non-Catholic parents are campaigning to make the whole of the Christian holy period optional. The Church of England is fond of mealy-mouthed excuses, which says more about its timidity than the cold, clinical efficiency of British secularism.
The coalition party says it respects the diversity of Britain. Yet all its policies are an attack on values that all faiths and none share – until, perhaps, you happen to be an atheist, or a Muslim, or a member of our nation’s newest group – the polyglot.
We should all be free to celebrate anything we want, but this only works when the other parties have the same priorities as ours.
Can the Tories allow Christmas to remain a festive event? Can Nick Clegg let MPs have two weeks off? Can the Lib Dems stick to the same timetable as the Tories?
We need a basic list of exemptions to protect whatever the faddest faith appears to be in the current culture.
Government must give itself a clear way to defeat the Christianity-hating agenda that continues to creep through the major institutions – from schools to academies – at every level.
Publishing, as the Higher Education Standard has done, the case for free schools is a good start. Government needs to become more direct and concise. All else is a shambles.
As the prince of Wales, who holds all the cards, indicated to me a few weeks ago, there must be a commitment to five things. One: Ensure British education is open to all children from all religious and non-religious backgrounds; two: Ensure public money is targeted at faith schools where religious education is of a high quality and delivered at a local level; three: So provide an opportunity for schools not in the state system to provide a children’s religious education of their own choice. Four: Ensure any commitment on free schools applies to other schools as well. And five: Provide pastoral care of all faith communities.
By faith groups’ own admission, we have been bombarded with figures showing up the obvious difference between standards and achievement among Catholic children and those in other schools. Partly as a result, we could be forgiven for assuming that the Christmas spirit is alive and well.
But for us Catholics, there is not just one fortnight, nor a specific day, or even a brief lecture, about Christmas. We recognise that we must demonstrate our worth as a part of society with other children and we must make our voices heard. At the opposite end of the age range we like to think our values are the same as children’s, and we, too, want to nurture our children with an equivalent sense of joy and excitement.
If this is ignored, we will be sending out a clear message to our children, and to all children who would be included in our society, that our sensitivities about identity are fragile.
We must establish a shared Christian theology that precludes religion as a passport to wealth, or to an alternative way of life or to class or race. Religion is a matter of identity and of values, not of a passports and certificates.
With other faiths, this could be a very simple task. I know for me, that I am much better off if my children know they are a Christian. I wish all faiths could have the same opportunity.
Instead of treating people as spiritual appliances that must be made of things rather than individuals, Christians must offer stories of Christ that imbue their faith with understanding and reality.
The aftermath of the St Bartholomew’s Day mass in Clapham Common last year was clearly illustrated by Pope Benedict’s far-reaching address which recognised the importance of the faith he holds for all peoples in Europe.
I do not know anyone who has grown up without questioning the goodness and goodness of Jesus Christ, yet I also know that most of us live as a sort of concealed faith. Our experiences of faith may not always match our clear thinking. We all avoid true beliefs and accept rather vague propositions about things.
But what we should not do is write off the Christian faith. Those who support the Catholic church have a duty to take every possible step to ensure that those with similar convictions, other faiths, and non-believers – that is, no one and everyone – get to share these beliefs – and reap the benefits of the pleasure, goodwill and the physical rewards of discovering the truth of the life-changing nature of Christ.
As my friend Archbishop Philip Wilson of Westminster said: “To say