Since when did ‘peaceful Christmas’ become an aggressive act?

Columnist Jenny McCartney has drawn attention to the alarming case of Dr David Drew, formerly senior paediatric consultant at Walsall Manor Hospital, who was sacked from his position in December 2010 for “gross misconduct and insubordination.” What had he done to deserve this description? A practising Christian, he had emailed the prayer of St Ignatius Loyola (“To give and not to count the cost…” etc) to his staff as an incentive, sent a text message to a colleague wishing him “a peaceful Christmas” and – perhaps at the root of his sacking – he had, since 2008, raised serious questions about how the hospital’s paediatric department was run.

It takes a lot of courage to criticise your colleagues and the department where you work. Generally no-one will thank you for drawing attention to aspects of care that reflect badly on them. At the tribunal to deal with Dr Drew’s case it was made clear that his skill as a doctor was never at fault; indeed he received a number of commendations from grateful parents whose children he had treated. What concerned Walsall Healthcare was that apparently his presence had created a “toxic environment” that affected the whole department where he worked, while his Christmas greeting was regarded “as aggressive and unwelcome intrusions” into the recipient’s “private time”.

Since when has “a peaceful Christmas” become an “aggressive” act? As Jenny McCartney comments, “If we were really compelled to purge our conversation of religious references most of us would be surprised at how often we transgressed.” Greeting a colleague with “Merry Christmas” would be worse than merely a “peaceful” one; I have been told its original meaning was “a Christmas with Mary” – the very last thing that secularists and feminists would ever wish to contemplate. You also have to be careful with “A happy Christmas”; it used to have the meaning of “a blessed Christmas”. “Good-bye” should be avoided at all costs, as it is a contraction of “God be with you”. Never say “Gosh!” It is derived from “God”. Never “touch wood”; often invoked superstitiously, it refers to the wood of the Cross – and so on.

I would reinstate Dr Drew and send the people at Walsall Manor Hospital for a “de-tox” session themselves.

A happy Easter to all readers! (Secularists might substitute “jovial” for “happy” as it refers to Jove, a pagan deity.)