When the weekend edition of the Daily Mail reported that British schools were swapping out BC and AD for BCE and CE to avoid offending non-Christians, other papers quickly followed their lead. As the stories explained, BC stands for “before Christ” and AD is an abbreviation of “anno Domini,” Latin for “year of the Lord.” BCE and CE cover the exact same time periods, but BCE (before Common Era) and CE (Common Era) deliberately avoid mention of Christ. So this seemed a deliberate rejection of Britain’s Christian heritage.
Some of the headlines read:
• Daily Star: “Schools scrap ‘BC’ and ‘AD’ to avoid offending non-Christians”
• Express: “PC gone mad: Schools scrap BC and AD to avoid offending non-Christians”
• Telegraph: “To BCE or not to BCE? Common era of BC and AD appears to be over”
But in midst of all this hullabaloo there was a problem. The story that started it all – the Daily Mail piece that the other newspapers and blogs referenced (if they had references at all) – didn’t have a lot of substance to it. The headline made it sound like this was happening everywhere:
“Now schools are ditching AD and BC in RE lessons to avoid offending non-Christians… but critics blast the ‘capitulation to political correctness'”
But when it came to specifics, only three (out of 48) English counties were mentioned. And only one was said to have made a change to their syllabus, while the other two had, to this point, only been “urged” by “local authority committees” to make the change – it’s not clear if any actual change had been made.
In other words, a small percentage of English schools – anywhere from 2 to 6 percent – may be considering changing from BC to BCE. Is that the sort of story that should get picked up by one newspaper after another, and make its way to North America too?
No, not really.
So why did it?
Because, as the Daily Mail and the many media outlets that followed their lead understand, there is an appetite for outrage. So the Mail crafted a story out of very little and, to the unwary reader, it seemed a much bigger thing.
Christians need to guard against swallowing and sharing this sort of fake news for two reasons.
First, on a gut level, we all understand “whiners aren’t winners.” Whatever the sport, isn’t it the losing side that always gripes to the ref about all the ticky-tack fouls and missed calls? Thus, when we whine, we’re misrepresenting our side. If God’s people really believe what we say we believe – if we’re sure of God’s victory – then we won’t get stressed when this or that doesn’t go our way. Then we won’t act defeated, because we know Christ has already won.
Second, if we jump in and also make big of little, it has the effect of belittling what’s big. There are real outrages occurring; Christians are being threatened with loss of livelihood and even loss of life. If we’re busy getting upset about schools switching up from one set of terms that acknowledges Christ as the pivot point of history, to another set of terms that, in sticking with the same time periods, unavoidably still acknowledges Christ’s birth, then we’re wasting our outrage.
That’s something to keep in mind in the coming month, when we start seeing articles about the annual “War on Christmas.” We need to understand God isn’t threatened by it, and his sense of humor is even evident in it, as it turns out the term “Xmas” is Christian shorthand for Christmas. Instead of frustration, we can enjoy events like this, marveling at how very often God will arrange things so, even in the midst of their rebellion, the other side can’t help but acknowledge Him.