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Why the "War on Christmas" Doesn't Translate Across the Pond

Christmas lights in London's Trafalgar Square, St. Martin's in the Field behind.
Christmas lights in London's Trafalgar Square, St. Martin's in the Field behind. Via http://www.wylio.com/credits/Flickr/839615

I’m not sure we can quite get our heads around the latest ‘war’ being waged in the United States – the ‘war on Christmas’.

Visions of the 101st Airborne heading towards the North Pole abound. Anti-reindeer defense weapons, covert elf anti-merriment operatives and a unilateral ban on all copies of A Christmas Carol (in its various media iterations)? Is that what we have come to?

Surely — and thankfully — not, but given some of the rhetoric that is thrown around in the media at this time of year, you might be forgiven for thinking so!

Given that most reporting about religion in the UK and Europe usually includes the phrase “an increasingly secular country," you might think that the "war on Christmas" back on the old sod is even more sustained and sophisticated than in the United States.

Picture heavily fortified nativity scenes being assaulted by atheist flash mobs chanting “HAPPY HOLIDAYS!” if you will.

Well, I’m sorry to tell you that I’ve yet to witness such a terrifying scene on the streets of London.

Hit the Hallelujah Button: The Silent Monks/Boy Scouts of Richfordshire, UK

The German Baroque master composer George Frideric Handel wrote his most famous piece, the English oratorio Messiah, in 1741 and it was performed for the first time publicly on April 13, 1742 in Dublin, Ireland. In the intervening nearly 300 years since its composition, Handel's Messiah — and it's "Hallelujah Chorus" in particular — have become staples of Christmastide, with thousands of renditions recorded or performed by everyone from The Royal Philharmonic and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to Leonard Bernstein's unorthodox restructuring in the 1950s and R&B music producer Quincy Jones' modern "soulful celebration" gospel interpretation in more recent years.

Beginning today, each day until Christmas we will post a different video rendition of the "Hallelujah Chorus" for your holiday enjoyment and edification.

Inside, see the first installment from a silent order of monks (aka the Barton Boy Scout troop of Richfordshire, North Yorkshire, England) performing Handel's classic.

HALLELUJAH!

Could the Riots in England Have Been Averted?

The rioting and rampages that spread across English cities last week have caused severe property destruction and raised public alarm. Writing in London's Guardian, community organizer Stafford Scott describes how he was among the group that on August 6 sought information from the police in Tottenham, a poorer section of London. They wanted an official statement on whether Mark Duggan had been killed by police bullets, as had been reported in the news.

All we really wanted was an explanation of what was going on. We needed to hear directly from the police. We waited for hours outside the station for a senior officer to speak with the family, in a demonstration led by young women. A woman-only delegation went into the station, as we wanted to ensure that this did not become confrontational. It was when the young women, many with children, decided to call it a day that the atmosphere changed, and guys in the crowd started to voice and then act out their frustrations.

This event is what most media accounts have identified as the spark that set England on fire, which has caught the world by surprise. Yet, says Scott, "If the rioting was a surprise, people weren't looking."

Bringing the Church Together for Justice

After having spoken at the Greenbelt Festival in England a number of times now, we at the Center for Action and Contemplation always hoped and planned that we create a similar festival for spirituality and the arts in the United States. We had nothing comparable, and it was a niche waiting and needing to be filled. Therefore, we were honored to be a part of the first Wild Goose Festival in North Carolina last June, and hope that we can convene a truly ecumenical, radical, and socially engaged crowd of people living at the intersection of justice, spirituality, and creativity -- and those who want to be!

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