What happens when you mix Christmas, politics, Twitter and the ongoing emotional meltdown on the cultural left in the wake of the 2016 presidential race?
Trust me, the answer to that question is a bit crazy.
So was anyone else on Twitter enough in the past day or so to catch the latest mini-media storm about Christians in the Republican Party and the ugliness of their love affair with Citizen Donald Trump?
That's one way to spin this crazy mess. You could also simply note that we are dealing with another case of a major newsroom -- wait, is BuzzFeed a major newsroom? -- failing to contain even one or two people who have any idea how ordinary Christians out in Middle America use language when talking about matters of faith?
For those out of the digital feedback loop, here is the dramatic double-decker headline atop the BuzzFeed "story" that is in the middle of all this:
A Republican spokesman said Christians view only Jesus as king and to ask otherwise was “frankly offensive.”
What does it mean to say that "people are arguing about" something? Does that mean a few activists on the left served up a bunch of wisecracks and then people responded by noting that they were out of their minds?
If you want to look at this as a journalism case study, then the former GetReligionista Mark Hemingway put it best in this tweet:
This brings us to the top of the relevant BuzzFeed click-bait item:
On Sunday, Republican National Committee chairman (and incoming White House chief of staff) Reince Priebus released a message to celebrate Christmas.
You can read the full statement here, but there’s one part that has left a lot of people scratching their heads:
Over two millennia ago, a new hope was born into the world, a Savior who would offer the promise of salvation to all mankind. Just as the three wise men did on that night, this Christmas heralds a time to celebrate the good news of a new King.
The combination of the words “this Christmas” and “a new King” had people wondering whether the GOP was comparing Donald Trump to, well, Jesus.
That led to all kinds of fun in the liberal blogosphere and the BuzzFeed team lined up the tweets in a festive parade of what had to be mock indignation. Check out this screen shot:
Care of a Washington Post blogger, there is this profane and blasphemous reaction:
At this point, let's pause and actually read the entire GOP Christmas statement. I would like to note that, while it's easy to read this as another example of journalists failing to understand "evangelical-speak" lingo, Priebus is actually active in a Greek Orthodox congregation -- where the Christmas liturgies are packed with vivid language about the arrival of Christ the King.
“Merry Christmas to all! Over two millennia ago, a new hope was born into the world, a Savior who would offer the promise of salvation to all mankind. Just as the three wise men did on that night, this Christmas heralds a time to celebrate the good news of a new King. We hope Americans celebrating Christmas today will enjoy a day of festivities and a renewed closeness with family and friends.
“Even as we celebrate, we must also remember those among us who are less fortunate. Many on this day are without hope, and need the kindness and compassion of those around them. It is our prayer we will rise to meet the material, emotional, and spiritual needs of individuals all around us, and what better day is there to love our fellow man than today?
“As we open presents, enjoy Christmas dinner, and celebrate our own family traditions, we are mindful of our men and women in uniform. Many are stationed around the world today protecting our freedoms, and cannot be with their own spouses, children, parents, and siblings. We express the deepest gratitude for service that takes them away from celebrating with loved ones, and we ought to remember them in our thoughts and prayers not just on Christmas Day, but the whole year round.”
Seen in context, this whole Twitter storm is amazingly tone deaf.
To get to the angry interpretation of this rather ordinary statement, one has to read that opening paragraph with a heavy, cynical political emphasis on the mundane word "this," as in "THIS Christmas (as opposed to other Christmas seasons, like over the past eight years) heralds a time to celebrate the good news of a new King." You also have to ignore all of that stuff about the poor and people in the armed services.
So surely, you say, BuzzFeed was alone in running with this?
Actually, The Hill served up this candid description of what happened:
A Christmas statement released Sunday by the Republican National Committee (RNC) drew outrage among opponents on Twitter who objected to talk of a "new King." ...
Democrats, journalists and left-leaning Twitter users interpreted the phrasing about a "new King" as a comparison of President-elect Donald Trump to Jesus Christ.
Now, does it bother anyone else that The Hill could insert the word "journalists" in the middle of that sequence -- between "Democrats" and "left-leaning Twitter users" -- without blinking a cyber-eye? Sad, sad, sad.
Oh, here is some more over the top King of Kings language:
IMAGES: An Orthodox icon of Christ the King.