Friday, December 23, 2016

Poor Oppressed Christian Propaganda

Who's the real Scrooge here, anyway?

I suppose, with everything that's gone on this year, it was too much to hope for a holiday season without any stupid nonsense from the Poor Oppressed Christian crowd. The latest is what turned out to be a highly distorted story pushed by Breitbart and picked up by Fox News. According to the initial version of the story, a Jewish family "shut down" an elementary school production of A Christmas Carol. In fact, all the family did was ask that their child be excused from participating in the play, and the school later shut down the production for unrelated reasons.

Centerville Elementary School has put on a production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol for years, but educators have grown concerned that the play requires 20 hours of classroom time to produce. Changing state educational standards no longer allow for that luxury, Principal Tom Kramer noted in a post explaining why the school had cancelled the play. Educators also called off the production because they wished “to be respectful of the many cultural and religious backgrounds represented by the students.” (A Christmas Carol is unmistakably Christian.)

By coincidence, a Jewish family had requested that their child be excused from performing in the play back in September. They did not complain or ask that the play be cancelled, and the school insists that their request had nothing to do with the decision to cancel the production. But as Breitbart and Fox News’ Todd Starnes reported the story, “unnamed parents” complained about the line “God bless us, every one” and essentially forced the school to scrap the play.

These untrue claims fit neatly into both outlets’ “War on Christmas” narrative—and, as intended, sparked outrage among readers. “It would be nice if we had the addresses of those concerned citizens and, I bet, this info is known to people living in the area,” one commenter wrote in response to the Breitbart story. Several commenters posted the address of the school, and a self-professed white nationalist urged others to “take action.”

What I find pretty remarkable about this whole thing is that even if the original story were true as reported, in what world would something like this rise to the level of national news? I suppose, answering my own question, it would be the world of the Poor Oppressed Christians, who totally jumped the shark last holiday season with their outrage over Starbuck's holiday cups for not including ancient, traditional symbols of their religion like snowmen and reindeer (Wait. What?).

These same folks always want to be able to request that their kids opt out of school activities like nonsectarian yoga (that is, stretching) and nonsectarian mindfulness meditation (even though meditation has a long history of practice by contemplative Christians). And I think that's fine, even though I disagree with their reasons. But look what they do when a Jewish family tries the same thing. National outrage! Religious freedom has to be for everybody, folks. There can't be any exceptions.

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