Background courtesy of (Michael und Maartje).

The Rites of Easter

Why we made Santa Claus the holiday superstar and not the resurrection

Rebirth is a metaphor. The metaphor escapes many Christians. Christ’s rebirth was real, a moment in time recorded in history.

Easter doesn’t catch American’s attention because the narrative portrays a dark morality tale of betrayal and murder. Only an unbelievable denouement saves it from total pathos.

Why are there no Easter carols?[1]

The market co-opts Jesus

The secular bait-and-switch embraced any celebrant, Protestant, Catholic or free thinker. The Holy Day morphed into holiday. Caroling, drinking and family dinners added to the joy.

Press campaigns stressed the connection between Jesus, birthdays and gift giving. We give gifts on birthdays, Christmas is Jesus’ birthday, we should purchase gifts for everyone.

Impoverished Easter

This turn of the century Easter card still stresses renewal and fertility. (Danish Royal Museum)

Why Are Easter eggs blue?

Christians, including evangelicals and fundamentalists, believe the resurrection is more than a central doctrine. It is essential to the believer’s profession of faith. If you don’t accept the resurrection, God won’t admit you into his fellowship.

Resurrection and rebirth

These Celtic symbols of resurrection (the crane, the tree of life and the triplex spiral which appears in several variations) were adopted as symbols of the Christian resurrection as the Church expanded into northern Europe. (Background courtesy of Free Big Pictures.)

By insisting rebirth is a literal moment in time, with specific terms and conditions, evangelicals lose the power of the metaphor. Rebirth symbolizes literal transformation. The people who knew you before no longer recognize you.

In 2018, Christians gravitate toward opposing theological poles with each Presidential Tweet. I foresee a day when believers raise Easter as lightning rod as well as Holy Day.

Working out our own salvation

The conditions of salvation depend on the follower. Jesus said to the rich man, “sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” Jesus recognized the rich man could never be reborn as long as he clung to his wealth.

Gentile Christians would have embraced the resurrection through the metaphors and symbols of previously held beliefs. This image came up during a Google search for “resurrection images.’ At first I thought it was a priest praying at the altar. Then I realized it was a scarab, the Egyptian symbol for rebirth.

I call on Christians to embrace anyone who follows Jesus, no matter how little else we agree upon. Personal salvation requires different sacrifices from different believers.

Living metaphor. Follow me @stephens_pt.

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