Just as Christmas arrives in the shops earlier every year, stories about how secularists and atheists are killing Christmas arrive in the papers earlier. This year, Sainsbury's had mince pies with a sell-by date of early October. Also in October comes the story that all references to Christmas have been taken out of a new episode of Thomas the Tank Engine.
In an episode called Keeping up with James, the trains compete to carry presents to children. There's a decorated tree and a choir. But instead of using the word Christmas, there are “winter holidays” and a “holiday tree.”
This early in the year the goose can still get into its jeans but the Christian soldiers have already locked and loaded. The Mail and the Telegraph are, not surprisingly, making a big deal of this.
Hilary Fortnum, daughter of Thomas author Reverend Awdry, told them she feared political correctness was eroding Christmas and that - predictably - the programme had "taken Christ out of Christmas". Just for good measure, she added that “Local councils won’t advertise Christmas carols and nativity plays in case they are sued for not being inclusive”. It's not clear what her evidence is for this claim but we can soon expect stories about schools not putting on nativity plays any more and how the lack of children putting tea towels on their heads is damaging the British tea towel industry as well as the soul of the nation.
Ann rent-a-quote Widdecombe predictably commented that “It is another example of the politically correct brigade trying to airbrush Christmas out of our lives”. Most of us would be pretty happy if Christmas was airbrushed out of our lives until at least late November.
Hit Entertainment who make the series said references to Christmas were removed because the episode is on a DVD designed to be sold all year round. They added “It was not a seasonal release specifically aimed at a Christmas audience, but we do put out seasonal releases that have Christmas in the title. Last year we had Christmas Express and next year we are planning another Christmas title.’ So it's nothing to do with being politically correct, it's to do with making money.
UK Christians complaining about discrimination and persecution should perhaps look at the growing persecution of Christians in Pakistan. In one far from isolated incident a twelve-year-old girl from a Christian family was kidnapped, raped and beaten for eight months in an attempt to make her convert to Islam. Other incidents include attacks on churches and the homes of Christians, discrimination in housing, education and employment and false allegations of blasphemy, which can potentially result in a death sentence. Or there is Youcef Nadarkhani, the Iranian pastor arrested and sentenced to death because of his faith.
But no, British Christians with their unelected bishops in the House of Lords, exemptions from equality laws and one third of state-funded schools will continue to bang on about being discriminated against and sidelined, particularly when they want the right to be homophobic. They will whine about Winterval and the birth of Little Baby Jesus not being what it used to be. And all this even before Halloween.