RNC's 'new king' Christmas message ignites furor over whether it compared Trump to Jesus

President-elect Donald Trump speaks on December 17, 2016 in Mobile, Alabama.
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The Republican National Committee's Christmas message sparked a war of words on social media on Sunday, as the organization's Biblical reference to "new king" polarized political watchers.

The RNC issued a public statement celebrating Christmas, a normally anodyne holiday tradition that goes unremarked. Because 2016 has been far from a normal year, a number of journalists and social media users took umbrage with the RNC's use of religious language in a political context.

Some interpreted RNC Chair and incoming White House chief of Staff Reince Priebus' reference to "a new king" as a veiled comparison of President-elect Donald Trump to the birth of the Messiah:

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"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.

Republican National Committee communications director Sean Spicer walks through the lobby at Trump Tower, December 14, 2016 in New York City.
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The use of "new king" is rooted in the Christian faith, and is routinely used to refer to Jesus, particularly around the holidays. That said, some observers took a less charitable interpretation, underscoring how nerves remain frayed after a polarizing and hard fought general election.

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Reactions and counter-reactions ricocheted across social media almost immediately, with political veterans and reporters entering the fray. RNC communications director Sean Spicer blasted the criticism on Twitter as "disappointing."

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