AFTER ALL THE excitement of Christmas one is left to ponder the view that Christ is being increasingly left out of Christmas. On Christmas day we have the arrival or perhaps the survival of what E J Dionne in the Washington Post calls the “Chreasters”.
They grace the church doors only at Easter and Christmas. He says that their arrival in church usually draw some resentment from regular church goes who have difficulty occupying their accustomed seats. Is this really so, for it appears to me that even the ‘Chreasters’ are not as visible as they used to be.
Why do they find it necessary to go to church after not doing so for the year minus their appearance at Easter or Good Friday?
Is it because after the hustle and bustle leading up to Christmas, it dawns on them that something is missing? Perhaps not!
Christmas is now more a cultural activity than a Christian one. I was struck by something mentioned in a book written by Roseclare Charles about her experiences in Africa.
She said that in the part of Africa where she resided the Muslims celebrated the occasion with their Christian counterparts. In our part of the world even those who do not believe in Christmas or even in Christ still find it necessary or perhaps useful to join the celebrations. So, it is largely a cultural activity. Let us however remember that our society was built on Christian values and that the Easter and Christmas holidays are perhaps, with the exception of Carnival, our most important and treasured holidays. One of the things we were able to do is to westindianise those holidays, although Easter is more resistant to change, despite now playing calypsos and soca on Good Friday.
Christianity remains the world most numerically dominant religion, claiming 33 per cent of religious populations, followed by Islam with 24 per cent. I am struck by the number of people in our part of the world who profess not to belong to any religion.
Even among the Christians many are so only nominally. Christianity and our African people here have had a dubious relationship from very early. Early efforts to Christianise the ‘Carib’ people were not very successful although their relationship with the French led them to profess Catholicism. Christianity came to these parts with the power of the Imperial state. Do not forget the saying that in Africa that they came with the bible and before long had the land, leaving the Africans with the bible.
In slave society the ‘preachings’ of the respective Christian religions were interpreted and accepted by the slaves in their own way. They saw religious gatherings as meeting places and avenues for socialising and releasing emotions long bottled up. At the base of it all was their longing for freedom. The Old Testament’s story of the children of Israel coming out of Egypt had a special meaning for them. In their own quarters, religion had a different meaning and the preacher was a powerful symbol. They changed the words of the songs they had heard from the Christians and their spirituals expressed a longing for freedom.
Today the dubious relationship with Christianity arises from the feeling that the churches are no longer serving their needs. Many of the preachers and the religions have divorced themselves from what they were led to believe Christianity was all about. Having said that let’s not forget the minority who give even more than they have to the church and still retain their strong adherence to what they consider the word of God. They keep the church alive!
CORRECTION: In my column last week, I erroroneously said that the fashion display at the fundraiser for the Norma Keizer Scholarship Foundation on December 9 was done compliments Kimya Glasgow. The clothing worn by the models in the fashion segment were provided by Kimon Baptiste- St Rose of Kimmystic Clo. We apologize for the error.
● Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian