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A Torture Device on a Christmas Tree

13 December, 2009

Back when I was in (I think) middle school (Western Maryland’s version of junior high) I began to hear various Christers (billboards, pamphlets, T-shirts in school (mostly (but not all) on students) and in conversation) telling me (and everyone else) to ‘keep Christ in Christmas.’  Which is when I decided that Xmas was a good way to annoy people who annoyed me.  Since then, the right-wing takeover of Christmas has continued apace (actually, I think it has accelerated with the War on Christmas idiocy).

My esteemed blogcoleague, The Chaplain, recently posted about a very in-your-face (and rather nauseating) Christmas tree ornament complete with a bronze-age torture and execution device.  Sorry, the symbol of resurrection and forgiveness.  PhillyChief, bless his feathery head, commented (on Chappie’s blog):

Could you imagine if instead of copying the decorating of a tree from England, someone came up with the bright idea of decorating a big cross instead? Blinky lights, garland, ornaments, and gifts at the bottom.

And, lo and behold, here it is:

And here’s the press release from Boss Creations:

NASHVILLE, TN, December 08, 2009 /24-7PressRelease/ — Boss Creations, a new holiday decor company, has introduced the new “CHRIST-mas” Tree, featuring the unique trait of a trunk in the shape of a wooden cross. Company owner Marsha Boggs says the tree was specifically designed to counter the “war on Christmas.”

“When I became a Christian a few years ago,” says Boggs, “I was appalled by the secularization of the Christmas holiday. When retail stores started substituting ‘Happy Holidays’ for ‘Merry Christmas,’ and schools began calling their Christmas programs ‘Winter Plays,’ it all seemed ridiculous to me. That’s why we have created products that remind people what the Christmas season is really all about – the birth of Christ.”

The “CHRIST-mas” Tree is size adjustable up to 7.5 foot tall to accommodate various ceiling sizes. Additionally, the company offers ornaments, wreaths and gift items all with Christian-based themes.

Legal fights over Christmas symbolism continue to create headlines such as a recent ban on religious songs in a New Jersey school district where the federal appeal judges noted “such songs were once common in public schools, but times have changed.” Lawsuits regarding Christmas trees being taken down from public buildings have sparked anger across the country. Boggs says Boss Creations’ mission is to uphold the traditional meaning of the Christmas season, and from their sales, the company will be supporting two non-profits that work as advocates for religious freedom. A portion of the proceeds of all “CHRIST-mas” Tree sales will go to support the American Center of Law & Justice, an organization recently hailed by BusinessWeek as “the leading advocacy group for religious freedom,” as well as to the Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit litigation, education and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of human life and the traditional family.

Odd.  I had thought that Christmas was, traditionally, a celebration of life, family, generosity, peace, joy, goodwill, giving and togetherness.  Consider the ‘traditional’ Christmas carols: 

  • “All My Heart This Night Rejoices”
  • “Angels We Have Heard on High” — with the lyrics Shepherds why this jubilee /  Why your joyous strains prolong?
  • “Angels from the Realm of Glory”  — with the lyrics Ye who sang creation’s story, now proclaim Messiah’s birth.
  • “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” — with the lyrics Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn king!  Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.”
  • “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” — with the lyrics Then pealed the bells more loud and deep;  “God is not dead nor does He sleep, The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, WIth peace on earth good will to men.”
  • “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” — with the lyrics “Peace on the earth, good will to men, from heaven’s all gracious King.”

And on and on.  I grew up in a rather secular household — Unitarians — but we still sang Christmas carols, secular and religious.  These are the songs of my childhood Christmases.  I have fond memories of singing  carols as we hiked through the Arizona snow in the Coconino National Forest to find our Christmas tree.  I look back with fondness on the extremely ecumenical ‘midnight mass’ given by Reverand Doidge in the community center.  

The ‘keep Christ in Christmas’, followed by the WoC, is turning me more an more into a humbug.  I cringe at the incessent Chistmas music, the forced store greetings (whether happy holidays or merry Christmas), the billboards, all of it has become less about celbrating family, peace and joy and more about propaganda.

This CHRIST-mas tree, a propaganda release for the imaginary War on Christmas, has now taken the Christmas joy and tossed in blood, gore, torture and execution.  What better way to celebrate peace and goodwill than a torture device?  How better to enjoy family and togetherness than looking at a Roman execution device?  Doesn’t the teddy bear add a nice counterpoint to the blood which should be dripping down the cross?   

The radical religious right has decided that Christmas is under attack by a mythical bunch of liberal atheists.  In the process of defending Christmas, in their misguided defensive stance in the War on Christmas, they are narrowing the definition of Christmas, and the other culturally Christian holidays (which many non-Christians and ex-Christians and non-practicing Christians celebrate (Easter comes to mind)) to the point that only the few, truly hard-core Christians, the dominionists, the Christian America propagandists, the literalists, will be the only ones celebrating the holiday.  Their defensive acts in the so-called War on Christmas are having the effect of turning more and more mainstream Americans away from celebrating the holiday. 

This death cult symbolism grafted onto a holiday which, for most Americans, deeply religious or not, symbolised the hope for peace and brotherhood, the celebration of family and friends, the spirit of giving and togetherness, has created much of the secularization the Christian right abhors.  I have actually, this time of year, come to miss the simple, honest and straight forward evangelism of the 1980s.

And that depresses the hell out of me.

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38 comments

  1. That tree is the most morbid thing I’ve seen all day. I am so glad I don’t believe in the Christ-myth anymore. My Christmas will be merry and bright, regardless of whether it’s white.


  2. Chappie: What, no torture and execution device in your living room to bring some joy into your heart?


  3. It’s weirdly ironic that they claim this is a way to defend Christmas from people supposedly attacking Christmas. They’re the ones rejecting the joyous, centuries-old, beloved tradition of the Christmas tree.


  4. Chanson: I guess that the joyous part of the tradition is just too pagan. The tree, the log, the alcohol, the fun and all that.


  5. Boggs says Boss Creations’ mission is to uphold the traditional meaning of the Christmas season…”
    As it says in Jeremiah 10…
    “…and from their sales, the company will be supporting two non-profits that work as advocates for religious freedom.

    Now this is just a shot in the dark, but I’m guessing that neither of them are the ACLU.
    “…the American Center of Law & Justice…as well as to the Liberty Counsel…”
    Ha! Funny how “religious freedom” is a term that Christians such as the one in this OP only apply to Christianity.


  6. MO: When I first ran across this, I latched onto the ‘religious freedom (but only for my kind of Christian)’ thing, but, as I began to rant and froth write, I went in a different direction.


  7. Man, that is an ugly tree. I wish they’d realize that Christmas was stolen from Pagans and then give back other ‘christian holidays’. The bible shows which days are supposed to be holy in the Old Testament, which most Christians don’t read. It also gives the command to not make a graven image and that tree defiantly breaks that.

    ‘and the traditional family.’
    I wonder if they know that a traditional family in the bible would be a polygamist family with wives as young as 12 marrying 30 and 40 year old men if the need be and some of the wives being cousins to the husband?


  8. Do you really not see that the Cross, as the vehicle by which humanity is Saved, is a symbol of Love and Peace? The Love of God is expressed through th esacrifice of His only begotten Son Who died on the Cross for our Sins and then Rose again showing the Life wheich we sinners may experience through the Love of God.

    Merry Christmas!!!


    • With love like that, who needs hatred?


    • Well, since it’s His birthday (but not really), instead of a cross shouldn’t it be a baby with branches growing out of it?


    • Jesus did not die on the cross as evidenced by the puddle of blood which he lay when he arose. Dead bodies do not bleed, which means he NEVER died on the cross or in the tomb.


  9. When I was a Christian, I had focused upon the message and gift from god. You are commanded in the bible to not have any images in your house and to not attach any religious values to them. You are to worship god alone and celebrating anything other than God and the days he put aside was enough for you to be stoned to death. It is in the old testament. I don’t give the cross any special status because it is about God, not about the vessel through which his message and gift were obtained.

    Some gift by the way, you do realize that the omnipotent and All-Powerful God could have just took Cain and Abel back to the Garden after birth and let the good Angels raise them. Thereby ensuring that only Adam, Eve, Satan, and the rebellious angels went to Hell. He does command US to forgive a Child for the sins of its parents and to not hold them accountable for their parents, sins so why didn’t he? Also it’s not a sacrifice since he went to heaven. In order for it to be a true sacrifice, Jesus would have had to suffer the penalty that we are supposed to suffer if we die in sin, and that is ETERNAL HELLFIRE AND TORTURE according to the bible other wise it’s just saying “Hey I’m alive again. No harm done. but You still have to beg for the forgiveness that I could have Given Adam’s Children and spared you the worry and trouble”.


  10. I’ve always wondered why this “Joyous Season” seems to give the more devout celebrants so little actual joy. And why they seem to feel that others should be kept from real enjoyment or compelled to participate in an orthodox, approved expression of “happiness”.

    Since “Thanksgiving” I’ve seen the same “saved” faces, the stuck out lower pipped, beetle browed, pugnatious frown when invoking the “REAL reason for the season”.

    It is fatigueing.

    I guess on July 14 I’ll keep my snow globe with the Bastille and Guillotine in it’s box. ;-D


    • You have a snow globe with the Bastille and Guillotine? I want one too!


      • Actually, I don’t have one. But my wife has a necklace with “The National Razor” hanging from it. Her father brought it back from France during WWI.

        Symbols…I told her once that she should knit herself a tricolour Phrygian cap, and when she’s tapped for jury duty, wear it to the pool, knit, cackle periodiclly, and mutter “Guillotine…guillotine…” under her breath. NOBODY would seat her in a jury.

        She has demurred. Claims that they would more than likely seat her in a mental ward, which would be worse.

        I never said the plan was PERFECT…


  11. Wait, so it’s a big cross that you stick plastic and wire branches into? FANTASTIC! Does it come pre-lit, too? Do they have an aluminum one? I love seeing those silver trees. How come no nails? I think it should have nails, and then you can hang ornaments from them.

    Hey, what about making the cross translucent so you could put lights INSIDE so it can glow? Huh? Awesome, right? I think I should patent my own tree, the CROSS-mas tree. I’m gonna be rich, biatch!


  12. Don’t let your kiddies read sci fi! My first inkling of the wackitude of xian thinking was when I thought to myself, “what would aliens think if they came to our planet and saw that a major religious icon was a man being tortured to death? Creepy!”

    And thus the deprogramming began.


    • I obviously should have read sci-fi when I was a kid.


      • I think that first book in the Foundation series would have helped. I’m not sure about Dune, though.


    • So you are saying you’re facination with the fantasy world led you to hate reject God? that ‘s a good argument for staing away frfom all forms of fantasy.

      And again, the Cross is a symbol of God’s sacrifice in which He allowed His only Son to be Crucified to atone for the Sins of Humanity. That is not a Man being tortured to death, that is the Savior Redeeming mankind.


      • the Cross is a symbol of God’s sacrifice in which He allowed His only Son to be Crucified to atone for the Sins of Humanity. That is not a Man being tortured to death, that is the Savior Redeeming mankind

        I find The Lord of the Rings to be so much better fantasy than the Bible… Yahweh is as unappealing as Sauron, but he’s supposed to be the good guy! Reminds me of the Thomas Covenant series… hard to read because Thomas is such an unappealing protagonist.


      • You say it yoursef Lord of the Rings is a fantasy. It is a world created by a many who emulates his Creator and makes a new world inhabited by sinful creatures. God however, is not fantasy. God is the Creator of the universe, the Creator of you, me and everyone lese, and sent His Son to earth to Redeem the sinfulness of humankind. Hobbits didint redeem anything. They just destroyed a peice of metal posssessed by a demon. That is fantasy. The earth, Created by God, is reality. This really is not so difficeult a concept. You just need to open your mind to the Love of God.

        Peace and Merry Christmas to all.


      • God is the Creator of the universe, the Creator of you, me and everyone lese, and sent His Son to earth to Redeem the sinfulness of humankind.

        Sort of like the Uruk-hai? Like I say, your story line just doesn’t hang together all that well. Once there was this perfect being who created these imperfect creatures, and then came up with this brilliant idea that if he killed his own son that would make up for the imperfection of his creations…

        It doesn’t even make for good fiction, much less reality.

        Torture is torture, no matter that you choose to call it love.


  13. Apparently, The Grinch is also on the shit list of some of these folks. Turns out it doesn’t “give glory to god…” whatever that means.

    Just a few years ago an aunt and uncle told me that they just couldn’t understand why my parents allowed me to read science fiction and Mad magazine.

    When they came to visit they would get my room and my mags and books were perused. They didn’t “get it”.
    Well…the Edgar Rice Burroughs ones had Frazetta covers…I was a teenage boy…what was hard to “get” about THAT? That chick on the centaur’s back… (whew)…!
    But my parents, since I turned five, found me to be a very “odd, unsatisfying, and alarming child” so they’d pretty much given up, anyway.
    But, sci-fi helped me in a lot of ways.

    Probably one of the best christmas’s of my younger days was my seventeenth (also my birthday). I was staying with people in southern Virginia, they were Malungians, atheists, and my first adult friends.
    They had no central heat, plumbing, or electricity (not uncommon in that time or place) but the house was beautiful, there were twenty six people under that roof (only three, my hosts and myself non-believers)but the fellowship and enjoyment were something else. We each had something different “good” to celebrate.

    I still have the pocket knife they gave me, have carried almost every day since. Their kindness, generosity, and help at that time has always been my meaning of christmas


    • You know, Frazetta has a gallery in East Stroudsburg, PA.


      • Must get out there one of these days. My wife says that at my age I could probably go through the gallery and not embarrass myself.

        I dunno, though…that “Moonmaid”…


  14. Speaking of torture devices, I was at the post office yesterday and witnessed a person who wanted to buy “Christian” Christmas stamps telling the clerk that the stamp with the religious theme did not qualify as Christian because it did not contain an image of a cross. The religious stamp is, of course, an image of Mary and the infant Jesus, but apparently does not qualify as appropriate for Christmas. Can the fundamentalists get any dumber?


  15. the stamp with the religious theme did not qualify as Christian because it did not contain an image of a cross.

    Wow. I’m amazed at how far Christianity has devolved in my lifetime. When I was a kid, the mother and child imagery epitomized Christmas. Maybe that was a kinder, gentler Christianity. Today’s right wing Christianity has a nasty edge to it that makes one wonder how anyone could possibly find this religion attractive.


  16. Nyoga: Even into the early to mid 1900s, marrying first cousins was considered quite normal. In parts of Europe it is still considered normal.

    Matthew: So glad that you use the caps key (but not for entire words). Random capitalization of words within sentences is just, well, odd?

    And I still Fail to See how a Torture and Execution Device is a sign of Love (without a psychiatric break, anyway).

    SI and MO: Excellent.

    Nyoga: If ‘god’ had forgiven Adam and Eve at the ‘beginning’, there would be no way for the rich and powerful to guilt trip the sheep into obediance.

    Sarge: Joy does not create control.

    Chappie: Why not a snow-globe of the crucifiction? Of course, the flakes would be red to represent the showers of blood repressenting the peace and love of god.

    Sarge: Your wife and mine keem to be kindred spirits.

    Philly: Where are you going to stick the branches?

    Ildi: I was never a ‘Christian’ (by any definition) so I was never deprogrammed, but seeing things from a different point of view is antithetical to absolutism. Which is why so many Christians are anti SciFi and Fantasy.

    Chappie: They had scifi back then? (just kidding, honest)

    Philly: Then again, Dune is a good argument against combining religion and government. Of course, combining religion and government is an even better argument against it.

    Matthew: Thank you for proving my point. The Bible isn’t fantasy? It’s poorly written and boring fantasy.

    Ildi: And LotR is a lot more fun. And has an actual plot. And the good guys win.

    Matthew: You really don’t get irony, do you?

    Sarge: Odd. The Grinch is one of the few Xmas stories I can tolerate. I was into Mad and Cracked in HS, but, other than thinking that I was wasting my money, Mom and Dad didn’t object.

    And if you do find yourself up this way, email me. I’d like to meet you (and your wife).

    Nan: How did you not point an laugh?

    Chappie: Well, the Christians keep preaching that god’s perfect creation is devolving because of Eve, so I guess it’s only natural that Christianity itself would devolve. So I guess Christians should embrace Devo, right?


    • I do like the Grinch, but I’m also partial to “Olive, the Other Reindeer”. Round John Virgin is quite a guy.

      I’m trying to see about getting up to near Elk Mountain for a weekend this spring, see what we can do.


      • Never seen the Olive one. I like the idea of a character named Round John Virgin. Good one.


    • Not to get all LOTR geek on ya’ll, but Tolkien’s themes of the use and abuse of power and the attendant responsibilities are most excellent. All the characters who were able to resist the lure of the Ring had already stepped back from grasping power immediately. The ones who succombed were actively seeking it.

      I hated the sub-plot that Jackson added of Aragorn whinging about being afraid that he would succomb like Isildur did; the whole point in the book was that he had been willing to wander around as Strider rather than claim his kingship right away, which is why he didn’t try to steal the Ring from Frodo. (Unlike Boromir, who coveted the kingship.) Related to that, who was the one character who actually put on the Ring, and nothing happened? Tom Bombadil (not in the movie), who had ZERO interest in power.

      Compare that to the pscyhotic despot of the Old Testament who banned Moses from the promised land because he hit the side of the rock twice instead of once, like he was ordered. Oh, the horror! (I think of that every time I hit the crosswalk button twice instead of once… human nature…)


      • I’m afraid I don’t know that one. Where’s that passage with the rock knocking?

        I confess I pushed the elevator button twice today


  17. Why does rock knocking sound so wrong?

    Numbers 20, verses 6-12 (oh, the benefits of a Catholic school education!)

    And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto them. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink.

    And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him. And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts.

    And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.


  18. Actually, I did have the story wrong. He was supposed to speak to the rock, not smite it. My bad!


  19. Ildi: Yet another example (as if more are needed) that the Abrahamic god is a dick.


  20. [...] (((Billy))) The Atheist presents A Torture Device on a Christmas Tree posted at (((Billy))) The Atheist.  If you think there are a lot of parentheses in his blog [...]


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