The evil of Christmas trees

Okay, I’m basically not a very nice person in many ways, and I’m all too aware of my many faults, but this year, my conscience has been pricked after being pointed towards the words of Jeremiah:

This is what the LORD says:

“Do not learn the ways of the nations
or be terrified by signs in the heavens,
though the nations are terrified by them.
For the practices of the peoples are worthless;
they cut a tree out of the forest,
and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel.
They adorn it with silver and gold;
they fasten it with hammer and nails
so it will not totter.

That seems like a pretty clear denunciation of Christmas trees to me, and prophetic as well, seeing that it was written about 600 years before Jesus was even born. The question is, how much wiggle room is there?

I mean, I have an artificial tree – is that OK? What about if the tree’s real, but is a living tree, or wasn’t grown in a forest? It’s a minefield. Must I have a colour scheme without any silver or gold, is the important point that it shouldn’t contain both silver and gold, or is even that acceptable, as long as it’s balanced with some other colours? I think that would make sense, because just silver and gold can look a bit bland and sterile, but maybe we need some deep thinkers to give some serious theological thought to this. Just as soon as they’ve finished on Ezekiel’s aliens.

(Interestingly, while I was writing this, I discovered that there are some people who genuinely believe this passage prohibits Christmas trees. Or at least, they appear to – Poe’s Law applies as much as ever.)


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About Recovering Agnostic

I'm Christian by upbringing, agnostic by belief, cynical by temperament, broadly scientific in approach, and looking for answers. My main interest at the moment is in turning my current disengaged shrug into at least a working hypothesis.

9 responses to “The evil of Christmas trees”

  1. Lorena says :

    It’s amazing the rules one can come up with when reading the Bible and trying to apply literally. You can find a rule and then find another verse that makes your rule a sin.

    I am so glad I freed myself from the BS.

    • Recovering Agnostic says :

      Yes, one of the things that really interests me is the way people handle those inconsistencies and contradictions. I’m working on a project about that, and the way everyone adds their own subtext, or glosses over the bits they don’t like.

  2. unkleE says :

    There are some simple principles that most christians recognise, though not all apply them consistently. For example:

    1. God is more interested in our ‘hearts’ (our attitudes and motivations) than what we actually do. Once we get that fixed in our minds, a lot of uncertainty becomes less important.

    2. We learn and mature by making choices and living with the consequences of them.

    3. As a broad generalisation, the OT was for the Jews back then, the NT is for christians now. Some teachings carry through, but many have been re-interpreted.

    But of course we can always find people whose approach is (to our minds) naive and thoughtless – this is true for all sorts of believers and unbelievers, but it wouldn’t be sensible to judge a viewpoint on that basis.

    One of the strengths of christianity is that it’s not just for the educated elite, but attracts more than its fair share of broken, mentally and emotionally disabled, social outcasts, nerds and very ordinary and sometimes silly people. God accepts us all, and gives us a better life, a measure of healing and a community to support us.

    That’s my experience after almost 50 years in it.

    • Recovering Agnostic says :

      “Not all apply them consistently” – too right! This is more a piece of whimsy than a deliberate satire, but having written it, there are obvious parallels with texts which are used as prescriptive plans for life, to the extent that Christians campaign to enshrine their interpretation of the texts in law. And yes, the prooftexts used are generally OT ones.

  3. unkleE says :

    “And yes, the prooftexts used are generally OT ones.”
    Many christians are very inconsistent at this point. They use the OT when it seems helpful, then ignore it when it obviously doesn’t apply, but rarely work out a consistent approach. But there is a slow growing (I think) recognition that the OT was for jews and while it provides a background to the NT, it isn’t “our book”. One day, I think we’ll all recognise that.

  4. Karin says :

    Christmas trees aren’t really “worked with an axe by the hands of an artisan”. I think this was an injunction against Asherah poles and similar religious artifacts. Of course, if you carve your Christmas tree and bow down and worship it, this verse might apply to you, if you think that the rules Old Covenant apply to you. As a Christian I am more interested in the New Covenant.

    • Recovering Agnostic says :

      Huh, typical – denying the plain meaning of a text with an uncomfortable message by appealing to spurious and insignificant details. People have no respect for scripture these days.


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