The Nativity Story November 28, 2006

The Nativity Story

Daley Plaza in Chicago has played host for the past 10 years to “Christkindlmarket,” a festival that has German roots. It’s less a Christian festival and more a place to sell goods, provide entertainment, and help the tourism industry (for some reason, Chicago isn’t the hottest destination during the winter…). It brings in more than 1,000,000 visitors a year. The vendors all pay taxes to the city, unlike any churches. This is a holiday festival, not a festival to celebrate Christ.

Now, The Nativity Story, a movie that is specifically Christian in nature, is being dropped as a sponsor because city officials fear it would offend non-Christians.

As if Muslim people were totally fine with the whole “Christ-Child-Market” festival in the first place. That’s beyond the point, though.

I’m not strongly in favor of the decision, but I understand why it was made.

If the studio wanted to pay for the publicity, the same privilege must then be extended to other groups that want to use the festival as a promotional tool. If South Park wanted to advertise DVDs of its Christmas episodes, they would be allowed to. Unfortunately, Christians would probably get upset about this because some of these episodes blaspheme Jesus.

So the city has a blanket policy to not allow sponsors that would be divisive to one group or another. Chicago wants to bring people together and the festival lets this happen. People are not going there to glorify Jesus. They’re going to eat pastries and drink beer. The movie is specifically about Jesus, so the blanket policy says no to sponsorship.

This article from FoxNews has the obligatory quotation from a Christian spokesman, who informs us that he knows how to spell:

“The last time I checked, the first six letters of Christmas still spell out Christ,” said Paul Braoudakis, spokesman for the Barrington, Ill.-based Willow Creek Association, a group of more than 11,000 churches of various denominations. “It’s tantamount to celebrating Lincoln’s birthday without talking about Abraham Lincoln.”

No. Lincoln’s birthday is a government holiday. Christmas is a private religious holiday that should not be sponsored by government. Christkindlmarket is a public festival to make money for the city. (And the last six letters of Christkindlmarket still spell out market.) If Mr. Braoudakis was really concerned about Christ, then he should be more upset that Santa, who is nowhere in the Bible, will make an appearance in Chicago in the name of Christmas.

There is an actual nativity scene downtown, as well as “representations from other faiths”– but these are all put up by private groups, and they all have a right to do this. As long as the city stays out of it and does not sponsor any particular religion or prohibit a group from putting up a display.

The point is that government should not be endorsing one religion over another. In this case, they’re not. And that’s a good thing for everyone.

I said I’m not strongly in favor of the decision. My hesitation comes from the fact that New Line Cinema isn’t a Christian movie studio. It’s not like its other movies (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, anyone?) were Christlike in nature. The company is trying to make the most out of the people coming to Chicago for the festival. It’s just telling a story that happens to come from the Bible. No skin off my back.

Had the city just let the studio advertise the movie, very few people, if any, would’ve noticed. Or been offended.

But again, they have a blanket policy. This decision might seem petty, but in the long run, that policy will do more good than harm.

[tags]Christkindlmarket, Chicago, Christian, atheist, Daley Plaza, New Line Cinema, The Nativity Story, South Park, Jesus, FoxNews, Paul Braoudakis, Santa, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Bible[/tags]

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