Banning hot cross buns?

Banning hot cross buns?

What do you get when you pour very hot water down a rabbithole?

Hot cross bun(ny)s!

One a penny two a penny – Hot cross buns!

It’s official – the memes of repression in the name of freedom and diversity have travelled to the U.K. Or have they?

For fear of offending the religious minorities at The Oaks Primary School in Ipswich, headteacher Tina Jackson has asked suppliers to remove the cross from their hot cross buns. .. “The cross is there in recognition of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ but for our students who are Jehovah Witnesses hot cross buns are not part of their beliefs. “We decided to ask to have the cross removed in respect of their beliefs. It was just a currant bun.”

For some reason, they seem worried -only- about Jehovah’s Witnesses. JW’s are not activists for such things – I smell mendacity here.

Evening Star – School decides to ban the bun

Albert Berwick, a minister with the Ipswich Cavendish Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, said the buns would indeed be offensive to members.

He said: “I can understand why the school has done this and I support the decision. Hot cross buns are a pagan symbol of fertility no different to bunnies, eggs and Easter.

The sentence is so typical in its self-confusion and half-understood prohibitions. I notice they didn’t get any offical statement from the Watchtower Society, who would never put it quite this way. Excusing the grammer (or lack thereof) for a moment, I’m simply trying to understand how hot cross buns are a symbol of fertility – you know, exactly. Since when is bread, currents and the shape of a cross made in icing a symbol of fertility? If you want to talk about the “pagan” roots of the resurrected god, that’s one thing, but this? “Hot cross buns” does of course sound a little bit suggestive (or is it just me?), but “hot cross buns” are a very different thing than “hot buns” in general…

The cross, cut into the dough before cooking or added later (as in this case) with icing, was thought to ward off evil spirits. You might not have noticed, but JWs don’t say anything when someone sneezes. The common “God bless you” or “gesundheit” has the same sort of ancient belief attached.

Of course, bunnies and eggs harken to something other than Christianity – but everyone knows that. Are egg hunts “offensive” to the Church of England?

Are the Brits turning into JWs? I’m curious about how exactly this school made the decision, and why they leave it at the feet of JWs. If they wanted to mollify JWs, they would have to end all of the holidays, delete all of the celebrations, get rid of anything that suggested a connection to any of them. Somehow I don’t see that happening.

My recollection is that JWs who are troubled by “pagan” celebrations and symbols simply do not participate, and they do not partake of those foods if they feel they are too closely associated. They simply wouldn’t eat the buns. Or – they could have an alternative, such as regular bread. Or they could simply smear the icing. You can’t spend your life trying to avoid symbols – anything can be a symbol.

An aside – I wish my son had the option of hot cross buns at school – they are delicious.

So is this for real, or are the same folks operating over there as here? Sounds either bogus or extremely silly to me. It’s a Monty Python sketch in the making. I welcome any contact from the school administrators. It would be an interesting conversation. No mention of any other religions…

As a former JW and an American liberal (as well as a scholar of religion, ethics and literature), may I suggest that banning hot cross buns has nothing to do with liberation, affirmation of cultural or religious diversity, or reducing hatred of those different from one’s own comfort group?

Pretending that traditions do not exist is not “politically correct” at all, even if you forget that the designation of “political correctness” is meant as an insult rather than a description. With all my disagreements with Jehovah’s Witnesses, I don’t know a single one who would be “offended” by such a thing as hot cross buns. If there is someone who is in fact offended by hot cross buns, please send contact information and an interview invitation. That would be the story here – someone is offended by hot cross buns! Let them explain.

A better solution might be to include some foods from other cultural and religious traditions. Some of them are downright yummy.

Inclusivity, toleration, respect and dignity for all people regardless of their religious beliefs – these are the deeper issues, and I don’t see how these are served by eroding and erasing one set of beliefs for another. There is no need to become bland in order to have dialogue. This attempt, if it was sincere, only reinforces resentment – the JW is reconfirmed in his own sense of superiority above the “impure” and the “pagan” remnants tied up with Christian tradition (as though there were a “pure” place without such influences), and the traditional Christians feel threatened and upset that even the most innocuous food should(?) be sacrificed (they don’t necessarily know the history of traditions, but why spoil them for everyone?).

If what has come to be called “political correctness” is really about attempting to erase difference in some authoritative way, then it no longer represents a move toward a language of liberation and freedom. As I recall, the main point was to create a language of inclusivity and dialogue so that everyone could speak – not to make every utterance so problematic that people were afraid to speak at all. Those who would make freedom of expression a way to limit expression have profoundly misunderstood. The regulatory function has to do with limiting hate speech, not with erasing one’s own differences from others.

Compare this to the situation of depicting Mohammed in cartoons – misunderstanding all around. The cartoon used the Prophet as a visual shortcut to depict radical Islam as terrorism. It’s sloppy, but no more so than the cartoons of Jesus and God that are seen all over. The main problem is not so much the comment on terrorism as its collapse into Islam generally, which isn’t really fair and, most importantly, it is regarded as blasphemous. There is a prohibition on depicting God (and by extention, perhaps) the Prophet in images. By the way, this prohibition is technically shared with Judaism and I’m not exactly sure how the Christians got around it. It’s a commandment. Here is the wriggle room – how does anyone know that the cartoons depicted the Prophet specifically? Were they actually labelled as such, or could they have been depictions of terrorist leaders? Personally, I was more disturbed by the exaggerated features on the one I saw, which seemed a caricature of race/nation/people more than of religion per se. There is a whole history of such caricatures of the “enemy” (see, for example Faces of the Enemy: Reflections of a Hostile Imagination by Sam Keen).

The culture clashes on religion can be mediated – with difficulty, but it is not impossible. Why just jump in to opposition, hatred, violence – without speaking with one another, without even an attempt at dialogue? Again, the differences are reinscribed as opposing ones and all sides have forgotten to care for one another as all religions of the book agree we ought to do.

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6 thoughts on “Banning hot cross buns?

  1. I used to live in the UK. They are just as rabit or political correctness as they are here in Australia.

    I remember one year where some silly council over there banned the term christmas as it may offend muslims.

    Try and guess what these new politically correct terms mean…

    Festive Illuminations
    Festive Horticultural Elements
    Festive Greeting Cards
    Merry festive time of the year

    These were the four that were permanently etched intop my brain after reading about it in the Sun newspaper.

    A free plug to the christmas charity of your choice in my blog for the winner.

  2. I’m sorry, but this is the result of total misunderstanding of the purpose of toleration of difference, or else it is a deliberate set-up to rile up “Christians” (yes, I put it in scare quotes for a reason).

    Tell me where in any contemporary literary/political theory of difference that any of this could be defended. It’s about honoring difference, not erasing it.
    I hope it is not just sheer stupidity, although that would be better than the possibility of the same groups operating there as do here.

  3. er.. I just re-read what I typed, I should have said at the beginning ‘They are just as rabid for political correctness’.

    I don’t get PC. Fair enough, we don’t want to upset anyone, but, you do have to draw the line somewhere.

    At work it is so PC that I am getting to the stage where I have to think about what I am saying on the offchance it upsets the one armed nicuragrian lesbian nun in a wheel chair that works there. If you know what I mean.

    It seems to be very orewllian in nature. Limit your vocabulary and you limit how your going to think.

  4. I did a post on political correctness the other day.when a letter writer to the local paper referred to me as the “sophisticated and politically correct” etc. It wasn’t a compliment. Post is on isamericaburning, the “other” blog.

    What started out making sense has degenerated into something very strange. I can’t keep up with the latest terminology no matter how hard I try so I offend without intending to.

  5. I think the terminology per se is probably less important than that the discourse is simply civil, respectful, and listening for the ways in which people choose to define themselves. I find that it isn’t too difficult if one is a little wary of carving people apart with projected labels in the first place.  After all, I can’t speak for all white female married exJW underemployed Massachusetts transplants to Georgia with one child and one massive student loan problem – oh, wait. Maybe I can. (grin) I might be the only one, in which case I can certainly speak for myself!

  6. Jesus warned of fanatics who would,”strain out the gnat but gulp down the camel”…Jehovah’s Witnesses are thinking and the Watchtower is shrinking, i was in the cult and now i’m out.- Danny Haszard Bangor Maine

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