Predictable as an April shower, our annual storm of Easter indignation has blown in, this time from across the Atlantic.
The National Trust in the U.K., sort of the National Endowment for the Arts, oversees Easter egg hunts every year at over 250 sites throughout the country. Cadbury, the big chocolate company famous for its chocolate eggs, is the corporate sponsor. Some of the promotional materials for the 2017 edition of this annual event are calling it the Cadbury Egg Hunt, Easter is no longer listed as one of the corporate sponsors.
The Prime Minister, prelates of the Church of England, and all the tabloids have declared positions in this scandal. One more step in the de-Christianizing of the nation, some say. Political correctness run amok others opine. Cadbury, for its part, claims nothing but altruism; its only thought for the growing population of non-Christian children who might enjoy the day on the village green. Apparently it never occurred to them that they might sell a few more of their famous chocolate eggs.
The neo-pagans are delighted, saying the Christians had it coming for having stolen the egg from the fertility goddess Oestre’s nest a millennium ago.
In fact, I think the decline of Christian influence in Western Europe and North America is an issue that warrants serious discussion and is far more important and consequential than the skeptics want to believe. Christian faith is not being replaced by reasoned enlightenment or corporate altruism. It is being replaced by petty identity politics, ugly nationalism, and an obscene grab for profit. That’s a topic for another day.
The best guess is that 20% of the people who live here in Langhorne and round about will worship at one of our churches this weekend. At least at LPC, we will distribute palm branches and sing “Hosanna, Loud Hosanna.” Far fewer are likely to come out on Thursday evening to gather around a Table where, having washed his disciples’ feet, Jesus broke bread and poured wine saying, “Do this in remembrance of me.”
If the weather is good on Friday, 150 of us from all the different churches will follow the cross as it makes its way from church building to church building in the borough. Who knows, maybe as many as 30% of us may find our way to Core Creek Park very early in the morning or to one of the churches later on to join our voices in the joyful proclamation “He is risen! He is risen indeed.”
For the most part, the motorists who pass by as we follow the cross through the borough streets on Good Friday are friendly, some honking or waving approval. There may be some gestures of disapproval as a police officer stops all the traffic at Bellevue and Maple to allow our band to cross the intersection safely. Otherwise, it’s probably safe to say that at least 70% of our neighbors will hardly notice what we do this week, though they may wonder why the Sunday brunch crowd seems a little heavier than usual on the 16th.
In an era of petty identity politics, ugly nationalism, and obscene grabs for profit, we Christians have more to worry about than being listed below the chocolate company as one of the sponsors of the national egg hunt.
If our hosannas are to mean anything, if our remembrance of Him is to change us, if the cross is more than a piece of jewelry, if the empty tomb was empty by the power of life and love, and if Jesus Christ still lives, we need to do more than worry about how they brand a children’s activity.
The churches in Langhorne will not be as full this coming Easter Sunday as they were 20 or 30 or 40 years ago. It’s a loss to the culture.
On this side of the Atlantic, Americans will spend $2.6 billion on Easter candy this year, up 6% over last year. The decline in church attendance hasn’t hurt sales of chocolate eggs, Easter or otherwise.
What if Christians, instead of being indignant about the loss of the egg hunt franchise, told their neighbors and work colleagues, family members and fellow students, about the God who loves them and who defeated death and hate on Golgotha’s cross, about the empty tomb and how it offers the possibility of abundant and eternal life for those who are willing to trust this God? What if, by what we say and what we do, how we love and how we care, our community and world began to notice the still more excellent way?
Becky and I won’t be buying any candy this Easter. I think we’ll give our share of the $2.6 billion to One Great Hour of Sharing. It will be enough for some food for the refugees and victims of disaster in our hurting world.
See you Sunday