Sunday Sermon: Against Easter
In terms of Christian holidays, I’ve always found Easter to make the least amount of sense. Think about it—the central justification of Christianity is that Christ died for your sins, a giant human sacrifice to buy salvation for anyone who wants it, right? But since Jesus isn’t actually dead, and instead is up and walking around in the space of a long weekend, it’s not much of a sacrifice, is it? His is supposed to be the most important death of all of human history, but actually, it’s the least troubling since it didn’t stick like it does for 100% of everyone else. The resurrection always took the impact of the sacrifice away for me, and I suspect that’s somewhat true for believers, too, who dwell not on images of stones being rolled away or former corpses walking around, but on the image of Christ on the cross. Face it, the resurrection cheapens the whole thing, and reads like it’s tacked on to give people a happy ending.
Easter reminds me most of all of the Christmas special for the British version of “The Office”. A refresher, if you don’t remember (and if you haven’t seen it, this is a spoiler): The actual series ends on a down note, when Tim tries to stop Dawn from leaving the country by confessing his love to her, and she shoots him down. As devastating as that was for fans, it was fitting for a show that chronicled certain ugly realities about life, particularly Tim’s miserable existence that resulted from his chronic inability to get a break. I suppose this ending must have caused an outcry from fans of the series, though, because the creators came back some time later with a Christmas special where Dawn and Tim end up together in the end. It’s actually a very good special, but it’s always felt a little false, from an artistic standpoint, to take it back that way, and give people the ending they want instead of the ending the story demands. Same with the story of Jesus dying and then coming back. It’s the tacked on happy ending so people feel better, but it cheapens the impact of the original story.
Of course, the original reason Easter existed had nothing whatsoever to do with Christianity—it was a celebration of the return of Ishtar from hell, which symbolized, for Babylonians, a return to spring and fertility. This kind of resurrection makes sense thematically. The story symbolizes the death and rebirth of the earth every year. I’d say that Christians experience Easter as a spring festival, as well, with the eggs and the bunnies being pretty obvious fertility symbols, but also with the Easter dresses and egg hunts that are just an excuse to get out into the spring day and enjoy the freshness of the season. But the story doesn’t actually have any relationship to spring, and really, it could have happened any time of year. It was just aligned with the original Easter to poach on that territory.
So, I’m forced to call bullshit on Easter, not just because it’s a religious holiday, but because it’s one that never made much sense to me. It’s not really about spring and it takes the impact out of Christ’s sacrifice. It’s not abuot much at all, but making the whole story of Jesus dying seem a little more interesting and mystical than the deaths of thousands of other people that the Romans condemned to die on the cross.