Can you figure out what is offensive about the following question?
“In about 300 CE, which country in the Caucasus region became the first to adopt Christianity as its state religion?”
BBC presenter Jeremy Paxman read those words during a recent TV quiz, generating howls of outrage throughout the British Twitterverse.
How so? Because
The longstanding presenter used the religiously neutral term Common Era [CE]. …
Twitter user William Norris said: “Our Christian heritage is being eradicated from our culture by the BBC and the likes of Paxman.”
Another, Pat Smart commented: “This constant removal of all things Christian disgusts me, but it’s the BBC!”
Simon Wilson tweeted: “I do wish Paxman would stop referring to the ‘common era’ and ‘before common era’; it should be BC [Before Christ] and AD [Anno Domini, the Year of the Lord].”
Should it? Pray tell, ladies and gents: Why? Only 17 percent of young Britons call themselves Christians. For the British population as a whole, nearly 50% say they have no religious affiliation at all, compared to 43% who identify as Anglican, Catholic, or another Christian denomination.
Doesn’t it make sense for writers and media personalities to reflect this? It’s not like we’re switching to a whole new calendar. There’s nothing confusing about CE and BCE. The controversial terms still take the birth of Jesus Christ as the zero point, so why the whinging? CE and BCE are simply an acknowledgment that non-Christian culture exists (and that it is in fact ascendant).
Not that the CE/BCE reference is some modern secular invention. Use of the terms goes back more than 300 years.
The term “Common Era” can be found in English as early as 1708, and became more widely used in the mid-19th century by Jewish academics. In the later 20th century, the use of CE and BCE was popularized in academic and scientific publications, and more generally by authors and publishers wishing to emphasize secularism or sensitivity to non-Christians, by not explicitly referencing Jesus as “Christ” and Dominus (“Lord”) through use of the abbreviation “AD”.
Heaven forfend that Christians show a little consideration, much less a smidge of humility, to atheists, nones, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, and so on.
Given the chorus of perennially aggrieved Jesus lovers, will Paxman cave, perhaps under pressure from his bosses?
On the Religion and Ethics Tool page of its website, the BBC says it favors the terms as a “religiously neutral alternative to BC/AD”.
And that, mercifully, is that.
(Screenshot via Channel 4 News)