Monday, 23 December 2013

An Xmas Parable

The sub-militant atheist in me vividly recalls a school assembly being given by Mr Baker - a zealot through and through, he was a Christian and a PE teacher - wherein he expounded on a few reasons why one should never, ever use the term Xmas for Christmas. 

If I recall correctly, and nobody can check, these all boiled down to the same couple of points: - Christmas was about Christ, not about X and it was offensive to Christians to use X to represent the name of the anointed one. 

The assembly sticks in my mind however as it was one of the first times that I heard (and dismissed as stupid) a Straw Man argument. I didn't know then that the fallacy had a name. I just sensed something not quite right. A Straw Man is a rhetorical technique whereby one presents a version of an opponent's argument that is easily refuted (i.e. 'knocked down' geddit?)and uses that refutation to bolster ones own position. 

Or, as Mr Baker put it (obviously, I paraphrase):

"It has been argued that it is fine to use Xmas for Christmas because the X represents the Cross on which Jesus was crucified. But look closely at the shape of the X and compare it to the cross on which the Romans crucified Christ. They are different. And anyway Jesus was executed at Easter and Christmas is about celebrating his birth. So you would be wrong to write Xmas in your Christmas cards!"

I vowed that day never to write the word Christmas when Xmas would do instead (i.e. in every single context apart from this one). In my more militant days, I used to cross out Christ and replace it with an X in cards with a pre-printed message.


St Peter getting crucified on an X shaped cross.
That's my Xmas anecdote for this year. Have a very merry Xmas everyone!

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