The Commodification of Christ

Commodity: something that is bought and sold, something or someone that is useful or valued

Christmas Crunch.jpgFor the last five to ten years, the Right Wing theme come November is that some segment of America is conducting a War On Christmas. The complaint centers around the idea that people have taken to referring to the period leading up to the Christian holiday known as Christmas as “the Holidays.”

These complaints center around the idea that to refer to the Christmas season only as “the holidays” is to show a sign of disrespect to the Christian faith. Some view this cultural habit as a form of oppression of their faith, as if Christianity itself were being persecuted.

Perhaps it pays to examine that premise before its acceptance as a continuing cultural meme. After all, it was Christians who adopted the tradition of Santa Claus and turned it into an entire “thing” that essentially replaces a celebration of the birth of Christ with a grandiose gift-giving event.

This was the first sign of disrespect toward the tale of Jesus. But there are many others that preceded the Advent of Santa Clause.

The Nativity Lie

Because, ss the story goes, the Christ child was born humbly in a manger, bereft of home or comforts. And while the traditional presentation of the Nativity scene shows three wise men bearing gifts standing by the very manger in which Jesus was born, this part of the tale is less than concrete. A study of the Gospels in fact reveals that none of the so-called Wise Men were present in the manger at all.

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. Matthew 2:9-12 

So the presentation of the Wise Men at the Nativity scene is, if taken literally, quite a lie. And to be sure, wise Christians actually know that there always is a little white lying going on with ntales in the Bible. The little white lie that underscores meaning in scriptural literature is called metaphor. Without it, none of the Bible makes any sense at all. Yet literalist deny this fact with such fervor they turn the Bible into an absurd acrobatic act in which believers must walk a tight rope of indefensible ideas anchored in anachronism. The entire faith becomes a selective act, holding onto some literal elements while quietly discarding others (the laws of Leviticus, for example.”

Defending the lies

That means people fighting for the right to display Nativity scenes on public property are actually defending a well-accepted Christian lie about the very scripture that claim as sacrosanct. But because of its function as a symbol of Christian faith, Nativity scenes have been commodified to serve a purpose. They “sell” the notion of Christmas and its tender emotions.

Not so the specter of Santa Clause, who is frequently quoted in songs that children tshould be good or they will get no presents. “You better be good for goodness sake,” is likely some adaptation of Christian morals to quell the greed associated with morning full of presents, but Santa Claus is no Jesus, nor are his reindeer a band of angels holding people in awe of the Son of God.

All this means is that Christmas, as a holiday, has long been commodified into something entirely different than the original tale of the birth of Christ. And yes, many Christians seem to sense the need for guilt about this ugly situation with Christmas as a raw expression of desire and greed. “Don’t forget the Reason for the Season,” goes the plea for temperance.

White Bread and Christmas Crap

It hasn’t worked. The Christmas Season now kicks off just after Halloween. We go straight from pumpkins and witches to bands of styrofoam angels slinging lights in Aisle One at Home Depot. There are Christmas Moose and Christmas Dragons. Inflatable Snowmen and Blowup Santa Claus compete for attention up and down the side streets of White Bread America. It’s an orgy of Christmas whoredom, worse than Sodom and Gomorrah in many respects. Because if you don’t buy into all that Christmas Crap, according to Fox News and the like, you’re fucked in the head.

So the commodification of Christ is now complete. There is no more room for real Christmas left in the Holiday Season. So trampled by greed is the Christmas season that churches can’t even rescue what remains of its significance. Reading the Nativity tale from scripture seems trite because the entire myth has been turned into a debacle. One fellow down the former block where I lived did not hesitate to mix his snowmen with his angels, or his aliens either. Jesus kept company with anything that could be hooked to an outlet and light up at night.

It is not liberalism or humanism that has destroyed the Christian holiday of Christmas. It is Christianity itself that has offered up the season in this grotesque burlesque of spending and acquisitiveness designed to attract worshippers. The spirit of the season was not stolen, it was prostituted.

Kidnapped and sold

The Christmas holiday itself may have been kidnapped from the tradition of (so-called) pagan worship of the solstice. Perhaps the competition over who owns holiness is far older than we’ve all been led to imagine.

Yet Christmas is not even the worst commodification of the Christian faith. Easter is even worse with its strange contrasts between the crucifixion of Christ and an Easter Bunny that brings brightly colored eggs and chocolate through the night.

This willingness to soft coat and commodify the seriousness of the Christian endeavor has bled over into modern politics as well. The Christian faith has been repackaged as a “family values” checklist through which conservative Christian leaders can cajole and recruit believers into their moneymaking or political schemes. Many Christians gobble up this commodified and politicized versions of their faith as if they were Christmas gifts of approval and Easter baskets full of chocolatey political promises.

Casting blame

Nowhere is the commodification more evident than over the issue of abortion. Conservative churches preach abortion as the final measure of true Christian faith. If you can’t preserve a life, the reasoning goes, then you can’t believe in Jesus.

And yet, those same churches gather forces to oppose efforts to prevent unwanted pregnancies, preaching abstinence rather than birth control, all while seeking to defund legitimate agencies such as Planned Parenthood which provide legal abortion services.

Instead of blaming Planned Parenthood or the national law Roe vs. Wade for the need and practice for abortion, the Christian church has never admitted its own failures to reach all those women seeking protection from unwanted pregnancies or the often abusive, broken relationships that result in women seeking abortions. As for those women who are perceived to use abortion as a form of birth control, that is also a massive failure on the part of the Christian church to work hard enough to reach the segments of society to which Jesus himself most frequently ministered. The poor, the desperate, the sick and the needy.

White Bread America weighs in

Instead, the church has commodified abortion as an electoral voice for Christianity. It does so to the point that some people seem to vote for political candidates based on this sole issue. This is not the foundation of morals upon which Christ which lectured. His version of the Kingdom of God all all-embracing, not hammered down into a single hook the likes of a fishing lure, sharp hooks and all. This was the phishing technique of Donald Trump to hook all those evangelicals looking for approval of their social agenda. All Trump had to do was make oblique promises to ban abortion, throw conservatives onto the Supreme Court and torture gay people over civil rights and the horrific commodification of Christianity as a political tool was complete. White Bread America bought his pitch hook, line and sinker.

He must be laughing at the foolishness just like Herod before he killed all the children under two years of age. Just in case this so-called King was for real.

The Real War On Christmas

The real War On Christmas, and by proxy, the War On Christianity itself is being waged by so-called Christians who turn these harshly conceived single issue memes as designations of real Christian faith. Only disenfranchised believers abide by this brand of religion. It’s no mistake that the complaints about the War On Christmas ignore that it was Christians who started the whole commodified mess in the first place.

To all those that have commodified the Christian narrative with lame excuses and a fear of admitting the failure in responsibility, don’t feel too bad. Peter denied Jesus three times before realizing the ugly truth: he’d believed in the commodity of Jesus without realizing the real cost.

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