‘Jesus is alive': Christian leaders react to kerfuffle over not cross buns

TD Dolci/Getty Images
TD Dolci/Getty Images

A supermarket’s decision to replace the traditional cross on hot cross buns with a checkmark has ignited debate across the United Kingdom. Amid the Easter season, the move has led to calls for boycotts and prompted Danny Webster, director of advocacy at Evangelical Alliance, to highlight the core of Easter's message.

Iceland, the supermarket, initiated a trial replacing the cross with a checkmark on some of its buns following a survey indicating that a fifth of its customers preferred the symbol. This change, however, has faced backlash from various Christian groups and individuals, emphasizing the cross' enduring significance to many in the U.K.

Reacting to the uproar surrounding Iceland's removal of the Christian symbol from its holiday buns, Webster of Evangelical Alliance stated that regardless of the supermarket’s design choices, the Christian community will continue to affirm the resurrection of Jesus.

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“Easter is when Christians across the globe remember Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave, Webster was quoted as saying. “Whatever Iceland puts on their buns, Christians will continue to declare the truth of the cross that Jesus is alive.”

Webster also responded to the issue by writing on X: “Might write a piece later about whether or not to respond to enquiries like these. On one level a bit of fun, on another an opportunity to say something about the gospel, but also the risk feeding confected outrage and letting journalists write the headline they’d already planned.”

He also wrote: "Did play with a line about the tick representing Jesus’ victory over death, but felt that might make the story more confusing!"

Henrietta Blyth, chief executive of Open Doors, also expressed concerns, noting the cross’ profound meaning, even when it appears on something as mundane as a bun.

“The cross is still of huge significance to millions of people in the U.K., whether or not they attach meaning to it on a bun anymore,” she was quoted as saying. “I understand why people may not want to see a cross on their teacake. It represents one of the most agonizing forms of execution ever devised — you could say it’s like having an electric chair on a croissant.”

The controversy has not only involved religious figures but also political ones.

Richard Walker, executive chairman of Iceland Foods, acknowledged the unexpected boost in sales of traditional hot cross buns, which surged by 134% following the public outcry, Times Series reported. This reaction was notably amplified by comments from Members of Parliament like Lee Anderson of Reform U.K. and Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, who criticized the supermarket’s decision.

Despite the uproar, Iceland has maintained that the traditional hot cross buns will remain available, ensuring that the essence of the Easter tradition is preserved.

David Lennox, head of development at Iceland Foods, explained the rationale behind the trial, citing customer feedback and the evolving preferences in the market.

The debate extends beyond the supermarket’s shelves, touching on broader discussions about the commercialization and adaptation of religious symbols. Gavin Ashenden, former honorary chaplain to the late Queen Elizabeth II, criticized the trend of altering hot cross buns with unconventional ingredients, suggesting a dilution of their traditional significance.

In response to the situation, Simon Calvert, deputy director of The Christian Institute, advised focusing on the spiritual essence of Easter, recommending church attendance over purchasing modified buns.

“As others have said, Christians will continue to proclaim this marvelous good news regardless of what Iceland puts on its buns. My advice is: this Easter Sunday, instead of buying hot cross buns, go to church,” Times Series quoted Calvert as saying.

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