Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Why Chocolate Crosses Distress Me as a Christian

WARNING: I'm about to write what may be my most controversial article here on "The Chocolate Cult." My opinions are mine alone; they do not necessarily reflect those of "The Chocolate Cult" or any of our volunteers who help test and reveal products to you all.  You are free to comment, but vulgarities, threats, or personal insults will be deleted and the commenter banned from this forum.

Before we start our features and regular product reviews for Easter this year, I wanted to say a few words about a trend that distresses me as both a Christian and an ancient historian: chocolate crosses.  In this photo you can see an example from Russell Stover, which I found last year during post-holiday sales, but they are not the only company to make chocolate crosses.  I've been seeing them for years now, first at our local Kmart, then at the CVS, Target, and even grocery stores.  At least this Russell Stover one was real chocolate and didn't have a ton of artificial ingredients, but the quality of the chocolate is not the issue today. Today the issue is the message and how it may not be Christian at all, on several levels.

I fear this is a belittling of a religious symbol, and that offends me as a Christian.  When I walk through a store and see the selling of faith, it offends me.  Can you imagine Jesus saying, "Buy this T-shirt, kids, to brag about your faith?"  I can't.  Indeed, if we look to Jesus's words as recorded in our sacred books, time and again he tells us to be humble, to be focused on the belief and our fellow human beings, and not to proclaim our faith or do good deeds in order to shine in the eyes of other people.  Matthew 6:1-15 is one of my favorite passages from the Bible because it demonstrates how our faith is to be private and not exclusive. It comes from within a larger context of how his followers were to behave and believe differently from those around them.

You don't need a chocolate cross to show you are a Christian, because this is not something that is supposed to be shown so that others will praise you or perhaps even to acknowledge your faith.  Your faith is a private matter, not one that is any of my business, frankly, which is why I'm not going to end this post by telling you not to buy a chocolate cross.  I'm only sharing my feelings, not preaching.

Furthermore, buying this symbol is really feeding into the marketplace mentality of our world.  I'm sure this sort of monetization of Christianity has been happening for centuries, but I do not believe the God I worship and was raised to respect would approve. Capitalism is NOT Christianity, and if you believe otherwise, I fear you have been tricked big time by businesses who want nothing more than profit and couldn't care less about your soul.  This purchasing of objects to display faith offends me at all levels, not just in the form of chocolate crosses, but Easter is approaching, so this is on my mind.  So if you must ask "What would Jesus do?" I personally believe that buying X product is never going to be the correct answer.  Buy whatever you like, just think about whether or not it has anything to do with following Christ or merely just being a human being who likes stuff.  All human beings like stuff, and many of us like chocolate.

Furthermore, I'm also offended by these chocolate crosses as an ancient historian, because I think they downplay historical reality.

Crucifixion is probably one of the most horrible methods of execution ever created by humans.  It was actually unusual for the executioner to nail the crucified person to the cross, since that wouldn't hold the body up very well, and the metal used to make the nails could be used for better things when ropes would do the job.  This doesn't mean that they never nailed victims to crosses, but ropes are a more reliable and cheaper way to do so.  Regardless of the method, though, it often took days for the condemned to die as they baked under the sun without water or food, their body in a very stressed position that added even more suffering to the slow death spiral.

I feel like eating a model of this instrument of horrible death belittles the suffering of those who died on it.  Does it seem Christian to belittle how people die?  I thought Easter was supposed to be religious, or is the so-called war on Christianity all a big-media lie? The earliest Christians didn't even use the cross as a symbol, edible or not, so your eating it in the form of chocolate isn't following some ancient tradition.  In fact, the cross was used to belittle Christians in ancient times, as we can see in the so-called "Alexamenos Graffito," shown to the right.  It was found in Rome and has been dated between the 1st and 3rd centuries.

I'm sure I've offended some of you who are anxious to run out and get your chocolate crosses.  If you must buy one, Russell Stover's version is just like their milk chocolate bunnies, just a different shape.  But please think about the reason for the holiday if you are Christian, and ask if there might be a better way to celebrate than eating the method of our Lord's execution.


John Warren said...

Well, I do agree with part of this. I just can't wrap my mind around people turning a torture device into a religious symbol. Of course, it might have something to do with "Christians" ignoring everything the man taught and getting hung up on the violent theater.

TammyJo Eckhart said...

Thank you for reading and replying, John. It has been something I've struggled with myself as both a Christian and an Ancient Historian. I've been more drawn toward the fish symbol or heck not even needing a symbol. We have some many other symbols that are used for Easter (most of them really non-Christian or spring related) that I don't understand the need to add this into the chocolate menu.

The Prosey Rose said...

Very good article TammyJo! I too have always been a little bit disturbed by the recent chocolate cross trend.

TammyJo Eckhart said...

Prosey Rose, that is very reassuring for me to read because I was afraid I was alone in this feeling whenever I see them around.

Lisa Kaye said...

I'm not a Christian but I do understand why this would bother you. I can't imagine that Jesus would condone the commercialization of faith.

TammyJo Eckhart said...

Thank you for your comment, Lisa. I had help editing this before I posted -- something you all know that your Chocolate Priestess could use but rarely gets --- to try and make myself clear. I'm glad I was clear enough for folks to understand.

Of course if they don't understand, I'd love to see those comments, too, so we can have a good discussion.

kayiscah said...

@ John

The cross is used as a symbol for sacrifice, specifically Christ's sacrifice, which is a key concept of Christianity. But it's one thing to use it as a reverent reminder and quite another to try to cutesy it up for Easter baskets. Like Tammy I find the chocolate crosses rather irreverent. I can understand why people want to include reminders of Christ in an Easter basket, but I think there are better, non-edible options.

TammyJo Eckhart said...

Hi, Kayiscah, thanks for reading and replying. I think Easter as it has become is far more of a spring holiday now in the USA than religious. That's fine, holidays change over the centuries after all, but I'm glad you understood what I was saying about it belittling faith through commercialization.

Andie said...

A chocolate cross nor more belittles faith than having a portrait of Jesus in your home does. Christ said not to create an image of Him, yet in both churches and homes there are portraits of Him. The cross is a symbol of remembrance and sacrifice, just because it's made out of chocolate for Easter doesn't take away it's meaning. It comes down to the person's heart, and personally I would rather them choose a chocolate cross over a bunny any day.

TammyJo Eckhart said...

Thanks for reading and commenting, Andie. Don't you think then that with your view that you shouldn't buy the cross of chocolate because it goes against what Jesus stated versus the chocolate egg which has nothing to do with Christianity or Jesus? I imagine you wouldn't get the chocolate eggs because that has nothing to do with the religious meaning of Easter in the first place or am I understanding you incorrectly?

Angelia Sparrow said...

Chocolate crosses (with or without marzipan Jesus), cross shaped suckers, everything feels like it's an exploitation of folks who prefer to show their faith with Christian brand behavior and purchasing.

The nice thing about being pagan is that the eggs and bunnies are fine by us.

TammyJo Eckhart said...

Oh, wow, Angelia, you got my main problem here right away. Thanks, that makes me feel like I did a decent job communicating. Maybe it's the ancient historian in me but I've come to feel very uncomfortable with the term "pagan" as well since I see it as accepting the normative nature of Christianity -- I can be Christian and not see it as normative for humans if that makes any sense.

Andie said...

TammyJo, I don't get either personally. My pastor told this story one Easter and I've never forgotten it

TammyJo Eckhart said...

That's a great example, Andie, if Christianity taking pagan symbols and trying to utilize them into the religion -- long, long tradition doing that.

Some think that the egg is a symbol of Ishtar, for example, which is was along with other symbols.

But it's also just an egg which doesn't even necessarily have to do with spring since at least chicken eggs can be created, fertilized, and hatched year round.

I suspect at the end of the day it is really about profit.

Don't even get me started on chocolate that isn't even chocolate!

Thank you everyone for such a good discussion! I hope more folks join in because I'm learning a lot from your comments.

Angelia Sparrow said...

You're a Christian. I'm a Hellenic. I don't see saying "I'm pagan" as normatizing Christianity. I see it as saying "I practice one of several magical and/or earth religions." I prefer to say "I worship Hera." It seems more personal.

TammyJo Eckhart said...

That's cool, Angelia! I'm technically a Greek historian so I can understand the appeal of the ancient religion. As you can tell from my comments while it makes me uncomfortable to use the term "pagan" I still do it -- what I was taught and grew up with is difficult to unlearn. I'm glad you are ok with the term.

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