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Christmas as a battlefield in the culture war

December 26th, 2022

Political commentators on Right and Left ponder the political and social implications of Christmas.

In Magyar Hírlap, József Benda calls for what he calls the institutionalization of full-time motherhood. The conservative sociologist believes that Christmas is a celebration of birth and life. He accuses Socialism of weakening families by promoting feminist values and allowing abortion. As women took up full time jobs, families weakened. Benda blames individual ‘social deviancies’ among the younger generations, as well as the decline of social trust, on these developments. He goes on to note that according to his data, only 5 per cent of mothers consider a career as their most important objective while 25 per cent would like to be a full-time mother, leaving 70 per cent in between, trying to strike a healthy balance between motherhood and work. Benda concludes by suggesting that the institutional recognition of full-time mothership should be the most important strategic aim for Hungary.

In Magyar Nemzet, Balázs Ágoston ruminates about the commercialization and ‘denationalization’ of Christmas. The conservative columnist finds it sad that foreign pop songs have become dominant in Hungarian shopping malls and public spaces in Hungary in general, and in Budapest in particular. He warmly welcomes the government’s nation-building efforts, but expresses his concern that Hungarian culture and identity cannot be preserved if ‘foreign powers or their agents try to systematically erase our Hungarian identity’ by forcing a foreign commercial pop culture down our throats.

In Heti Világgazdaság, Áprád W. Tóta writes that Christmas has become an obsolete tradition. The liberal commentator points out that the commercial Christmas of our times has nothing to do with Christian heritage, and suggests that even the Biblical nativity story is a pure fabrication. He contends that belief in a transcendental intelligence and ‘a strictly male God figure’ is no longer relevant to our lives, and the Christian religion may soon become ‘a subcultural hobby’. He adds that atheists who celebrate Christmas (even in an unreligious way) also live in a ‘schizophrenic state of mind’.

Writing in the same weekly, András Hodász, a liberal Catholic priest contends that the core value of Christianity is love and empathy rather than following rigid rules. Love for humanity requires tolerance and a special care for society’s outcasts, Hodász adds. A country is made Christian not by political statements, he continues, or a constitution citing Christian values and politicians attending church regularly, but by our own willingness to overcome all our differences and celebrate together. The main lesson of Christmas is that poor and rich, sinful and religious, conservatives and liberal, gays and heterosexuals should celebrate together, Hodász concludes.

On Telex, István Gégény a theologian who works as a PR manager, thinks that Hungarians are becoming less and less religious because the churches fail to address them. Citing his own research, Gégény claims that Hungarians have turned away from institutionalized religion partly as a result of the politicization of the churches. Gégény squarely accuses Hungary’s churches of promoting homophobic hatred and of close cooperation with the Fidesz government. He accuses the churches of performing political PR-stunts rather than addressing the spiritual needs of Hungarians and helping socially disadvantaged groups.


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