Sunday, April 16, 2017

(nor)Easter

I stopped practicing any formal religious faith long ago, but that doesn't mean that I cannot find it within me to observe the major Christian holidays. Christmas is ultimately a celebration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, whose teachings, regardless of the Son of God later generations tacked onto his legacy, are worthy of following, and so I have never thought twice about observing Christmas (even though it is extremely likely that his actual date of birth was not in late December).
This holiday. Easter, is much more problematic for me. For starters, while Christmas commemorates an actual event, whenever it may have occurred, I simply do not believe that any resurrection of anyone dead took place, and so it is a day that "celebrates" something that did not happen. And my basic issue with Christianity, in any form, is that I cannot reconcile either of the two basic assumptions behind it with a loving, caring God. The shedding of blood, whoever's it might be, in a "sacrifice" is not based in anything loving, caring, spiritual, or good. It is atonement theology, in essence eye for an eye, a wrong done to make up for a wrong done. That is, whatever dressing you put on it, barbarism, and has nothing to do with love, forgiveness, charity, good will toward men, or any of the dozens of others actual spiritual principles that are the characteristic of a loving and caring God, or Higher Power, or Supreme Being, or whatever. The second assumption is that by requiring belief in something that did not happen, the religion based around this "event" is grounded in dishonesty, denial, and untruth--and that is hardly compatible, again, with living a life based on spiritual principles. And Easter is inextricably linked to Passover, which is another "holiday" that is based on barbarism, commemorates an event that did not happen, and celebrates the shedding of blood.
In fact, both Easter and Passover are perhaps the ultimate divisive events. At their core, they are "celebrations" of us vs. them, of believers against non-believers, of chosen vs. not-chosen, of some being redeemed while the rest of us can literally go to hell. I realize that far too many people in this world need those kind of assurances to get through their lives, and countless others need the threat of going to hell to keep them even marginally within the bounds of spiritual behavior. But it doesn't mean I have to buy into it, and I certainly don't have to celebrate it.
And of course, like every other "occasion" that marks the calendar in this part of the world, it has become the focus for more materialism and more commercial gain. Again, Christmas takes a lot of deserved crap for its commercial overkill, but at least, the seed, the core, is something that is both real (the St. Nicholas legend has at least a kernel of truth) and based on a good motivation (sharing among our fellow men). The Easter bunny has no comparable antecedent to St. Nicholas, and the commercialism is much more naked and raw, without any corresponding reciprocity.
I am not working today; the agency I work for recognizes this as one of their paid holidays for the year. I am grateful for that much, because I normally work Sundays, but I don't feel festive or happy. Especially this year, when I am still in a bit of shock from almost losing a family member and also coming to terms with the end of a long-term relationship that just might have been the most corrosive to my soul and self-esteem that I've ever been in. There is a lot of ground to cover in the days, weeks, and months ahead, and I'm not looking forward to it. There is only one part of this Easter story that I ever truly identify with--Jesus of Nazareth praying in the Garden of Gethsemane on his last night on earth, hoping to have his cup pass from him and praying for the strength to endure what is coming. It's non-sectarian, it's real, and it's something I have often done myself.
And I'm doing it again. No, I'm not facing capital punishment. But I am facing trials that I would rather not go through. And I know, unlike the Easter legend, that there is no fairy-tale happy ending. But I will get through it, with the help of a loving, caring Higher Power and by applying as many spiritual principles as I can summon to the surface. I'm in the middle of a storm, that perhaps is not the strongest I have ever experienced, but that may well last longer than any that have come before them. And while I know I can make it through, it doesn't mean I have to feel wonderful about doing so.
And I sure as hell am not going to be diverted from the tasks at hand by gorging on chocolate or pretending to believe something that I know did not happen, that forms the basis of a value system I don't buy into. It's just another day for me.

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