‘Tis the Season to be Tacky… that’s right, the Kitschmas season is upon us and its time for another installment of Jesus Junk and Christian Kitsch highlighting the degradation, commercialization, and trivialization of Christmas.
This post is part of an on-going series on Jesus Junk and Christian Kitsch. Perhaps the best place to start is with my fourth post that discusses some of the different academic perspectives of exactly what is â€œkitsch.â€? Other posts include:
This special Christmas season I had the privilege of being interviewed by Bill Radford of the Colorado Spring Gazette about my views on Christmas kitsch. The article, simply entitled, “Merry Kitschmas,” was published today — it is well worth a gander (how’s that for a shameless plug!).
Now back to the kitsch. As expected, this year all the standard pieces of Christmas kitsch are out in full force. While many of the items I highlighted last year are tough to beat, I think there are definitely some items worthy of mention.
Happy Birthday Jesus!
I must confess. One of our family Christmas traditions is to have a birthday cake for Baby Jesus for the kids on Christmas day. We put candles on the cake and the kids sing “Happy Birthday to Jesus” and then help Jesus blow out the candles. Now that I have that off my chest, I never realized how my “Happy Birthday Jesus” paraphernalia there is out there.
“Happy Birthday Jesus” tableware is avaiable from shop.com (but you’ll have to wait until next year as they are all sold out!). But if you don’t want the full meal deal, you can just get some bright neon “Happy Birthday Jesus” cups from the Christian Dollar Store:
The Christian Dollar Store actually has a whole bunch of other “Happy Birthday Jesus” merchandise, so go take a gander.
Speaking of “Baby Jesus,” this “Dear Lord Baby Jesus” prayer scence from the movie Talladega Nights is a must see!
Jesus Loves You Snow Much!
If you don’t want to be outdone by the “Happy Birthday Jesus” crowd, then you also have to get your share of “Jesus Loves You Snow Much” stuff.
Not to be outdone in sheer cheesiness, you can also get a bunch of “Jingle for Jesus” wear, including a baseball cap, among other things:
The Cavalcade of Animal Nativities
The blog for “Generation – Young Canadian Anglicans” is hosting a humorous cavalcade of bad nativities this year (a number of which I already highlighted last year, like the mega-sized inflatable nativity, the troll nativity, and — one of my favourites — the belt buckle nativity).
They did manage to find a number of mind-numbing animal nativities, including dogs, owls, and chickens.
Canadians will be happy to know that there is a moose nativity, while Austrailians will think the koala nativity is just crickey!
They missed, however, the cat and the bear nativity sets:
Since we have a couple pet bunnies, I was disappointed not to find any bunny rabbit nativity sets.
These are all avalailble, by the way, from Our American Heritage. (HT to Bob Derrenbacker for the Young Canadian Anglican site)
Papal Tree Ornaments
My Catholic readers will be happy to know that you can purchase Papal tree ornaments featuring Pope John Paul II (HT Ship of Fools):
Anthropologist Joe Zias, of the Hebrew University Science and Archaeology Department, recently found positive evidence of the Essenes’ adherence to these rituals. Together with Dr. James Tabor, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina and parasitologist Stephanie Harter-Lailheugue of the CNRS Laboratory for Anthropology in Marseilles, France, Zias found the latrines that were used by the Essenes in Qumran. The three researchers say that, in addition to shedding a great deal of light on the unique culture of the Essenes in Qumran, the discovery represents an archaeological bonanza: Additional proof that the Essenes wrote the scrolls. Zias explains that when feces are left on the desert floor, exposure to sun and wind quickly annihilates intestinal parasites. But when feces are buried in the earth, intestinal parasites may survive for many months and their eggs may be preserved for as long as 2,000 years, as in the case of Qumran.
The presence of the eggs of intestinal parasites, typically present in human intestines, in a relatively limited area, in the place described in the scrolls and by Josephus, led researchers to conclude that they discovered the bathroom of Qumran’s ancient residents. “Only ascetic members of a sect that paid such close attention to hygiene would bother to walk hundreds of meters beyond their camp to relieve themselves, and invest the necessary energy to dig a pit in which to bury their waste,” Zias concludes.
For what it is worth, I agree with Joe Zias. I find the non-Essene hypotheses that disconnect the scrolls from the community not as plausible as a modified Essene hypothesis. See here and here for other posts on this discovery.
Now that final grades have been submitted, I received a copy of my student evaluations (typed and collated so I don’t know who they are from). The comments were typical (I’m great, they loved the classes, etc. ), though this one comment stood out:
Tyler is a great humorous teddy bear of Biblical knowledge. He is filled with joy, laughter, and Hebrew.
The December 2006 edition SBL Forum is online — at least I think it is the December edition. It says it is the January 2007 Forum, but it’s still December and there hasn’t been a December Forum yet. Furthermore, in an email conversation with Leonard Greenspoon about the Forum, he noted that he was busy working on the December Forum. Whether it is the December or January SBL Forum, it is there in all its glory.
This edition has a number of interesting articles. Here is the table of contents in full (I am going to make reproducing the contents of each Forum in full my habit since there is no index to previous Forums):
Just a quick reminder about the upcoming Biblical Studies Carnival that I will host here at Codex in the new year. As you are reading posts around the blogosphere this month, make sure to nominate appropriate posts for the next Carnival, as well as any â€œbest of 2006â€³ posts. You can submit/nominate posts via the submission form at BlogCarnival.com or you may email them to biblical_studies_carnival AT hotmail DOT com.
Biblical Studies Carnival Archives
In addition, in order to preserve for posterity previous Biblical Studies Carnivals, I have created a Biblical Studies Carnival Archive Page where I will reproduce parallel editions of past BSCs. This action was prompted by the fact that the inaugural BSC over at Joel Ng’s blog, Ebla Logs, was going to be taken down. I would like to thank Peter Kirby for the advance warning so that I was able to make a copy of the Carnival. If you want to stroll down memory lane, I encourage you to take a look at the very first Biblical Studies Carnival here.
By now everyone has heard about Bono’s latest “Red Campaign” to raise awareness and money for AIDs relief in Africa. It’s been everywhere — in the news, and more importantly, on Oprah (if you haven’t heard about it yet, then check out this website). This campaign is meant to mobilize first world consumers by providing “red” buying options for which their manufacturer will donate some of their profits to AIDs relief. The website emphasizes that this isn’t a charity, but more of a business model. So now you can go and purchase red shirts from The Gap, a red iPod from Apple, a red phone from Motorola, and “red” sneakers from Converse, and know that when you purchase such an item some of the profits would go to AIDs relief in Africa.
Now, one one level I don’t think this is a bad campaign. In our consumer-oriented, image-obsessed society people who perhaps wouldn’t give otherwise will buy themselves a new toy (read: iPod) or designer apparel and at least some money is being raised for a good cause. But I think it is a horrible shame that charities have to use so many gimmicks to get people to donate some money to a worthy cause. Why can’t people just give?
My Edmonton colleague across town at The King’s University College, Stephen Martin, has raised some other questions about the appropriateness of this campaign. Here is an excerpt of his post on the Red campaign:
So here’s my question: insofar as global capitalism is the nurturing soil of the empire that maintains Africa’s people in bondage, is Bono not engaging in a massive legitimation of savage capitalism, and thereby assuaging the conscience of the Beast? Are not The Gap, American Express, and the like analogous to the cult parodied in Revelation 13 as the “False Prophet” who compels people to obtain a special mark, else they can neither buy nor sell? Can “ethical” capitalism save the world from the effects of “savage” capitalism? It reminds me of that other argument about [usually our] “righteous” and “just” violence saving the world from [usually their] “terrorist” violence.
I encourage you to read the entire post; it is quite provocative to say the least. He definitely raises questions about the appropriateness of “getting into bed” with advanced capitalism, though I know that Bono will metaphorically “sleep” with (almost?) anyone if it helps raise support for an important cause. That being said, Martin’s concluding paragraph is worth reproducing:
George Grant used to warn his students “when you sleep with Nietzsche, it’s always you that end up pregnant.” Could the same be said of transnational capitalists? If so, I hope Bono’s using protection. He’ll be in my prayers. In the meantime I’ll say no thanks to the red iPod (and the measly ten bucks Apple will send to Africa on my behalf) and look at more constructive avenues.
I can’t afford an iPod, no matter what colour! So I guess I will just have to donate some money “gimmick free.” (And I would encourage you to do so by whatever means possible).
Nothing like a bit of human sacrifice to get you in the mood for Christmas! I saw Mel Gibson‘s latest film, Apocalypto last night. While I am still ruminating on the meaning and significance of this film, I can’t say I liked it, nor can I say I didn’t like it (similar to my reactions to Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ). To say I found the film “intriguing” is probably the most accurate. (Spoiler Alert)
If you take the opening quotation from Will Durant (“A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within”) as a hermeneutical lens through which to view the entire film, then Gibson is perhaps providing a commentary on the decadence and spectacle of modern western civilization. Of course, if this was his point, Gibson is complicit by making such a violent and gory film. Perhaps the irony was lost on him as it often is on much of Hollywood.
Others have took the film as an apology of sorts for Catholicism, seeing the coming of the Spaniards at the end as a sign of the coming of Christianity and a better civilization. This to me makes no sense. If anything, the end provides an ironic reversal as the hunter now becomes the hunted (this of course raises questions of the role — if any — of the colonial powers in the decline of Mayan civilization). If anything is elevated in this film it is the notion of the noble savage: Jaguar Paw and his forest dwelling clan are presented as an ideal (this seems to me to be the meaning from the last line of the film where Jaguar Paw says to his wife that they shouldn’t go to the Spaniards, but “we must go to the forest. To seek a new beginning. Come, Turtles Run….”).
Peter Chattaway provides a similar interpretation when he reads the film through an oracle given by a little girl near the middle of the film. According to Chattaway, the girl says to the violent Mayans,
You fear me. So you should, all you who are vile. Would you like to know how you will die? The sacred time is near. Beware the blackness of day. Beware the man who brings the jaguar. Behold … [something about the man rising from the mud]. For the one he takes you to will cancel the sky and scratch out the earth. Scratch you out.
And it is the Catholic Spaniards who bring an end to the violent Mayan civilization.
Whatever its meaning, this film is violent and gory. Of course, many would say that the violence and gore is all in the name of verisimilitude and historical accuracy, so it is acceptable. I am not so sure any more. It seems to me that the film industry is caught up with the spectacle of violence and that such extreme violence and gore in film can not help but degrade all who watch it.
At any rate, those are my initial thoughts on the film.
UPDATE: You may want to check out Loren Rosson’s review here.
Ken Ristau (of anduril.ca fame) has written some reflections on his six-week participation in the Renewed Tel Dor Project this last summer. The Tel Dor excavations were renewed in 2003 and are directed by Ilan Sharon (Hebrew University) and Ayelet Gilboa (University of Haifa).
Ken had received a BAR Dig Scholarship that enabled him to take part in the dig this last summer.
Make sure to check out “Kurkar” Ken’s reflections on the Biblical Archaeology Society “Findadig” site. They are quite interesting.
Ah, nothing like the end of semester marking push to put someone in the mood for Christmas! Be that as it may, I am now finished (in more ways than one!). Marking is done; grades have been submitted. I am actually ahead of the game this semester since final grades are not due until this upcoming Friday. This is quite the accomplishment for me since I am usually one of the last professors to hand in grades.
Now I must turn my attention to a number of other important tasks before the next semester begins, including a number of blog posts that are needing some attention in my drafts folder.
I received a kind email the other day from the novelist Anne Rice. It appears that she came to my site looking for information on recent manuscript finds in Israel and wanted to convey thanks for my “interesting articles on many subjects.”
In turn, I thought I would put a plug in for her latest work, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt: A Novel (Knopf, 2005; Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com). I recognize that for the blogosphere this is old news (the book came out over a year ago! That’s like eternity on the ‘net!), but it is a novel worth reading. Christ the Lord is an engaging novel written from the perspective of a seven year old Jesus returning to Nazareth with his family after living in exile in Egypt to escape King Herod’s clutches. Writing a book about the adolescent Jesus was quite the departure for the author who made her mark on the literary world by writing about vampires, but the novel is wonderfully written and well-researched. Rice draws from a wide array of sources for her inspiration, including, of course, the canonical gospels (which are admittedly sparse on the topic of Jesus’ adolescence), but also apocryphal works like the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, scholarly understandings of first century Palestine, and traditional Catholic teachings. The result is a compelling coming of age story.
That being said, this is a work of historical fiction and you shouldn’t base your theology on it (for example, one problem that Michael Pahl notes — and I agree with — concerns her portrayal of Jesus’ strong messianic consciousness; others would include her use of apocryphal material).
If you are interested in more information about Rice’s novel and potential film plans, you can check out her site.