Christians are Like Raisins
by Noah Lugeons
I had occasion to visit Dollywood this summer. I was there about four days before the now infamous T-shirt scandal in which a lesbian couple was barred entrance for wearing a shirt with a pro-gay marriage message. To be fair, they were allowed in when the woman agreed to turn the T-shirt inside out. They have a stated policy against clothing with what they consider “offensive” messages and I frankly agree with such a policy in a theme park that largely caters to children. The Disney parks would hardly let me in wearing my “Fuck Jesus” shirt and well they shouldn’t.
The problem, of course, stems from their failure to define “offensive”. The hill billy working the ticket counter was offended by their lesbian-ness and the T-shirt was a reflection of that. God does, undeniably, say that gay people should die (though you can read it as though this only applies to gay men) in the bible so it probably seemed to this bible-thumping centurion that this shirt was against company policy. She was just executing the duties of a Dollywood Ticket Taker and sometimes that includes making the tough calls.
I would submit that the job of deciding which shirts to let in and which to keep out is probably pretty challenging. I often found myself amidst a sea of Christian propaganda shirts and they offended the hell out of me. One offered a Staples-style “Jesus Button”. One helpfully inquired if I “Got Jesus?”. My personal favorite was one that was cleverly disguised as a Mountain Dew logo that actually said “Meant to Die”.
While that one may have earned top honors in my mind, the most popular one in the park seemed to be a plain black T-shirt that proudly proclaimed that “This Shirt is Illegal in 51 Countries” with a little red cross above in case you thought the bible passages on the back were too subtle.
Lest you think I’m exaggerating the ubiquity of these Jesus shirts, I attest that I saw all of the following common corporate logos bastardized to include some ham-handed reference to Jesosity:
- Staples (as mentioned above)
- Mountain Dew (as pictured above)
- Reese’s Candies
- Dr. Pepper
- Fender Guitars
- Arm & Hammer (It was “Armed and Ready” and the hand was holding a cross)
- Coca Cola
Keep in mind that I went before the whole T-shirt fiasco. I wasn’t cataloging the shirts as I saw them. Those are just the ones I remember.
If this surprises you then you’ve clearly never been to Dollywood. It’s a Christian theme park and it must do a healthy percentage of its business in church groups and bible camps. It’s Christian enough to have church slap in the middle of the park… with services. You can actually stop in after lunch and pray that you don’t barf on the next roller coaster.
To be sure, there are plenty of far more religious theme parks out there. The evangelicals already have the “Holy Land Experience” in Orlando (as featured in Bill Maher’s Religioulis) and all of us in the atheist blogosphere eagerly await new reason’s to make fun of Kentucky’s Ark Encounter, but at least these parks are upfront about their religious slant. Dollywood is a “subversive” Christian theme park. It’s not called “Jesuswood”. It’s advertised as simple, wholesome Dolly Parton-themed family fun.
But in the mountains of Tennessee, the word Christian is more or less assumed when the words “wholesome” and “family” are invoked. Along the drive into the park you’ll be greeted by a number of Christian themed dinner theaters, one of which (I shit you not) will allow you to watch a reenactment of Christ’s brutal death while you eat.
I should explain that when I say that Dollywood is “subversive” about its Christianity, I don’t mean that they hide it. If you check the “Core Values” they list on their website, you’ll see the words “All in a Manner Consistent with Christian Values and Ethics” in red, bold letters along the bottom. There’s nothing about Jesus on the homepage, but if you go digging for him, you’ll find him.
And that’s often my largest complaint about Christian intrusion into the secular world. I have no issues with fundamental-cases building their own life-sized ark (though the tax money they’re building it with kind of pisses me off). But if you’re going to build a Christian theme park, make damn sure everyone who walks in knows what they’re in for. Don’t try to disguise a creationist museum as a real one.
Christians are subversive in the way that raisins are subversive. You’ll be eating a pastry and enjoying it when along comes this unexpected was of dead-fly (or whatever they make raisins out of). You spit it out and stare angrily at the pastry, wondering who stuck dead-fly fruit in your breakfast. You check the package and sure enough it says “raisins” on the front in tiny little letters under “Cinnamon Bun”. The information was there if you looked for it, but you had to be looking for it.
I’m reminded of a gift I bought my nephew several years ago at Christmas (yes, even we atheists celebrate buy-shit-day). They were these little plastic things that you slid over your shoes so that you could slide along on the carpet. Of course he could have gotten the same effect by wearing wool socks on tile but the fact that it was a crap product isn’t why I bring it up. As I’m wrapping these little suckers up, I notice that tucked away on a little margin of the packaging was a bible verse. It’s just snuck into the side of an otherwise secular purchase. Only a careful scrutiny of the package would have revealed this discreet attempt at evangelism.
The goal here was to sneak the passage in. The goal was to get it before the eyes of children without their parent’s knowledge or consent. If they were trying to attract more Christian customers, they would have prominently displayed the verse, but instead it was tucked into a corner where only the eyes of a child examining a new toy would be likely to see it.
It is always in the best interest of the atheist activist to remember the mind-set of the Christian. In their eyes something like this is perfectly acceptable. If they can’t sneak biblical passages into your home, your child is in danger of spending eternity in Hell. When the stakes are that high things like respect for your beliefs are inconsequential.
So I implore you to treat Christians just like you treat raisins: Always be on the look out. Always check the package carefully before you commit. Those dry, disgusting, tasteless, shriveled, out-dated bastards are always looking for a way in.