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"....People don't need to be 'born again'--they need to grow up. They need to accept their responsibility for themselves in the world."
Bishop John Shelby Spong
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Musings, Ramblings and Minor Insights
April 11, 2009

Easter and Other Such Peculiarly Christian Holidays
When I was a kid we didn't really celebrate Easter. In fact, I didn't learn until I was an adult that it is one of the main big family holidays for Christians, right up there with Christmas (which we did celebrate--complete with tree, gifts, and, yes--real turkey dinner--my mother...such a rebel!). It's not that we weren't Christians. Actually, it's because we were too Christian for Easter! Allow me to explain....

I remember Easter fondly as a special day we spent with our mother, coloring and hiding, eggs. She would bring out a mish-mash of metal cereal bowls and fill them with a variety of colored dyes so that we kids could color the two-dozen or so boiled eggs she had prepared. To this day, the pungent odor of vinegar brings back these treasured childhood memories. There were never baskets of candy or toys that today's children apparently receive--we were far too poor for that. But there were hens in the chicken house who supplied us with plenty of fresh eggs, and there was a woman who liked to see her children have a little innocent fun whether their father was in favor of it or not. My guess is, this was yet another of those secret battles that my mother fought and won, and never told us about.

As Adventists, we of course learned and believed in the Easter story. But the unmistakable connection to spring pagan rituals and holidays--new birth, new beginings--the Easter bunny, baby chicks, eggs, fertility--it was all just too much for those sober, somber and ever-so-serious Christians who called themselves Seventh-Day Adventists. They were the true followers of Jesus. They could not allow themselves to be tainted by such worldliness that was surely the work of the devil! (How that evil pagan symbol, the Christmas tree--loaded with gifts--slipped in, I'll never know. Naturally, there was never a tree set up in the church, but lots of Adventists-in-good-standing had all the trappings of Christmas, right up to their vegetarian imitation turkey dinners!)

I think the answer lies in the fact that Easter is (quite naturally) commemorated and celebrated on Sunday. And we were NOT Sunday keepers. Good Adventists would never attend church on a Sunday, even for such an important event as remembering the death and resurrection of their Lord and Saviour! Wouldn't want to take a chance on being mistaken for one of those poor folks who were not 'in the Truth'!

As a child and even into young adulthood, I felt the special thrill of being one of God's true 'chosen' people. It was nice to feel special. I certainly didn't feel it out in the real world, but I could treasure in my heart the knowledge that I was Adventist. I was one of 'God's peculiar people'. Oh, it made for some difficulties in the real world. (Try being a teenager who wishes desparately for a social life and friends....., but practically all school activities and social events took place on Friday night or Saturday). There were times, of course, when I resented my fate, but mostly I just accepted it as HOW THINGS ARE. I had long ago stopped hoping to really 'fit in.' We attended occasional church 'socials' or potlucks. That was the extent of my social experience outside of my immediate family.

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Imagine my surprise recently when my sister-in-law, Grace, announces she's going to have a big Easter dinner, with many of her sisters coming from out of town--and she's not even religious! She never goes to church, doesn't have much use for self-righteousness or piety, and will gladly jump into any religious argument, taking sides against the Christians!! Turns out, it's just more of a family holiday for her, rather like the coloring of the eggs was for us. She celebrates Christmas in the same way.

I don't have any problem with this myself, now. In fact, I'll probably go out and join the family for Easter dinner (after all, Grace is fixing a ham!!!) But for a long time (during my hard-core atheist years), I had great difficulty dealing with the whole Christmas thing--or Easter. It was a really big deal with Grace, and my siblings (in a very secular way), and I didn't want to give up such an important family time, but the religious connotations really got on my nerves. It took many years of struggling and studying for me to get it all in perspective. To begin to understand and appreciate the Christian religion (and even the Adventist religion) as my heritage, even though I don't believe in it or practice it any more in a traditional way.

I still have difficulty with the way the Christian religions are presented and practiced--the judgement and scathing condemnation of us 'heathens' (that would be anyone who disagrees with their particular brand of Christianity--including other Christian denominations!). But I no longer feel threatened and intimidated the way I once did. I'm slowly but surely coming to develop beliefs of my own, beliefs that have nothing to do with 'traditional' Christian beliefs (if there even is such a thing), and very little to do with the concept of 'God' as presented in today's churches. As I've written previously, the 'big, scary, father-figure in the sky' doesn't appeal to me at all, and seems to offer very little in the way of explaining who we are, what the universe is, or how we all got here. Never mind what we're 'supposed' to be doing. I've pretty much determined that the 'REAL' God isn't overly concerned with how the world's unfolding, or even whether we totally screw it up and destroy it and ourselves! After all, an entity that could create a whole universe could surely create another, right? Maybe next time, he/she/it will come up with a race of beings who function a little better, and make the next world a little bit better place to be!! Then we won't need all this condemnation and hell... And we certainly won't need a 'saviour'!! Ahhhhhh..... wishful thinking......


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