Monday, April 09, 2012

EASTER THOUGHTS

"Christ is risen! He is risen indeed."


Yesterday was Easter, one of the highest holy days in the Christian calendar and one of my favorites. Many families gather on that day for a special meal and more people go to church on Easter than any other day but Christmas. Its a sort of twice yearly event for too many folks, kind of like an attempt at refilling the spiritual gas tank.

I like Easter as a Christian for what it stands and why we celebrate the day: Christ is risen! I like it because its one of the few days left in modern American culture where people gather as a family, deliberately. I like it because so many people come to church and they usually dress quite nicely - at least the kids do. Easter used to be a pretty significant social event, with especially the ladies dressing up as nicely as they can with huge impressive hats and beautiful dresses. A lot of black churches still do this.

To some extent the social event overshadowed the reason for the special day, and I suppose that's still a problem: if you only go to church a couple times a year, just how much does that say about your commitment? That's like seeing your spouse or going to work two times a year, saying "I did my part." If being a Christian really is a major part of your life, you should want to be there in church much more often.

Which brings us to the Easter Egg. Every year, the White House has an "easter egg roll" and even churches have easter egg hunts for the kids. The problem is this is almost wholly non-Christian.

The origins of this whole egg thing are primarily Eastern Orthodox but the Roman Catholic Church had its version. Basically since Lent prohibited eating meat and dairy (milk, cheese, eggs, etc) eggs weren't eaten until Easter. But chickens don't stop making eggs, and you don't want them to spoil, so hard boiling them was a way to preserve the eggs for a few days. Over time the hard boiled egg and Easter sort of became connected, and people started to paint them.

The Easter Bunny was one of those business gimmicks, , a way to get Easter into the advertising schedule without it being about Jesus. Its like Santa Claus, more or less invented by Macys, and it is a door into Easter for non-Christians.

The problem is, for Christians, Easter is about the mind-blowing, reality-remaking event of Jesus rising from the dead, triumphant over sin, death, and Satan. And eggs, fun as they may be, have nothing to do with this concept. Back when there was some kind of cultural adherence to the church calendar and everyone knew what season it was and why, they sort of helped kids understand but today... they're just a secular distraction. Like Santa Claus who has vague connections to a saintly man in the first few centuries of Christianity, there's a remote, tenuous tie, but these days its just distraction from Christ.

So when I see Christians engaging in this kind of thing, it deeply disappoints and upsets me. I know why they do it, its the same reason they have Santa and the sock at the fireplace. Its for the kids! But hey, Christian parents; aside from deliberately lying straight to your kids while looking them right in the eye, consider this.

Christianity is in no small part defined on this earth by sacrifice and doing without certain things. Christians are not supposed to engage in certain behavior that, these days at least, is considered perfectly normal and acceptable. We aren't supposed to lie or cheat, we aren't supposed to hurt people or be bitter and sarcastic, we are supposed to be loving and giving, and most of all, we're supposed to avoid sin and glorify God.

That means as Christians we do without a lot of things that, in this world, can be quite pleasant and even sometimes advantageous. I'd very much like to have a lover to tumble around in the sheets with. If I added porn to my blog I'd get lots of hits. There are a lot of ways in a Christian's life that we step away from things that we might enjoy, temporarily at least, out of commitment and love for Jesus Christ and gratitude for what He did for us. This is one of the most foundational principles of Christian living.

What are you teaching your children about this principle if they cannot be expected to give up a distraction from Jesus Christ? Yes, they want to have the fun their friends are. Yes, its sad and upsetting to them and they cannot make sense of it. Welcome to life as a servant of Jesus rather than ourselves. This is such a basic, simple way to help raise your kids with a worldview of understanding this principle, that as a Christian we're different than the world around us and give up some things for a greater cause.

Consider it a "teaching moment" if you have to. Think of it as a practical, specific way to teach your children about being salt and light. If their friends ask why, they'll have a reason to talk about Jesus Christ. Something to consider, at least.

And that brings us to President Obama. For years, he didn't pay much attention to church or Christian things. He put out Ramadan and Hanukkah messages, he didn't have an Easter address last year, he gave a "holiday greetings" statement, and he hasn't gone to church since 2008. Until this year.

Suddenly, he's all Christian again. He gave an address containing these lines, for Easter:
Yesterday, many of us took a few quiet moments to try and fathom the tremendous sacrifice Jesus made for all of us. Tomorrow, we will celebrate the resurrection of a savior who died so that we might live. And throughout these sacred days, we recommit ourselves to following His example.
Now, putting aside the sketchy theology and the aneurism that this would have caused the left, were it from President Bush, why suddenly this commitment to Easter? Why this year did President Obama suddenly start going to church?

He's been avoiding specifically Christian things for his whole presidency. He stated clearly that whatever America might have been in the past, it no longer is a Christian nation (quite true, as I noted at the time). He's been going out of his way to celebrate especially Muslim events, because he is trying to reach out to angry Muslims and soothe them with pandering events and statements. So why the change?

Well the obvious answer is that its an election year. This is the time when Democrat candidates begin to darken the door of churches all across America, to the point of even giving sermons while running for office. Because they believe, with apparent reason, that this will convince people that they are religious and to want to vote for them. Democratic Party candidates in America know they have little chance of carrying the Evangelical Christian vote, but doing this gives some salve to the concerns of would-be Democrat voters who are troubled by how the party's stances and actions so often contradict what Christianity generally teaches. And if they can manage to pull a few votes away, so much the better. Plus, after stomping on the Roman Catholic Church's religious freedom, he's doing a bit of damage control, attempting to give Roman Catholic Democrats plausible reason for voting for him.

Its not that I think President Obama is a total two faced hypocrite. I think he really believes he's a Christian. He's not, but he thinks he is. Its that when Secretary of State Clinton specifically tells Muslims to not believe what President Obama says while he's campaigning, its a little hard to take the man seriously when he does this kind of thing.

And finally, it never fails, but this time of year you have people saying Easter is just a Roman Catholic adaptation of a Roman spring festival and hence is all a lie and aren't Christians retards?

First off, Easter's date is pretty specifically and intentionally given in the Bible as being at a certain time of year. Unlike the birth of Jesus, we know pretty much exactly when his death and resurrection occurred. Jesus' life and death is one of the most historically represented and documented of anyone alive at that time period. And second did you know that not every President was born on President's day??? Just because an event is celebrated on a day that was contrived doesn't make the event any less meaningful or significant. All dates are contrived to one degree or another.

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