A Torture Device on a Christmas Tree13 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.