Confused Rhode Island Christianists sing secular song to defend Pagan symbol

Confused Rhode Island Christianists sing secular song to defend Pagan symbol December 7, 2011

I have long argued that perpetual offendedness leads to stupidity.

This stupidity is not innate. It is willful, voluntary and chosen. But it’s also extreme. Those who have become addicted to indignation wind up divorced from reality, interacting with it only sporadically when in search of some new pretext onto which they can project the pre-existing umbrage that has become their character, their identity and their reason for being. And when one only rarely interacts with reality — and even then only on one’s own terms — well, it makes one stupid.

Really stupid.

This was illustrated yet again yesterday, when a small cadre from the IndigNation interrupted a children’s choir to sing “O Christmas Tree.”

Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee had upset these Christianists —

Wait, no, that’s not accurate. They were already upset. These people are always upset. “Upset” has been what they do for so long that now it’s just who they are. Let’s try that again.

Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee provided an opening for the latest display of Christianists’ perpetual indignation by referring to the large fir tree in the statehouse as a “holiday tree”:

The governor said [last month] that lawmakers upset with his decision to call the blue spruce erected in the Statehouse a holiday tree instead of a Christmas tree should focus their energy on feeding the poor.

Calling the 17-foot-tall spruce a holiday tree is in keeping with Rhode Island’s founding in 1636 by religious dissident Roger Williams as a haven for tolerance, where government and religion were kept separate, independent Gov. Lincoln Chafee said.

“I would encourage all those engaged in this discussion – whatever their opinion on the matter – to use their energy and enthusiasm to make a positive difference in the lives of their fellow Rhode Islanders,” Chafee said, offering an initiative to feed the needy as a good place to start.

Hearing that, the good Christian people of Rhode Island realized that Chafee was right. Their Bibles, after all, don’t say anything at all about Christmas trees — a pre-Christian symbol from Pagan celebrations later adopted and syncretized into a Christian holiday — but those Bibles do have a great deal to say about feeding the needy. So …

No, I’m kidding. Of course that’s not what happened. Chafee’s “holiday tree” gave these Christianists an excuse to pretend they’re being persecuted and nothing delights them more than a chance to pretend they’re being persecuted.

So during the holiday tree lighting ceremony in the Statehouse, these proudly offended morons interrupted a performance by a children’s choir to strike a blow against pluralism:

After Chafee lit the “holiday” tree, a few dozen carolers interrupted a performance by a children’s chorus to sing “O Christmas Tree.” …

“He’s trying to put our religion down,” said Ken Schiano of Cranston, who came to the tree lighting after hearing about the controversy.

And what better way to defend “our religion,” he decided, than by singing, “O Christmas Tree” — a thoroughly secular holiday song that has as much to do with religion as “White Christmas” or “Merry Christmas Baby.”

So for these Christianists, the best way they could think of to promote their sectarian view was to sing a secular song in defense of a Pagan symbol.

As ridiculous as that is, it makes sense according to the internal logic of the hegemonic civil religion these folks practice. That religion is primarily tribal. It’s not about a set of shared beliefs or a set of shared practices — that’s why these folks were so angrily dismissive of Chafee’s suggestion that they help the poor. What it’s about is a set of shared symbols — totemic tribal gestures, buzz-words and commodities that can be used to keep track of which tribe is winning.

Such tribal symbols don’t have to have anything to do with the nominal Christian faith on which this tribal religion has been appended. The Bible may not say anything about Christmas trees, but then it doesn’t say anything about guns either. Or the American flag. But whenever anyone says anything that might be remotely construed as questioning the sacredness of those, such comments will be made into the focus for the next performance of IndigNation theater and the pre-existing offendedness of the tribal Christianists will be projected in that direction for a while.

Which brings us to the other inevitable consequence of perpetual offendedness: It leads to unhappiness.

That unhappiness is willful, voluntary and chosen. And it’s also extreme.

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