Saturday, March 22, 2008

A secular family prepares for Easter.


To all who donated funds to make the window film happen: THANK YOU! I was able to sit in at the kitchen table and help the kids dye eggs. Last year, this gave me such a bad burn that I gave up halfway through. Score one for 3M film!

When I was a child, I (of course) celebrated Easter as a Roman Catholic. Of all the sects of Christianity, Catholicism (and maybe Orthodox Christianity) are the only people who turn Easter into a forty day marathon of holy days and sacrifices. As would be expected, I grew up giving things up for Lent and observing the "holy days of obligation". When I started having children, despite being a believer (at that point), I knew that I never wanted my children to take on the boat load of guilt that the Church lays at the feet of parishioners during Lent. It's probably one of the greatest acts of manipulation that I can think of - you, be you a child or adult, are made to feel completely responsible for the death of Jesus Christ. It was *your* sin that he, proactively, died for. Therefore, you would be an ungrateful sinner if you didn't give up something you enjoyed for forty days and sat your ass in a pew at least twice a week. Looking back, it turns my stomach to remember our second grade catechism class bursting into tears (having had the above explained to us). We were shown graphic pictures of a crucifixion and had the scene described to us in extreme detail ("Can you imagine what your LORD suffered for you, children? Can you imagine the feces and urine and blood that ran down the cross for you?").

But, of course, then came the massive disconnect when you made Easter bunnies out of cotton balls and read Peter Cottontail. And, inevitably, I would have eaten so much chocolate before eight a.m., Easter Sunday, that I'd feel like ralphing during mass. My child's mind was convinced that the sour stomach was from guilt and not the four Cadburry eggs I crammed in before breakfast.

Now I have these four beautiful kids and I can't fathom why my parents would've ever imagined it was okay to lay that kind of guilt on a child. They're not horrible people. So, what was so powerful about the Church that made my parents think this was okay? Tradition. It boils down to tradition. When you're in the Catholic Church (or any ritualistic religion, for that matter), you do what everyone has done for a thousand years before you. You don't question it. And, I truly believe you become desensitized to what's really being taught. If I sat down the Catholic League and said, "OK. I want you to promote this video game. It's got lots of blood, urine, and feces. It has murder...and not just murder, but a graphic portrayal of a man's extremities being spiked to a wooden structure and beaten with whips. The end goal is to make sure you kill the guy on the cross. It's for the kiddies!", do you imagine they'd be okay with that? But, substitute Christ for "some guy" and spin a tale of martyrdom and you have something that is celebrated by the very same people.

We celebrate Easter. But, we celebrate it much in the same way we celebrate Fat Tuesday. It's a cultural thing for us. We dye eggs. We give gifts. We dress up. We have a family dinner. We make pumpkin eggs and cakes. I don't need a holiday to enjoy my family, but I love that we enjoy each other so much on holidays. Love and laughter - that's what it should be about. Not death and guilt.

Here's what we did today. Enjoy!

11 comments:

Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D. said...

Lovely pics PM. Yes, I can't imagine as a parent why you would want to subject your child to the guilt. But that's what indoctrination is all about shaping your mind to the point that you can't see the "bad" that you are doing.

ozatheist said...

PM, you talk about the evil of jesus dying on the cross, but what about the poor eggs?

Check out the video on WM's site.

(only joking, about the eggs)

keelyellenmarie said...

beautiful eggs! what do you all do with all the eggs when you eat them? My family always gets sick of egg salad long before they are all gone.

I don't remember the lent-guilt thing getting to me as a kid, not much anyhow. Mostly because I avoided thinking about how exactly Jesus died. The whole Passion of The Christ thing was going on when I was active in my high school youth group though, and it was like, required that you see the movie more than once and cry and cry but pretend that seeing it was somehow good for you. Now THAT was twisted.

Karen said...

Ah, dying eggs... not being a parent, I dyed my last egg about 38 years ago. Your photos make me remember how much I enjoyed it! I haven't remembered those times in recent years.

Growing up, I spent weekdays in the San Francisco Bay Area, and weekends in the Central Valley. My mother loved to fish for catfish, and she and I would go sit on the riverbank for hours on the weekend days. I hated the fishing part; it was mind-numbingly boring, and I would bring along a couple of books to read. I didn't understand that my mother was just stealing time out of her busy life to sit and reflect, a very good thing to do.

We usually started fishing in March, when the weather warmed up enough to make fishing pleasant. (Remember, this is lowland Central California, where spring starts Feb. 1 and March is halfway to summer.) So, in honor of my mother, we will eat (farm-raised) catfish tomorrow.

Karen said...

Er, I meant dyeing eggs. Hopefully the eggs are already dead when you dye them. :-)

Karen said...

I was raised Catholic, too, and the Easter-related exercise I hated most was to pray on Good Friday afternoon. My mother had a poem (actually a very moving one) that described the state of mind of one dying on a cross. But she insisted I repeat it 50 times! For a woman who prayed the Rosary* daily, that was trivial. For a kid whose daily prayers went something like, "Dear God, I'm really sorry about X. And thank you very much for Y. Amen" repeating a poem 50 times was torture. Maybe that was the point. I certainly resented it.

*For those lucky enough not to have been raised Catholic, praying the Rosary consists of repeating various prayers while ticking them off by fingering Rosary beads -- each different type of bead representing a different type of prayer -- a set of 60 or so prayers in all. For me, I've said it once, if I've meant it, why do I need to say it again? But I guess it's a meditation of sorts.

Baal's Bum said...

Really glad the film is having such a good effect.
Also as It has not been mentioned the easter celebration is a celebration of the beginning of spring bu marking the third full moon after the winter solstice. Nothing about nailing hippies to trees at all.

Katie said...

Happy Zombie Jesus Day P-Momma!

The worst Lent Torture I received was when I was in 9th grade during my last 2 years of catholic schooling. My religion teacher felt it necessary we keep a lent journal and we have to listen to the crucifixion stuff over and over again every week and write about our 'sacrifices' and what not. After awhile I just started to write the most insane bs you know a religion teacher will want to hear.

And now that I think of it, speaking of rituals around easter, P-Momma, or anyone else who was raised catholic as well, did you have your teacher spray something like vinegar or something just as bitter on your first holy communion wafers to make you think it was unblessed? When the ceremony came around I realized it was sweet and nice to eat and that the blessed jesus crackers sweet and the unblessed were sour which now I realize was an extremely cruel trick to play on kids.

Betsy said...

Wow. I thought my church was twisted... glad I wasn't raised Catholic!

Ovo-lacto said...

It's always nice to celebrate a fertility ritual in spring. The early christians repurposed easter, and the catholics try to keep it more important than christmas, which takes a lot of doing.

The neo-pagans have more fun, of course. They just declare sex to be an appropriate observance for a fertility ritual. (No, not in public - get your mind out of the gutter!)

Happy Bird said...

Our church growing up never observed Lent, but we certainly did observe Guilt! I had one Sunday School teacher in particular who was fixated on the Rapture, and would talk about it every Sunday - about how we'd all be snatched up one day and taken to a place where we'd be transfigured so that no one would know us and we wouldn't know anyone else, and we'd never see our families or friends again.... but that's okay! Because everyone in heaven would love each other like family, so it wouldn't really matter that you didn't know any of them.

Can you even think of a better way to traumatize a class of 11-year-olds?