The word used by students of religious studies for Christianity is “syncretistic”. This is true of other religions such as Buddhism too.
Syncretistic religions are ones that co-opt other religious traditions as part of their own. The Romans were rather good at this – they brought the gods and goddesses of peoples that they had conquered into their pantheon.
Christianity brought within its fold elements of Gnosticism, an eastern belief in the afterlife based on the idea that the world was inherently evil and that the next world was a Better Place, and even the Christmas tradition of putting up a decorated tree is a ritual that can be traced back to pagan beliefs in eastern Europe. Oh, and the dying god who could be revived as the spring shoots emerged from the ground. (Sorry, no disrespect to Christians, but the above is true.)
The Christmas tradition is therefore rich in ideas and rituals added on rather more recently than the Gospels. One of these is Black Friday, the notion that we should venerate the approach of the second most holy season in the Christian calendar by buying electronic goods we do not need that will end up as landfill, a theological concept I believe dates back to Zoroastrianism. (Irony alert: it does not.)
Then there is Stir Up Sunday, when the first preparations for the cake to be ritually eaten at the solstice, to use up dried fruits kept in storage for the winter, must start on a precise date.
We can add another fine Christmas tradition, the first appearance, about four weeks before the birth of our Saviour, of pieces in the right wing press about how the “woke” left want to cancel Christmas. There was a good example the other day. How the “PC brigade cancelled Christmas long before Covid did”.
Note the interesting elision here. Covid “cancelled” Christmas. The people who imposed lockdown because of Covid “cancelled” Christmas, therefore. Lockdown is a mechanism whereby those people assert control and cancel our basic civil liberties. By cancelling Christmas. It is not hard to detect the link between these ideas.
Whatever you do, don’t mention Christmas!
Now, a day or so later, there is another one. The hated bureaucrats at the Commission in Brussels have issued a diktat that Christmas is not to be mentioned, that the names of Joseph and Mary are not to be mentioned, and that gendered words such as “he” and “she” are not allowed.
This was first published in an Italian newspaper and attacked by Forza Italia, a right wing Italian political grouping, and others. It was picked up uncritically by our right wing press, initially The Telegraph.
Needless to say there is not a shred of truth in any of this. Have a look at this more nuanced version from an Italian news source.
So how is this reported in The Express, another right-wing British newspaper that long ago abandoned any attempt to report the objective truth? So, the EU was “shamed” into a U-turn after attempting to ban Christmas.
In other words, the story wasn’t true, but because it wasn’t true, it must have been true in the first place. Mustn’t it? Because the alternative is that someone must have made up a false story about the EU to discredit it. And that can’t be true. Can it?
It is impossible to imagine how anyone could advance in journalism, or any other profession such as politics, simply by sitting in an office in Brussels and making up utterly incorrect stories about the EU and its institutions. And having them uncritically printed by a large chunk of the UK press that appears to have abandoned all attempts at checking anything and at objective journalism.
I mean, no one with a background like that could ever amount to anything, could they? Never become Prime Minister, for example.
Johnson’s war on the EU
An aside: some years ago, when Johnson was writing from Brussels for The Telegraph, I was asked to follow up one of his “stories” on financial services to see if it was true. Can’t remember the detail, but I rang the EU Commission office in London.
“We’ll send you the rebuttal,” they said. (By fax; the days before emails.) “We always tell him the story isn’t true. We know he will publish it anyway, so we put together our reply to him beforehand, for anyone following it up.”
I read the rebuttal and started to investigate. It soon become obvious to me that not only was the “story” untrue, but there was no way Johnson could ever have believed it to be true. There was not a shred of evidence. It was printed anyway.
Which is how, in part, we arrived to where we are today.