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THE TREE PASSAGE
11 December 2005

Jeremiah 10:1-4  -- “Here ye the word which the Lord speaketh unto you, House of Israel: thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen … for the customs of the people are vain: for they cutteth a tree out of the forest … They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.”

 

I’ve been thinking more about this passage. First it says, “Here ye the word which the Lord speaketh unto you, House of Israel:”

But I am not in the House of Israel! I am not Jewish. None of my ancestors were Jewish. They did not come from Jerusalem or the Middle East. They came from Ireland, England, Scotland and perhaps France with a long stop in Holland before coming to America in 1636. So right off the bat I can say, “This passage does not apply to me, so it’s OK to have a tree.” Certainly, any non-Jewish person could say, “I like this passage; I think it applies to me, and I want it to follow it,” but that would be their choice and not a theological necessity … unless someone like Herbert W. Armstrong says something to make them think it’s a theological necessity. This would apply to the ban on eating certain foods, too. But back to the passage:

Then it says, “for they cutteth a tree out of the forest …”

But I doubt we ever had a tree that was cut out of the forest. All the trees we had – and most Christmas trees sitting in homes today – were grown for the purpose of being harvested. So perhaps the big problem with having a tree is that god doesn’t want us cutting it out of the forest, since that’s what the passage specifically says.

Moreover, what if, like my mom, a person has a plastic tree that was made in a factory? Her tree doesn’t come out of the forest; it comes out of a box! No ban on plastic trees, it seems.

Then the passage says, “They deck it with silver and with gold;”

None of our trees were ever decked with silver and gold; they were decorated with glass and plastic. Granted, that glass and plastic was often the color of silver and gold, but the passage does not say, “They deck it with colors of silver and with gold;” So perhaps it’s the use of actual silver and gold that’s the real problem and results in the prohibition. One could certainly interpret it in that way; indeed, that’s the more strict interpretation. 

And finally, the passage says, “they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.”

We never fastened our tree with nails and hammers! It moved, believe me. Once it even fell over on me when I was watching TV. Ouch! So maybe a non-nailed tree is just fine. I can interpret it that way.

Of this Bible passage one person said, “A reference to the Christmas tree, by George, before Christ was even born.” But I think one must make a very broad interpretation of this passage to conclude it’s referencing the typical family Christmas tree; a strict interpretation excludes every Christmas tree we ever had!

And this is what fascinates me about belief: There’s some hidden psychological reason that causes people to fasten on such passages and interpret them in such a manner as to produce in them great enthusiasm. In other words, they don’t follow such passages because they must but because they very much want to and love to; but they will never admit it’s about them; they always say they “must” because it is the rule of god.

That’s what I am trying to get at: why people say, “I must” when they really mean, “because for some reason I love it!” This is why I like Kant’s insight into the situation where he says that even if a person were to meet god face to face and get a direct lesson in the rules – inescapably presented with the actual FACT of god’s existence and all his favorite rules and regulations – that person would still have to make a choice about whether they could in good conscience be a follower or supporter of that deity and those practices.

This means to me that no one ever should cite “the facts” in regards their theological choices, that it always comes down to their personal, subjective decision to accept any rule, idea, principle or scriptural passage. In other words, they act not from factual or theological necessity, but from personal choice, which is perhaps sometimes linked to an unacknowledged psychological preference.

Moreover, it seems that the more powerful the psychological preference (and the more unacknowledged that preference!), the more the person insists they are following the factual rules of the true god. So maybe the question is this: Should people have more insight into what’s really going on in their hearts and souls, or should they continue to find ways to disguise it as something else?

ADDED NOTE:

Bill Meyer reports that if one had the proper translation to this Bible passage, they would see what's under discussion is not a tree at all but an idol carved from wood then decorated with gold and silver. And Rona heard tell of a new book called "The War on Christmas," but get this: It says "the sacred Christian holiday" is being ruined by liberals and secular people! So is it "really" a pagan holiday or a sacred Christian holiday or just a day like any other? What a riot!

 

BIRTHEVERGREENS AND EVIL FORCES

 

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