Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The great Bleedin' Jesus controversy

Central Florida is an odd amalgam of native Crackers and transplanted Yankees, of conservative and liberal. Especially in my little burg, where most of the churches are conservative. There are a few who advertise they are open and affirming, where even liberals are welcome.

The local Christmas parade is a mixture of small-corporate self-hype, small businesses striving to be noticed, police- and fire- department vehicles on noisy display, school, church and civic groups, and, of course Santa Claus. Better throw in some ROTC and Veterans groups dressed in camo.

The church floats have always been fine. They celebrate the birth of Baby Jesus. Church choirs balance precariously, singing Christmas carols as their floats bobble down Main Street. Kids dressed as shepherds grin at the crowd. Peace and joy is the message of the day.

This year, one new/young independent-church minister decided to impress on everyone the true meaning of Christmas: that Christ was born to die for our sins. A traditional manger scene was dwarfed by the pastor himself, costumed as a bloody Jesus, writhing, moaning and dying on the cross.

For once, even a lot of conservative Christians and I shared the same viewpoint, that this is not an appropriate theme for a Christmas float. I covered the controversy for the newspaper, and asked for community discussion on it.

Most of the letters from conservative Christians supported the erstwhile pastor, who said he really didn't mean to offend anyone or make little children cry, as some of the letters to the editor and calls to parade organizers complained. He just wanted to get out the true meaning of Christmas.

After interviewing him, I don't cast aspersions on his motives. He just didn't get it that not everyone at the Christmas parade is a Bible-study member with a good grasp of the meaning of the Crucifixion. I'm sure he expected some attention for his fledging home church, and kudos as one standing up for "real" Christian values in this age of calling Christmas the holiday season and taking the 10 Commandments out of the courthouse. He didn't expect complaints from angry, offended parents of small, crying children.

Heck, The Passion is the stuff of full Lenten-season studies. A depiction of the Crucifixion on a Christmas-parade float isn't going to win any converts.

And Christmas parades are a time of fun and celebration, aimed at toddlers and young children -- not the place for such heavy subjects.

So, now, the questions arises, should the parade sponsor, a local civic group, screen floats more carefully? Do we increase censorship?

I don't like that idea, either.

p.s. -- I promise to post more often.


Caelius said...

I remember a story from earlier this year in which a Pentecostal church in New Jersey decided to do some sort of Easter event in which the Easter Bunny was scourged and crucified. Their excuse was that "The Easter Bunny is not the reason for the season." Indeed. But then why did you put the Easter Bunny in the place of Christ? Apparently, a lot of children cried during that show.

I'm glad that you have promised to post more often. With Simeon to tell us about Texas and you to tell us about Florida, we folks on the coasts will be more able to keep you in our prayers and providing other forms of support. Not that you're expected to blog on the unpleasantness constantly, but we'd like to share a few of your own joys and sorrows, too.

Christos gennatai
(Christ is born!)

john wilkins said...

It does remind me about the Japanese window where Santa was being crucified on Christmas.

They didn't really get it.