Last Sunday (18.12.16), I must have been one of very few people who attended a mosque (to worship) and went to a church (not to worship) in the space of 5 hours.
The mosque’s morning prayer was what it always is. Spiritual. Providing out-of-this-world experiences. It was more sombre and emotional as it included a moving supplication for the Muslims in Syria and Burma (the Rohingya people) given the recent news of suffering, persecution and fear subjected to our brothers and sisters over there.
I didn’t have to wait too long for the church service at a local historic church I visit from time to time. I listened to the Reverend’s sermon with interest.
The sermon was about Mary (perhaps surprising for a Protestant church) – an attempt to draw inspiration from Mary’s life and reinvigorate the status of Mary. Inevitably Christmas was mentioned followed by a push-back against materialism in this holiday period. The Reverend spoke of his own household being one that actively limits materialism and debt at this time of the year to one present each via a secret Santa.
What struck me was the mention of Christmas and the condemnation of consumerism simultaneously. It struck me because I had a thought for a blog recently. A thought that I am not proud of. A thought to post about Christmas and go tit-for-tat with the insensitivity of a I-want-you-to-look-at-me Christian polemicist, David Wood.
He mocked Muslims and Ramadan by labelling it a month of gluttony. My thought was to talk about the gluttony during the festive period here in the West. The Christmas festive period! Surely it would be easy for me to cobble together some stats showing how the consumption of food and drink increases during the month of December along with the amount of money spent. That post would really get David’s followers thinking.
But no! The Reverend saved me from being a bigot hurting people’s religious sentiments like that. He spoke against consumerism and impressed on us all that this period is not about gluttony, greed or individualism.
Whether I had a serious intention of making such a bigoted and hurtful post against my Christian friends is unknown as I get a number of ideas for blog posts and the majority of them never materialise. Perhaps the idea would have been lost to brain dust without the words of the Reverend. God knows best. But I needed to hear that Reverend say what he said.
So let’s say it together: Christmas and Ramadan are not about gluttony, greed, excess or consumerist culture. They are not about gluttony. They are real religious events for real religious people. They will continue to be so despite the efforts to commercialise them.
David Wood’s comments on Ramadan are included in this video which I made a few months ago: