Sunday, December 14, 2008
The Candy Cane Myth
This time of year, many of you will come across the Legend of the Christian Candy Cane.
It's a beautiful story unfortunately it's not at all historically accurate.
See http://www.snopes.com/holidays/christmas/candycane.asp for the true story of the candy cane.
The thing is, if you take out the inaccurate stuff about some unknown guy in Indiana and just say "one can find some beautiful christian symbols in a candy cane", then the story still works.
For me, it's a much stronger testament to know that these symbols are there, even though nobody intentionally put them there.
Christian symbols show up randomly and beautifully in all sorts of unexpected places. Like the sand dollar which even has christian symbols inside it's bony shell or Passiflora Incarnata, known in the South as the "passion flower" or "May pop" that grows wild along fence lines and roadsides.
It's important for Christians to steadfastly maintain the difference between parable and fact. The world and its events don't come to us prepackaged with Christian ideals. It's up to us to take the real stuff of life as it comes to us and make some sense of it from a Christian perspective, and to do that, we must maintain the difference between the two.
Jesus himself often used fiction to illustrate greater truths. We call them parables and they're part of our tradition. Jesus never meant for us to believe that the Good Samaritan was a real person who we could go and find and talk to. If he had, he would have given us his name, but that doesn't keep the story of the Samaritan from being an incredibly important part of the Christian life.
Candy canes are just candy. There's no hidden symbols in them, but that shouldn't keep Christians from teaching their children to take the ordinary stuff of life and reinterpret them from a Christian perspective. You have to do it honestly though, without trying to sneak in mysterious confectioners from Indiana without explaining that he is a parable, and never really existed.
It's all about the strength of the house you want to build. Parables are houses built on stone, but parables presented as historical fact are houses built on sand.