So. An Easter Egg hunt organised by Cadbury and the National Trust only used the word ‘Easter’ once in their marketing material and the internet has predictably broken. The Church of England are outraged, the Prime Minister is outraged, everyone’s outraged. The branding of admittedly delicious chocolate products has triggered something of a meltdown
It’s interesting the things we get angry about, isn’t it? Because, whisper it carefully, the link between chocolate eggs and the death and resurrection of Christ is pretty tenuous. I’ve heard that that the hollow egg represents the empty tomb, but eggs and rabbits feel more like a connection to Spring and fertility than anything else, and it’s not like they make it into the gospels. And let’s not start on the etymology of the word ‘Easter’…
I know this sounds like I’m being dismissive, and if someone told my church that we couldn’t celebrate the resurrection on Easter Sunday then yes, I’d have a problem. But that’s not happening; what is happening is a gradual erosion of cultural Christianity, whereby Easter and Christmas have become more about bank holidays and Santa and bunnies and less about markers in the life of Christ. And if we want to defend the bunnies, well, okay, but are they really doing much to communicate the message of the Crucifixion? There’s a disconnect between the cultural trappings of these great festivals and the heart of faith beneath them, and we really need to navigate that before the Church ends up part of Theme Park Britain, where men in funny hats pop up to sanctify our days off but have no relevance to the rest of the year.
Relevance arises out of engagement, or at least positive, constructive engagement. If all people see of us is our anger, if all people know of us is what we’re against, then are they really seeing Jesus reflected in us? Are we really building the Kingdom when we, from our privilege, claim persecution and yet ignore our brothers and sisters around the world who are dying for our collective faith? Are we going to be known for our love for others if we melt down Twitter over the National Trust, and yet don’t speak into situations like, say, the asylum seeker beaten by a gang in London while a larger crowd watched?
Which of these two news items will get the most coverage in sermons this Sunday?
The National Trust’s marketing department doesn’t represent a War on Easter. Christian extremists cannibalising Muslims in the Central African Republic? Churches covering up child abuse? The KKK? That’s something else entirely. Maybe our anger and our voices would be better employed standing against those who’d drive people from Christ by using his name to justify the unjustifiable.
But let’s not be characterised by our outrage, because at our best I don’t think we are. All the children’s clubs and bereavement groups and charity work, all the ways in which we use our blessings to bless others, all the ways in which we try to promote healing and hope and rebirth… These things speak more to the power of the resurrection, the presence of the living Christ, than chocolate. That’s the message we need to take out there; that’s the hope in which we live.
It’s not about the rabbits!