At this time of year many of the people who are hostile to Christianity tend to begin sounding off on how the Christian faith is wrongly celebrating Pagan holidays. It is a specific reference to Easter, which is the Christian version of a venerable Pagan holiday that celebrates the Vernal Equinox and the arrival of spring.
In days when there was no electric heat, when people lived in cottages that were heated only by hearth fires, when there was no light but candles and oil lamps, the winter was a fearsome thing. In temperate countries that gave us much of our cultural heritage, like central Europe and the British Isles, you can take a look at their folklore and see the remains of this battle for life. It was no surprise that the warming of the temperatures was greeted with joy.
Easter, or Oestre, is only one name for the spring happiness, and in a shortcut kind of way, Christians also embrace this festival of life. The Episcopal hymnal has a section designated for Easter. However, the actual feast that is celebrated by Christians is the Feast of the Resurrection.
As endearing as we find chicks and rabbits, the event that followed Passover in Late Antiquity has nothing to do with them. It was the spread of Christianity to Europe, and the coincidence that the Resurrection is celebrated in the spring, that drew the two together. Life triumphing over death is a beautiful thing, and Christians believe in it as a reality.
Christians do not believe in achieving a kind of second-hand immortality by having descendants. Naming a new baby after a relative does not bring that relative back. It is not the chicks and bunnies, the offspring of the animals that reach the ends of their lives, that inspire Christians to believe in life after death: it is our Founder, who came back from death in some way that we do not understand, though we may pretend that we do.
If Jesus was laid in a tomb on one evening, and his friends saw him alive a few days later, no one can say with certainty how that happened. If his body was tossed into a lime pit in the field of Gehenna, we still don't know what accounts for the absolute certainty that his friends reported that he had not gone. The fact is that we don't know what is meant by those stories reporting that Jesus had been seen alive after he had been seen dead.
I have several theories about what happened to Jesus' body--and that take into account all the facts I know about the Shroud of Turin--but they do not explain what happened. The most ethical thing we can do is construct some possible scenarios that take into consideration as much as we know about his death. But the fact that Jesus' Jewish followers reported that he was not dead is the motivation behind the Church's celebration of a holiday that coincides with the ancient and honorable spring festival, whether you call it Easter or Vernal Equinox or the Feast of the Resurrection. It is life triumphing over death; we believe it because we have seen it; some of us have experienced it.
Another thing that has come to me is this: an apology is in order from the American people to the German people. We have blamed the ordinary German citizens because we think that somehow there should have been more resistance to the rise of National Socialism. But now it is impossible not to see the march of fascism in the United States from local elections to state elections to national elections, with the way paved by oligarchs who believe that they have bought and paid for the government that they will put in place this year.
Our Supreme Court, which we used to revere as the purest interpretation of both the letter and the spirit of the law, has given government over to those who can pay the most for it. Obvious conflicts of interest are apparent to everyone who observes which justices go on vacations paid for by corporate interests, and the rule that corporations are people and that they can spend their billions to buy elections.
Our common people are represented in poll samples as being displeased with the current situation, but the corporate organization now cruises on like a juggernaut, with ignorant common Americans throwing themselves down in front of it, to have their votes cast in ginned-up racial hatred for our President.
You have to be blind not to see the comparison between the Nazi victimization of Jews, and the corporate media's Obama Derangement Syndrome. It is now pitifully obvious that the American people can be driven by fear and persuaded that the Culture Wars are more important than American democracy.
I am now positive that perhaps the majority of Germans in the Thirties were appalled by Hitler, yet they found no way to impede his rise to power. We are in the midst of a similar situation today. We need to take a moment and apologize to the German people: they were not so prejudiced and complacent after all. They were simply helpless.
It remains to be seen if the American people are as helpless as the Germans were, or if we will rise up and live out the meaning of our creed, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said: that all people are created equal and we will not settle for less.
You can check out the film, Heaven is for Real, that is being released in conjunction with Easter. This is a story of a human being who experienced life on the Other Side. It is only one story among thousands that have been collected for many years about "near-death experiences." I had one myself: I went Code Blue in a hospital seven years ago and was revived by hospital staff. The difference with my experience is that I remember nothing about it; I was in a medically-induced coma. But the little boy who had the experience that the film is based on did remember his experience and brought back many elements of it that can't be explained.
I am sure that many people who don't read the book or see the movie will disparage it, but their opinions don't count. People who are well-informed, and who cultivate an open mind, are the ones who should be asked, as well as respected, for their opinions.