"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Easter a less innocuous holiday than Christmas

"Have a nice day."
Christianity was a universal when I was a kid. Non-Christians seemed like a barely detectable novelty in the population. Christianity was, as they say, the "default" approach. Everyone joined in with the traditional Christmas songs at Christmas.
Christmas is a pretty easy holiday to accept for everyone, regardless of actual religious affiliation. It's just a happy time. We celebrate family and (hoped for) peace in the world, although the peace stuff rang rather hollow when I was a kid. Viet Nam was a specter intruding on our lives. It was a reminder that mankind can get embroiled in the most awful things.
The Iraq war (or invasion) was only a minor reminder, but don't use the word "minor" around those who lost loved ones.
Are public schools past the phase where they felt they had to recognize all religions at Christmas? Not that I'm against recognizing other religions, but Christmas ended up seeming like it stood for nothing. Maybe the public schools should have just continued with their usual business and not acknowledged it at all.
I covered a Christmas program at the old elementary auditorium where "Kwanzaa" was treated like a big deal. "Hanukkah" too. "Kwanzaa" did not start in Africa. Didn't it start out as a deliberate stab at Christianity? Even if it started out that way, I learned that its supporters backed off and wanted everyone to feel fulfilled at Christmas. I hear less and less about "Kwanzaa." The media used to give it lots of obligatory attention. I sense that no more.
Easter is a whole different kettle of fish. It is harder to be passive and just accept Easter, if you happen to be a non-Christian. Whereas Christmas can seem like a one-size-fits-all happy time, no for Easter. (Nowadays they say "one size fits most.")
Easter is by definition unhappy, at least in the weeks leading up to the actual day. The Lent season puts so much attention on the actual torture inflicted on the Savior. Didn't Mel Gibson make a movie that actually seemed caricature when it came to the violence done toward Jesus? I find all this an odd way to celebrate a religion which like all religions should present the best and most uplifting aspects of human nature.
How the heck can we really know what happened back in that ancient time? As a kid I got painfully logical in trying to assess Christianity: I asked whether all human beings on Earth prior to the crucifixion had to go to hell, because Christ hadn't "died for their sins" yet. So, the first people receiving a pass to heaven were those shortly after Christ's death who decided to "accept him as their personal savior?"
I found that principle so hard to try to internalize. I haven't figured it out yet. I can understand the ideal of trying to live a good life and treat people humanely and with love. But fervent Christians are the first to say those ideals are meaningless - they'll be angry saying this - and that all that matters is "accepting Christ as your personal savior." (I'm reminded of George W. Bush talking about "personal accounts" - privatizing Social Security.)
Christ "rose from the dead" after being crucified. Certain people claimed this, true. But people can have all sorts of hardened political or philosophical agendas. Facts can be massaged to support these.
I had a first cousin who, after years of being the so-called evangelical type, stepped away from that and, of all things, converted to Judaism. He had a Jewish funeral. This was my father's nephew. He reportedly said of Christianity, at the time of his disillusionment: "I don't understand it." Why don't more people take off their blinders and be frank like this?
We are scared into Christianity by thoughts of "burning in hell." It's a cruel way to try to coax kids into the faith. It can make you sullen with your outlook.
It doesn't help to hear that extended story of how the Savior was literally tortured leading up to his crucifixion. I didn't see the Mel Gibson movie. I read that no human being could have actually survived the punishment inflicted on Christ in the movie.
Christmas I can stomach because it's a time of joy for all. We do hear about that decree for the slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem - infants under two years of age. It's part of the (albeit horrific) backstory we can overlook.
Why these macabre elements in the most prominent Christian holidays? They are not conducive to having kids grow up in the most humanistic, uplifting frame of mind. Death and torture. Threats of going to hell. Are these really the proper underpinnings of a faith that is supposed to bring out the best in us?
Maybe Christianity isn't supposed to bring out the best in us. Christianity should have been invoked to try to get us out of the Viet Nam war, or to show restraint relative to Iraq. Christians don't seem much interested in basic humanistic ideals, though. "Evangelicals" are squarely associated with the "conservative" political identity, the hard right, where pronouncements about "national security" and neutralizing America's supposed enemies are so strident. My mere use of the word "humanistic" would make them dismiss me as "liberal." Right, Ted Cruz?
Maybe the violence in the basic Christian stories, themselves somehow influence people to be so gloomy and to embrace the harshest remedies.
John Lennon got in trouble for seeming to diss Christianity. He also wrote "all you need is love." I think I know what approach I'm partial too.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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