When Saying ‘Jesus Is Not Magic’ Turns Into ‘A Sick Joke’

Remember this holiday classic?

Last year, British-Australian comedian, actor, musician and atheist Tim Minchin contributed that song, “White Wine in the Sun,” to a CD called “The Spirit of Christmas,” with proceeds benefitting the Salvation Army.

In the song, Minchin sings that that he’s not a fan of religious aspects of the holiday season and that he prefers to use the time to spending time with his family, sharing white wine.

I’m looking forward to Christmas
Though I’m not expecting a visit from Jesus

I’ll be seeing my dad
My brother and sisters, my gran and my mum
They’ll be drinking white wine in the sun

Shouldn’t that be at least part of what the holidays are about for anyone, regardless of faith?

This led to a tiff with the Salvation Army (which isn’t known for tolerance, anyway). The organization slammed the song, with spokesman Neil Venables saying: “We do not in any way support the statements made in this song.”

Apparently, Minchin singing that his daughter will always have a family waiting for her on Christmas, no matter where she is goes against what the Salvation Army supports…

Other religious leaders lined up to take shots at the song last year as well.

Family Council of Victoria’s Bill Muehlenberg said: ‘It’s not quite in the spirit of Christmas. Is this somebody’s idea of a sick joke?’

And Rob Ward of the Australian Christian Lobby said the song was ‘disrespectful’.

It’s not often that a high-profile atheist contributes to a Christian organization. You have to wonder why these groups weren’t the least bit gracious — they could have said that, while they celebrated Christmas differently from Minchin, they were still thankful for his generosity. What is so hard about that?

When Minchin was told about the controversy last year, he noted that he didn’t even know the money was going to the Salvation Army. Regardless, he felt the groups criticizing him were putting their beliefs above their desire to help others out through charity:

I think the Salvos are idiots. I didn’t know they would benefit from the CD, but by the time I found out I didn’t want to make too much of a fuss. So I gave my song free, then they turn around and say that they don’t agree with the sentiment of the song. Obviously, they are talking about how I think Jesus is not magic. Part of me is hugely outraged by what imbeciles they are, to bite the hand that feeds them and put their proselytising above charity.

For what it’s worth, proceeds from the purchase of Minchin’s song in December of 2009 and 2010 were donated to the National Autistic Society, a group, Minchin said, that doesn’t proselytize.

***Update***: There’s an animated version of the song, too!

(Thanks to Kevin for the link!)

About Emileigh

Emileigh Clare is a journalist living in York, Pennsylvania.

  • http://www.facebook.com/linda.gulley Linda Stout Gulley

    The more I learn about that organization, the more I dislike them.

  • Rickymccarl

    I am just glad that his response to those ungracious Christians was so gracious! 

    • Anonymous

      No doubt! 

  • http://www.facebook.com/DocMonkey Mick Wright

    Another consequence of putting ideology ahead of people. I have to suppress a shudder every time I walk past their goodwill store in my town.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_55HCGTRPQF6BHC2QWJJ6NLP33M Eleanor

      Just a note: Goodwill stores are not run by the Salvation Army, whose stores are labelled “Salvation Army.”

      The Goodwill organization, from what I know, assists developmentally challenged clients to live better lives. I enjoy their stores a lot. Will not go into a Salvation Army store any more. They’re jerks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=613751245 Alex Manuel

    Disgusted? Yes.

    Shocked? Not at all.

  • http://nathandst.blogspot.com NathanDST

    “sick joke?” Hmm… one could almost forgive them wondering if a comedian was making a joke, but I think that’s one of the few songs where he really wasn’t focused on humor. It’s also one of my favorites, and helped me get over this idea that I can’t celebrate Christmas as an atheist.

  • http://twitter.com/AndyM54 Andy Miles

    There is loads of Tim’s material they could find legitimate offence with (although I tend to agree with him). ‘White Wine In The Sun’ though is a lovely song about the family side of Christmas and, unless you want to remove all of that and distil it down to a pure christian religious celebration, then surely this is a big part of this time of year. Buy the single, donate to Autism support!

  • Anonymous

    Really? They think Tim’s beautiful song about Christimas, 90% of which I’m sure most (non-fucking moron) Christians could fully support is “disrespectful”? Quick, no one tell them about this!

    Does anyone know if the Salvation Army has always been like this and I’ve just been out to lunch? Or are they like the Boy Scouts, a formerly much more reasonable organization that is being taken over by zealots more interested in piety than charity?

    • Scott-K

      I have to admit, as a former-catholic, “The Pope Song” always makes me smile.

  • Anonymous

    I love that song. There’s a animated version now.

    http://youtu.be/vWQuDtxD2-c

  • Anonymous

    The Salvation army, or Salvos, as they are called here in Australia enjoy unquestioning admiration from the media and the public at large. While I admit they do some good work with the poor and needy, like many charities do, their stances on some issues really needs to be challenged.

    Also, their 11 doctrines are nutty.

    • Anonymous

      The Salvation Army isn’t a charity in the same sense as other organizations. It’s literally a church

      • Anonymous

        You are absolutely correct. The salvation Army is a church. I guess even I am guilty of thinking of them as first and foremost a charity, because them as a church is rarely mentioned.

    • Anonymous

      I didn’t realize how far the “Salvos’” reach is. They need to be challenged everywhere. 

  • Kevin_Of_Bangor

    This song is epic.

    • Rieux

      It’s unspeakably wonderful. And tear-jerking.

      • Canadian Atheist, eh!

        Yep. That one and “Not Perfect” get me in the tear ducts every time.

  • Scott-K

    How could anyone be offended by something so beautiful?

  • Nude0007

    The Salvation Army is a fundie bigoted scam.  I don’t see why Tim or anyone connected with him wanted to donate money to them.  They would actually let someone starve unless they hear their religious sermon first. Try it.  Go to a Savation Army soup kitchen and refuse to participate in the service. They’ll kick you out.  Or tell them you are gay. 
    It bothers me a lot that they get federal funds.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-Sweet/1280927267 James Sweet

      It sounds like Minchin didn’t know that’s where the money was going, and wasn’t happy when he found out.

  • Dan W

    I have rapidly lost any liking I had for the Salvation Army. Also, really? White Wine in the Sun is one of my favorite Christmas songs. It’s far more “in the spirit of Christmas” (whatever that means these days) than several other Christmas songs I like. Fuck the Salvation Army. I’ll donate my money to a less bigoted charity.

  • gsw

    I think it is just barely possible that they took offence at the “dead Palestinian”?

    As an atheist, even I am not sure I whether to be a little worried by this. Surely, the guy whose birthday they are celebrating was a Jew? Palestine didn’t even exist yet. 

    • TheBlackCat

      Actually, Palestine was the historic name for the entire region.  This is distinct from the modern state/territory/whatever-you-consider it of Palestine.

  • Anonymous

    I thought that the song was beautiful.  The Sally Army go down in my estimation every time I hear of them and I used to rate them quite highly despite their religious origins. Another disappointment from a religious organisation.  I shouldn’t be surprised.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-Sweet/1280927267 James Sweet

    Apparently, Minchin singing that his daughter will always have a family waiting for her on Christmas, no matter where she is goes against what the Salvation Army supports…

    Yes, pretty much.  I had only just started to find out about the Salvation Army’s true nature in the past couple of years.  I wouldn’t give those fuckers a dime anymore, and yes, that lovely sentiment pretty much does go exactly against what the Salvation Army supports.  Your family shouldn’t be waiting for you on Christmas if you are an atheist or LGBT or whatever.  That’s what the Salvation Army is all about.

  • Atoswald

    I_Claudia,
    Unfortunately, the Salvation Army is bug nuts crazy and very cultish, have been for years. 

    As for Minchin’s song … just beautiful!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_SDICENQPLP3X7NATO5NYVTOYEA Richter 8.6

    I would propose that, if there are Christians who are against the sentiment behind the song – love, family, togetherness, peace, and happiness – and instead of making it a cold and hollow celebration of a dead man, then they are, in fact, doing it wrong.

    The sentiments behind this song are at the core of the New Testament; I’d find it hard to believe that if the man named Jesus were alive today that he would take such great offense at a song telling people to love one another and be together.


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