Easter Would Shake Us If We Knew What It Really Meant

A Strange Holiday

It seems to me that if a man who had lived in a remote jungle his whole life were to enter Western society at this time of the year, he would find Easter quite puzzling and needless to say, absurd. “What a strange people” he’d remark, “they appear to worship a rabbit as their God and make strange replicas of him using only chocolate. And when they have bought these replicas they encourage their children to devour him!” Yet if one really thinks about how Easter is celebrated in this day and age, it really is quite strange to behold. On Saturday, I had the opportunity to have ‘yum cha’ with Sophia’s grandmother and her family at Mt Pritchard RSL. It was a nice catch up but it was busy, as busy as Mt Pritchard RSL can get on a Friday. As we were leaving, I walked past the cafe section of the club which was now suddenly flooded with children and their parents. The children sat or stood, their eyes transfixed towards the front where a projector screen and a well dressed lady with a mic stood. Scores of Easter eggs and prizes surrounded the front. Instead of older folk, it was like bingo for children, and it seemed a winner was about to be announced. At any other time of the year, things like chocolate eggs, bunnies, hot cross buns, prizes and shows would be everyday items, unfit to be objects of such hype. The commotion for such small things, interrupted by usual thoughts and made me reflect. Why did Easter bring such significance to them? What did the eggs mean and where did the bunny come from?

The True Meaning of Easter

There is a tendency for symbols of cultural significance to be taken out of its context and commercialized in a pluralistic society. Easter is no exception. I believe one reason is to allow everyone to ‘participate’ in a cultural safety zone without being confronted by the deeper meaning behind its rituals. After all who doesn’t love night markets and kebabs after Ramadan? The second is because it’s going to be a pretty good money maker. There is a clearly defined target market and regular, predictable demand because of how deeply entrenched these rituals are in their cultures.

Beyond the food and festivities, celebrations like Christmas and Easter come from an entirely Christian context where the birth, death and resurrection of a man who claimed to be the one true God is celebrated. To the Muslim, I am sure festivals like Ramadan are more than mere fasting and feasting. Think Divali is only about lights? There is much more significance behind these festivals than nutritional choices.

Yet if one is to truly appreciate the meaning of Easter and enjoy it fully, one has to place it back into its context. In its origin, Easter was not a holiday. It was a dark hour, the darkest hour for humanity. A stretch of events led to the death of one man who claimed to be God. But unlike every other death, hope rose from the ashes 3 days later. This man’s death was followed by a resurrection, something unique that had never happened in human history. Even 2000 years later, it continues to confound the most astute scholars because no one knows what to make of it. When someone dies and then comes back to life there are obviously going to be a lot of questions. What did it ultimately mean? If we look at the words given to us by the men who spent the most time with this man, then the answer is this –

”The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” Acts 17:30-31

Before the resurrection, death was the norm. No man had ever died and then come back to life, and for good reason. Sin is treason against God and the wages of sin is death. So every man died because he was guilty, having sought to define his life apart from God. Yet death could not hold this man. Though he was condemned because he bore the sin of humanity as a man, he was resurrected because he was God. More than that, his resurrection was vindication of his complete innocence, and that his death was enough to meet the penalty of sin for ever human who ever lived.

Because of his death, the symbol of Easter is an egg to represent new life in him. But the resurrection only brings new life for those who seek it in him. So Easter also comes with a warning. It is a warning that every human heart knows, from the moment a child first feels the pangs of guilt to the old man’s last regrets – that there is a day in which God will judge the world by the very same man that death could not hold.

Easter Is A Bad Holiday To Gamble On

Remember those game shows you watched growing up like Deal or No Deal or Jeopardy? It was always a good laugh watching people take risks and gamble. Losing was never a big deal and most of the time, people could smile knowing they went home winning at least something. But how would the show be if the contestants found out they were actually playing for their lives? If you’re celebrating Easter you’re doing the same thing – gambling a fun family holiday without any significant meaning in exchange for the risk of ignoring the biggest event in history. The consequences of winning – a more comfortable 4 day vacation, the consequences of losing – eternal life. Knowing the true meaning of Easter should make us consider carefully how we see this holiday. It can be the event that drives us to this man, Jesus to take refuge under his wings or drives us to stand apart from his death and be judged for the very lives we’ve lived. Would you choose to have a morally perfect one or yours? I know which one I’d rather have.

Conclusion

Easter is not so much a holiday about eggs and bunnies but a celebration of new life and a remembrance of the cost it took. Easter is confronting because it forces us to think about life and death in a way we’re not used to. Unlike the Victorians who were obsessed with death, we have shoved death to the fringes of society, reserved only for undertakers, cemeteries and medical services. Death is an unwelcome visitor and when one is confronted by him, he is like an unexpected guest at a wedding, and he leaves us utterly unprepared. In a culture avoidant of death, the meaning of Easter is needed more than ever.

Religious Beliefs Are Not Private

This much is certain: The greatest thing each person can is to give himself to God utterly and unconditionally—weakness, fears, and all. For God loves obedience more than good intentions or second-best offerings, which are all too often made under the guide of weakness.” ― Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard

I often see people irritated when others espouse political opinions based on their religious views. When it comes to issues like politics, money, or sex, religion is often seen as an unwelcome guest, like the distant uncle you only invite to dinners because he’s related to you. Their presence is begrudgingly acknowledged and then he is cast aside to the table of ‘faith’ and other opinions, along with the rest of the children. After all, this is the 21st century for goodness sakes. Behind this behavior is a question that isn’t asked but thought – why do people even need religion in the room for such things? After all, most matters of science or politics or economics or morality are worked out by individuals without any reference to religion. The scientific method has given us great progress in many areas of development. So the role religion now plays is no longer metaphysical or even moral authority but a mystical storeroom to house things we don’t understand. As the 20th century philosopher Wittgenstein put it, “of what we cannot speak we must be silent.”

It seems like the pressure to separate religion from other spheres of life is most clearly seen in Western politics. Religious beliefs are told to be discarded like shoes, before one enters the halls of public debate. To believe homosexuality is a sin, or that it is ‘morally’ bad for the whole society, is a private matter to be held but should be prevented from influencing public policy. Many Christians are surprised by the antipathy towards religious views in public. They shouldn’t be. The separation of religion from politics and other spheres of life is simply the consequence of allowing people who don’t understand religion to determine what it is. And by people, I mean secular humanists.

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James 1:27

To genuine believers of any religion, true religion is worship. And true worship is the dedication of one’s whole life to the object of worship, be it Allah or Jesus. If you’re religiously illiterate, or perhaps merely confused, then a quick way to avoid thinking too much about religion would be to parrot the line “it is about being a good person”. But that would be the religion of humanism and not anybody else’s. For Christians, worship is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. It means conforming every thought, feeling and action to God. Muslim worship is the expression of ultimate submission in its observances.

I can understand that it’s scary for the agnostic or humanist to imagine submission to any one but themselves, especially if they’ve done it all their lives. But that is precisely what faith demands. Faith transcends what one does on the weekend, because its very claim is transcendent. Secularism sees religion as mere opinion but the religious man or woman recognizes it as truth. To a secular world, and those whom don’t understand, true religion and freedom of any religion is the freedom to get together once a week and be a moral person (I have yet to hear a valid consensus of what it means to be a moral person). It would be funny if it wasn’t so true. But to ask a religious person to have their beliefs at home but leave it at the door of public opinion is not just the opposite of religious freedom but hypocritical. Really, it is to ask the person to be you and to share your secular beliefs. If Muslims want to implement Sharia law in Australia, then the fairest thing would be to allow them to hold that view and tackle the claims of Islam itself. Or restrict such a view from entering Australia. But to spout phrases like “it’s a religion of peace” or that it’s about “being a good person”, like all religions, is to express one’s ignorance and escort religion back to the nursery room of faith. Religion is more than that because God demands much more than that.

What the Yes Campaign is Really About

Courtesy of SBS Australia


“If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.”

Amidst the world of flux and change, there are timeless principles that remain the same. When it comes to human behavior it is this, that your emotions and actions have the power to confirm your professed beliefs or contradict them. After all, Jesus said, “but what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person” (Matt 15:18). This is an important principle to keep in mind. It is far too common to hear one deny whatever a speaker may say with the excuse that he cannot see into their hearts. A man attempting to address an issue concerning females must of course undergo the miraculous transformation of growing a uterus before being granted the sacred privilege of speaking. While shared experience helps breed understanding, it does not mean that a lack of it nullifies the truth being said. I do not need to be a thief to say theft is wrong. What I say, therefore, I say as a human being who knows the way my heart behaves. Just as the action of snapping at wife contradicts the profession that I love her, the actions of the LGBT community (with exception) during the Yes campaign denies that it is fundamentally marriage that they want.
This may come as a surprise to many as the most common argument for voting yes in the plebiscite is that people have an equal right to marry the person they love because love is love (I have yet to discover what that means). This is problematic for 2 reasons: firstly, the LGBT community, or anyone for that matter have yet to demonstrate that marriage is a right, whether it is from a UN (United Nations), humanistic or religious standpoint. Secondly, the argument carries the unspoken assumption that marriage as it is currently defined, is denied to anyone who professes to be a homosexual. Neither assumptions have proven true and the reality is that those whom identify as homosexual have the same opportunity to obtain a spouse as the next person. The reason such a person would not want to do so is because their sexual desire limits them from entering a relationship that is defined legally as marriage. I do not mean that their sexual orientation causes a societal or legal limitation from entering such a relationship but rather that it morally constrains their will to act in such a way. After all, every person acts in accordance with what they want. But as Schopenhauer would put it, “what we want is not up to us”. Therefore a better argument (logically speaking) would be to vote yes on redefining marriage in order to allow such a relationship to be deemed marriage. However, I suspect that doing so deprives much of the movement’s public relations firepower and the edginess that has come to define it. In our age of social media, it is the inflammatory that sets itself apart in the streams of information that daily pass through our minds, rising up to grasp the fragmented moments of our attention.
Suppose then that the proponents of marriage redefinition as I now call it, recognize then that no homosexual finds themselves deprived of the ability to marry another and redirect their efforts towards securing the recognition of homosexual relationships. This is another predicament that the No campaigners find themselves in. Can one man not receive the same benefits as another married man upon pledging his heart to another merely because his partner happens to be one of identical gender? However, one does not have to look far behind to find that this has not been the case. The Rudd government in 2007 implemented the same benefits normally restricted to married couples to include de facto and by nature homosexual unions. This means that the same sharing of assets and kinship would be obtainable for those outside the conventions of marriage.
Yet the campaign marched on to the climax of 2017 with an intensity seemingly oblivious of the knowledge that the privileges that it once so desired were now granted. Further inspection had shown that marriage was not an institution denied nor its benefits, once legally approved. What then was the goal of this campaign? Was it simply a matter of time before the emperor’s clothes were exposed for what it never was or was there something more subtle behind its campaign, loss amidst the unforgiving march of equality, invisible except to the most astute observer?
At the end of the day, when the boots stop marching and the dust settles, perhaps what the Western world will finally see is that what the campaign wanted all along was something that it had never verbalized: that the sexual relationship between two identical genders be revered in the same way that one between a man and woman has since the advent of Christianity in the Western World near 2000 years ago.
To understand the significance of the social reverence that the LGBT community so desires of their relationships, one must also understand the history of its community’s murky relationship with society. Forever a minority, homosexual activity occurred in the shadows of secrecy, subjected to rejection and shame in the public eye until its coming of age in the sexual revolution of the 1960s. For an individual whose identity is defined by their sexual orientation, a relationship with another of the same identity is the ultimate expression of what it meant to be them. If I, a heterosexual, were to define myself purely by my sexual desire for a woman, I would believe that my identity obtained its fulfillment in a relationship with a woman. A union between the two of us would be the ultimate expression of who I am and what I love.
To reject such a relationship then is to reject all that it means to be me; who I am and what I love. What happens in the rejection of one’s identity? In the eyes of the LGBT community, the problems of guilt, shame, depression, self harm, and suicide. These were attributed to the perpetrators of this rejection, society at large rather than the desires themselves. Perhaps overlooked, it was never the legality of homosexuality that was the core of their conflict. Rather it was the fact that society disapproved and rejected the relationships that defined the LGBT person’s very selves that led to the existential angst felt by such individuals. Does one really think after such a time, the LGBT movement would be satisfied with the same legal benefits of marriage without reforming culture?
As votes begin to be posted from house to house, those who vote Yes should do so understanding this: marriage was never the crux of the issue. It was merely the tip of the iceberg. Until all people recognize homosexual relationships as the same as marriage and give it due reverence, the march will continue. Resolute, relentless and unforgiving, its opponents will always be seen as roadblocks to progress, clutching at the vestiges of its darker past.