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We wish you a Merry Christmas. Do we? As the year winds down and the time for baking a Christmas pudding approaches, the words “Merry Christmas” have become fraught with controversy.

An article was published in The Courier Mail stating that Jesus has been banned in a school. The article discusses a report from the Queensland education department that cautions students enrolled in religious instruction programs against ‘evangelizing’ other students. Evangelism was shown via the exchange of Christmas cards, references to Jesus’ birth, and the creation of Christmas tree decorations.

Starbucks and Tesco, two of the world’s largest corporations, are forgoing Christmas greetings in favor of more inclusive statements such as ‘everyone is welcome.’ And the ‘Happy Holidays’ or ‘War on Christmas’ controversy even made way into the 2016 US Presidential election, when then-candidate Donald Trump proclaimed at a rally: ‘I promised my first audience in Wisconsin that we are going to come back here someday, and we are going to say, “Merry Christmas” again.’ ‘We wish you a wonderful Christmas. Thus, everyone had a Merry Christmas. ‘We wish you a happy new year, but we wish you a Merry Christmas.’

The discussion over Christmas cards shows our society’s rising pluralism. However, is this trend a result of increased cultural sensitivity, a rising indifference in organized religion, or a culture war between liberals and conservatives?

According to Dr Maria Rae, a Deakin professor in Politics and Policy, there is evidence to support both the rising acceptance of many cultures and the government and media’s use of Christmas as a ‘political instrument.’ Dr Rae says that although Christianity remains the most prevalent religion in Australia, the 2017 ABS Census also demonstrates how Australia is growing more diverse, with an increasing number of individuals identifying as non-religious.

As a society, we are less religious than ever.

In the 2016 Census, the most often selected response to the optional poll question asking individuals to identify their religion was ‘no religion.’ While Christianity remained the most prevalent religion throughout its dominions, the increase in Australians who did not identify as religious reflected a significant move away from the country’s historic Christian character.

While an increasing number of products are labelled with inclusive terms such as holiday trees rather than Christmas trees or festive crackers rather than Christmas crackers, the changing role of religion in Australian society is credited with contributing significantly to the rise of political correctness and more inclusionary communications – depending on your perspective.

‘This does not seem to be a significant problem for most Australians, since surveys indicate that they oppose the prohibition of Christmas carols in schools.’ Dr Rae asserts. ‘It seems as if certain members of the media and politicians are presuming that an Education Department policy review would result in a ban on carols.’

Is Christmas a political tool for the government?

According to Dr Rae, the Christmas cards issue is about more than a growing tolerance for individuals of other religious and cultural backgrounds. According to Dan Cassino, a political scientist in the United States, ‘these discussions over what to say during Christmas are often politicized as part of a cultural war between conservatives and liberals.’

Thus, when President Trump said that he was reintroducing Christmas, he was disregarding the reality that Obama wished people a Merry Christmas and decorated the White House with Christmas trees.

Christmas controversy means more viewership

The media plays another significant role in the developing dispute around the phrase “Merry Christmas.” Dr Rae thinks that tabloid media outlets such as Fox News in the United States have elevated the discussion far above what it is in ordinary life.

In Australia, big shop Big W drew outrage after rebranding one of its items, a tree, as a ‘holiday tree’ rather than the more conventional ‘Christmas tree. The dispute gained national attention and was extensively shared, prompting several customers to express their dissatisfaction on Big W’s social media accounts.

Interestingly, the retailer did not exclude Christmas from all its items, underlining the holiday season’s focus in political correctness.

How Christmas’s political correctness impacts you

Whether it’s because our views toward religion are shifting or because Christmas has become a flashpoint in the left-right cultural war, the argument walks a delicate line between free speech and inclusion.

We would not like to live in a society where we cannot freely and honestly discuss and debate religion without fear of offending someone. ‘Australians should also have the freedom to participate in religious activities or to abstain from them in accordance with their religious convictions. However, I believe that Australia has struck the proper balance in this regard.’ Dr Rae asserts

What happens when a Priest wishes to prohibit the use of the term “Christmas”?

In November 2017, an Irish priest urged Christians to abandon the use of the name Christmas, claiming that it had been appropriated by ‘Santa and reindeer.’ ‘We have lost Christmas, as we have lost Easter, and should utterly reject the phrase,’ Father Desmond O’Donnell said.

So, why can’t we say Merry Christmas anymore?

Well, we can! It is just that some people don’t like being wished Merry Christmas because they may be non-religious, or they may be from a different religion. We as global citizens do need to understand that people have their religious preferences, and we must respect that.

Also, forced conversions and evangelism are real problems that are growing! There are many outcries in various Asian countries where evangelists and Christian missionaries use lies and deceits to covert people into Christianity. YouTube is ripe with such videos. Look it up! These things must stop.

No one is asking you to stop saying Merry Christmas, just don’t force it on others. When that happens, retaliation occurs!

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