Saturday, April 11, 2009
[easter] a post for you to skip over
I'm reprinting an article by Christopher Bantick from March 27, 2005, I can’t remember from which paper – these were my pre-blogging days. You could call this lazy blogging but the article says all that I wish it to, so why not just present it as is?
Here it is:
My local supermarket has had Easter confectionary on display since January. Easter may be early this year, but the commercial potential for cashing in on creme eggs seems irresistible.
With Christmas over, no time was wasted in booting up the next festival. Out with the mince pies, in with the bunnies. But it is not just the early appearance of Easter chocolate items that gives cause for concern. What is troubling is the way Easter is being marketed. It is a singularly secular event and a targeted high point for chocolate sales.
My supermarket proudly advertises that it is the place "where the magic of Easter begins". But what is the magic? There is an observance of the mysterious and even the miraculous. You can have "dream rabbits" in various postures and "dream eggs" with the "real white chocolate wicked taste".
But how can we make sense of Easter among the menagerie of cutesie animals from chocolate bilbies, wombats and rabbits to milk chocolate footballs and all kinds of eggs? Are we happy with the smiling Freddo Frogs in Easter jumbo packs? Have we time for the Easter message? Do we care?
There appears to be confusion about what Easter means even in the messages of cards. With greetings like: "Hope the sun is shining on your little Easter world", and "For someone special . . . a Huggy Easter". Then there is the cloying, "You're really eggs-tra special. Happy Easter, Have Fun".
To be fair, there are the so-called "religious" cards that, it has to be said, don't look like much fun. They have a very serious Christ figure often lost in clouds or tending small animals. These token cards are in a minority and marginalised when on display. They simply don't sell.
Easter has been appropriated from the event that gives Christianity its sense and purpose to something approximating a chocolate festival.
Hot cross buns in my local supermarket sold out in days and had to be reordered weekly. Who noticed the cross on their tops? Moreover, Easter is now a celebration of the individual and friendship. If greeting cards are a true reflection of what people hope to say, then statements like, "Because we think about you in a very special way" and "Because you're special in every way", say a lot. There is no one more important than you.
On this Easter Day, there will be community mammoth Easter egg hunts. They are good fun and harmless in themselves. But what has been lost in how many eggs you can find is the message of Easter. On this, the churches could do far more.
French philosopher Albert Camus, not a man noted for his piety, understood the essential significance of Easter. He also observed the importance of Christians holding the line against intrusions when he said, "The world needs Christians who remain Christians".
Still, the rampant commercialisation of Easter should concern us all. There is something slightly out of kilter about seeing children pig out on Easter chocolate a month away from Easter Day. It was T.S. Eliot who pointed to the vacuousness of a life without a spiritual dimension being one where we may "have the experience and miss the meaning".
The reality is that children today are more than likely ignorant of the Easter story. Whether they believe it or not comes down to choice, but to not know what Easter stands for goes to the heart of the future viability of the churches.Without Easter, there would be no churches.
What the churches have largely failed to do is tell the Easter story, not just during Lent or on Easter Day, but consistently throughout the year. Instead, they have been distracted by issues such as the gay debate, or whether or not Dan Brown's best-selling novel, The Da Vinci Code, is threatening the stability of the church as an institution. But community ignorance about the event that defines the Christian faith is far more serious and damaging.
Last year, [now some year's ago- Higham] Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ gave Easter a focus in the secular world. Gibson did what the churches had broadly failed to do by generating interest in the Easter story. The ensuing debate was about the violence of the Crucifixion. It was easy to see why.
The brutality and savagery of the Crucifixion does not fit comfortably with marketers who know that Easter is about bright coloured eggs and happiness found in chocolate.
So what is the point of Easter and what do the churches celebrate on Easter Day? Today, churches will be emphasising the empty tomb where Jesus was laid after the crucifixion. It was empty for the miraculous reason of the resurrection. But it is a message that is lost in the ringing of cash registers.
The raisin and cinnamon hot cross buns in my nearby supermarket became a neat symbol of how Easter is regarded. They sold out in days and had to be reordered weekly. Who noticed the cross on their tops?
Leaving aside, for a moment, the rabid anti-Christian push with their bus ads about there being no G-d and writing to you instead, a rational person, there's not too much dispute with the historical record that Jesus of Nazareth did exist and he did sufficient things to come to the attention of some historians at the time.
The Muslims even concede that He is a prophet of the highest order.
The issue is now, as it ever was, not whether He was crucified but whether He came back to life. That's the point on which it all turns and where the fundamental dispute is. I'm certain He did come back to life because of personal things which have occurred. I wrote once before that you're never going to definitively know unless you've first bought the ticket, so there's no point having this discussion until you've done that.
This is the part which gets up many non-Christian's noses – this claim to arcane knowledge and I would wager that a huge number of those happy-clappers and militant anti-abortionists in the States have not actually bought the ticket [John 3:16]. Certainly the churchleadership is riddled with representatives of the other side, hence the sex scandals et al. Hence Christian militancy and the reason people don't like them.
Again I say, you can't know until you buy the ticket. I didn't make up the rules but maybe it's time some people started following them.
By the way, in following the Orthodox calendar this year, one week after the Roman, today is Palm Sunday.
Have a happy day today, everyone.