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.

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.

31 comments:

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.

Anonymous 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 http://www.mostmerciful.com/easter-egg.htm

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.

Anonymous said...

I'm good with it as long as there isn't a chocolate Jesus on the chocolate cross. Some might find it hard to believe, but I do have limits to my bad taste.

TammyJo Eckhart said...

brentabell, thanks for reading and commenting. Why do you think the presence of the tortured body makes it cross a line? Would it be appropriate for Halloween instead of Easter?

Margaret said...

I live the idea of a chocolate cross. Easter has nothing to do with a bunny laying eggs. And the cross is no longer a symbol of torture but a symbol of resurrection and new life. I am buying my family a cross for Easter, not a rabbit.

TammyJo Eckhart said...

Thank you for commenting, Margaret. Do you mind if I ask you a few follow-up questions as a Sister in Christ?

Why not a fish -- a historic symbol of Christianity -- or an open tomb -- to show the resurrection -- in chocolate? Would you buy those symbols over a bunny or eggs?

Do you worry about feeding capitalistic over Christian values when you purchase something like this?

I hope if you do buy a chocolate cross you also embrace other Christian virtues and make certain that the brand you buy practices fair trade, works to protect the land the cocoa trees are grown on, doesn't support child slavery, and doesn't include unhealthy added and unnecessary ingredients in it.

Margaret said...

I notice you did not address my comment, the cross has been transformed by Christ into a symbol of hope, redirection,and new life. Instead you moved on to a new way to convince myself and others not to buy a cross. Let me make myself clear. I do not practice my faith. I may practice piano. I live my faith. It is as natural to me as breathing in and out. No I am not going to get on line and buy books to search out the best chocolate company. I vote for politician's to change the world. I have not been given that assignment by the Holy Spirit. The cross is the most recognized symbol of Christ in the world. When ppl see a cross they know what they are supposed to find. Help, comfort, a way forward. They may not find it, but they still understand they should. If the cross was good enough for the Messiah it is good enough for me and I will hazard to say it should be good enough for you.

I find it hard to believe that as a Christian the Holy Spirit has given you the assignment of attacking the cross. In fact I find it impossible to believe. I will not be looking for any empty tombs in chocolate. If I find one I will certainly consider it. But even then my hope will be where His life ended and began again for that is the promise of the cross. Who so ever believeth in Him. As he passed through death,so shall I, and so shall all who put their trust in Him and do not fall for the deceptive ways of the evil one.

Good day to you. I found my cross a long time ago. I hope you find yours.

TammyJo Eckhart said...

Margaret, I'm very confused by your reply and your attacks on my own Faith especially when you donot know me at all.

I already laid out my reasons in the article for my feelings most of which you ignored completely to jump into your own beliefs.

Did you read the article or only the pieces you disagreed with?

I asked how you felt about the points from that article that you didn't address in your original comment because I was curious.

Would you like me to lay out those points again?

If you felt attacked by my reply, I'm sorry you felt that way.

Do you think you read into my questions from a defensive position instead of using them to answer thoughtfully?

My mother used to do that all of the time.After she died I got all of her writings, both professional and private, and discovered that she really struggled with Faith and Belief. I felt so sorry for her

You don't have to worry about my Faith or my Soul. Jesus and I are great and I don't struggle with my Faith at all.

As for me being paid for this blog or any of the articles, that's funny. Check out the "About Us" and "Fee Schedule" for more information about this blog. 99% of everything I write about I was paid zero and I clearly mark when I am paid.

Margaret said...

I never said you were paid for anything. Did you read what I said or only part.

You should be pleased that I won't be spending much more time in this. I only bother with it all because new believers or those whose faith has not yet been deepened may read it and actually take it seriously.

I can take trash, wrap it in cellophane, tie a pretty bow around it and put it in a crystal bowl but at its core it is still trash. You have done a miraculous thing. You have taken trash and turned it into the internet equivalent of ink on a page but at its core it is still trash. The devil is in the details. In this case si thinly veiled as to be nearly transparent. He never goes after other beliefs because he knows who the one true God is even when men do not. You speak of rampant consumerism. Why not speak against things which really promote rampant spending without a need. Instead you come against in many cases a two dollar chocolate cross. Give me a break.

And still, you did not address the cross being a symbol of resurrection, and new life.

Margaret said...

Furthermore, you make the mistake of equating faith with age. I will remind you that Yeshua died on that cross you oppose when he was only 33 years old. I came to faith when I was nine. Faith is not a matter of age, it's a matter of relationship. I am not struggling. I know the Rock on which I stand, from which I was headed.

Yes I read your words. All deceit must be wrapped in some truth or it would immediately be recognized for the falsehood that it is. As to wish you goodluck would be counter productive I will say, I'll pray for you.

TammyJo Eckhart said...

I'm sorry you felt the need to reply twice more even though you don't think it is worth it, Margaret. While I like folks to think when they read our articles, I don't want to upset them.

I'm still not sure how my first questions back were offensive. After that I will admit that I got offended by the tone of your reply and attack on my Faith so I wasn't as nice in my second reply.

I'm sad that we couldn't engage in a civil discussion about the topics like I did with Andie.

I wish brentabell had replied because I could have pointed him to an interview we did with a chocolatier who did take that step showing Jesus on the cross one year.

Margaret said...

I am not offended or upset. I would need to expect something more from a person to be hurt by what they say. In this case I have no expectation. I wish nothing but the best for you.

Dragonwriter said...

I also have real problems with the idea of eating a Chocolate Cross, and I think you sum up the reasons very well.

However, I really could go for a Chocolate Fish as a joyful symbol of Christianity.

Helen

Dragonwriter said...

To be clear, I don't oppose the cross. I am a Christian, and I think I have been one all my life. But I still find _eating a chocolate cross as an act of enjoyment_ to be weird and distasteful to my sensibilities. Yes, Jesus conquered the torture and horrible death he was subjected to, but to turn that torture device into a delightful treat just doesn't work for me.

And yet, even though I don't much care for it, I really agree with Tammy's statements that this a "me" thing and doesn't need to be imposed on other people. The only thing she really asks of people is that they consume fair trade chocolate made with good ingredients, because the Fair Trade affects the producers, other people, and the good quality chocolate is the whole point of the blog.

TammyJo Eckhart said...

I think a company that could offer quality chocolate, made with fair treatment of the farmers, that was willing to make other religious symbols could make a lot of money. In terms of Easter I can think of a lot of symbols you could make from chocolate. If yours was unique or the first of its kind that could get a lot of publicity, too.

Margaret said...

If good quality chocolate is the whole point of the blog. Why does it not list a good chocolate company and leave the rest along.

TammyJo Eckhart said...

A 'good quality chocolate company" isn't the point of the blog. Talking about chocolate in all forms and in all aspects of culture is. Check the "All About The Chocolate Cult" tab at the top to learn about our history and purpose.

We spend a good deal of time talking about companies so all you or anyone else would need to do is to use the "Search" button along the right hand side to see if you can find a company if you know a brand. You can also look under "Easter" in the "Labels" if you are looking for companies that have sent us products.

We don't tell you want to buy when we do product reviews. We describe our experience with the products, looking their claims, and give you what we've found you.

You have to make your own ethical choices. Which is why this post was entitled "Why Chocolate Crosses Distress Me as a Christian" not something like "Christians shouldn't buy Chocolate Crosses" or "Chocolate Crosses are Evil" -- both titles which would have gotten a lot more attention but won't be honest reflection of the post.

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