‘O Come All Ye Faithless

December 19, 2007

From the Christian Post:

A controversial Christmas card reading “O come all ye faithless” has been strongly criticized by Christians as an “ill judged and insensitive joke.” Borders book stores began giving away the card free with every copy of Richard Dawkins’ well known atheist work, The God Delusion, this Christmas.
The Rev. Jonathan Edwards, general secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain. said the idea was “crass.”

“I am quite sure that Borders intended their Christmas card as a joke. However, I personally find it an ill-judged and insensitive joke,” he said, as reported by Baptist Times.

Good grief.

He continued, “Christians have always been used to being punch bags but I would have hoped that, in a society in which we are seeking to show respect to all people and beliefs, we might have grown out of this kind of nonsense.”

I’m a little puzzled as to how the card either directly addresses any particular faith, or how an assertion of lack of faith is any more offensive to the faithful that an assertion of religious faith is to those without it. Just how is this using Christians as “punch bags”?

The Evangelical Alliance’s Thacker noted, “I think the atheists will love it because it’s bashing Christians around the head. It’s another thing to take a Christian festival and abuse it.
“Borders wouldn’t do this to any other religious festival. Borders [has] made a strategic mistake and Christians will boycott it.”

Right. I see. So the problem appears to be that a card making a joke about lack of faith and

  1. atheism is anti-Christian, and
  2. it is included with an anti-Christian book, and
  3. it is being done at Christmas, which is a Christian festival.

Firstly, the joke is about atheism not anti-theism. It is about an absence of religious belief, it is not necessarily against it.

Secondly, the God Delusion, while using Christian examples because of the authors cultural context, is not exclusively questioning Christianity, but rather all supernatural gods. It is not an exclusively anti-Christian book.

And thirdly, while Christmas is indeed a time of festival for Christians, it is not exclusively that either. Its origins date back to pre-Christian times, and its modern incarnation embraces (or at least claims to) peoples of differing religious and racial persuasions.

It’s a pretty mild joke really, not much more than a play on words. Is it really worth the controversy?

3 Responses to “‘O Come All Ye Faithless”

  1. CarrieP Says:

    Borders isn’t going to drop the promotion, are they?

    Some people–especially a disproportionate number of Christian conservatives–simply cannot take a joke.

  2. Kieran Says:

    In regards to your statement “I’m a little puzzled as to how the card either directly addresses any particular faith …”, the title “Oh come all ye faithless” is referencing the famous Christian hymn “Oh come all ye faithful”. (Quick google search – http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/Oh_Come_All_Ye_Faithful/). Subsequently I think it is a fair assertion to make, that the joke is aimed at Christians.

    Secondly I agree with Edwards comment “Borders wouldn’t do this to any other religious festival” . Remember in 2006 when the Pope made a historical comment about Islam, and there were riots, destruction, murder and all round violence because it. Delve into the history of their festivals. Just because Christians in todays society don’t necessarily go around burning things in response to insults (real or perceived) doesn’t mean that it gives the world license to insult it; anymore than I should tell black people to be my slaves. Respect is respect.

    The line has to be drawn. Those of religious beliefs shouldn’t mock those who aren’t, and vice versa.

    However I agree that in the grand scheme of the season, it was meant as a joke. So let’s shut up and get on with life. Perhaps next year Borders should think a little more carefully.

  3. David Says:

    Hold on, a joke at christians??? Aren’t they the ones that believe that some all-knowing deity that used to be involved in everyday life but has taken a bit of a back seat in recent years sent himself in the form of his own son so that he could die to allow himself to forgive everyone for things they haven’t done yet, regardless of the feeling of the victims of these future-sins? the same one’s that believe that the ill-informed scribblings of some stone-age farmers is more relevant than the latest scientific developments. The same one’s who don’t know the difference between a human adult and a blastocyst or that most of their ponderings and assertions about the world are unsubstanciated, illogical and in most cases obviously incorrect.

    Kieron, the fact that they did burn you for disagreeing with them should set alarms bells ringing whenever they claim anything without concrete evidence.

    It’s the fact they believe such rhubarb that makes them the perfect people to insult and make fun of. It’s their illogical and frankly arrogant assumptions that cause so much trouble in this world, anyone who believes such crap deserves to be ridiculed. Respect is earned and if you are unwilling to listen to reason and get so easily offened when people disagree with you’re views yopu should ask yourself why.


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