Every year around Halloween, Religious Right groups start whining about an alleged “war on Christmas.” According to them, advocates of church-state separation have teamed up with politically correct secularists to drive all mention of the December holiday out of public life.
Evidence for this so-called war has always been thin. In fact, last year groups like the American Family Association (AFA) and Liberty Counsel spent most of their time carping about phrases like “Seasons Greetings” appearing in sale circulars for Radio Shack, Office Depot and Staples. Some war on Christmas!
Since no one seems to want to fight a war on Christmas, the AFA is branching out. The group has now declared that there’s a war on Easter!
Again, the evidence is a little skimpy. AFA’s main complaint is that officials in Munson Township, Ohio, dared to announce a “Spring Egg Hunt” for kids. (Horrors!) According to the AFA, this is really an effort to “strip ‘Easter’ from community events.”
The AFA goes on to say, “While ‘egg hunts’ aren’t exactly biblical, they do provide opportunities for Christians to share the good news of Jesus’ birth with members of the community by celebrating it in public.”
The AFA has unleashed its army of flying monkeys who have inundated the township trustees with e-mails, faxes and phone calls. The trustees are scheduled to revisit the matter tomorrow, and my guess is that they’ll cave in to the fundamentalist pressure campaign and restore the word “Easter.”
When that happens, what exactly will the AFA have achieved? For starters, the Tupelo, Miss.-based Religious Right outfit will have succeeded in getting the name of a Pagan goddess back into the event. That’s right – Pagan. Easter takes its name from Eoestre (sometimes spelled Eastre), an Anglo-Saxon goddess worshipped by peoples in northern Europe during the pre-Christian era.
The AFA will also be supporting a Pagan fertility ritual. Easter is essentially a celebration of, well, unbridled procreation. It’s a spring holiday, arriving during a time when flowers, plants and trees begin blooming again and many animals emerge from semi-stupor and commence to producing offspring. The gray days of winter fade away as new life emerges. Eggs are prominent because they are obvious symbols of fertility. So is the Easter Bunny. Think of it, what are rabbits best known for? Speed and fecundity.
Even the AFA admits that egg hunts aren’t exactly biblical. That’s putting it mildly. Stories differ about the origin of events like eggs hunts and coloring eggs, but most accounts place them long before the rise of Christianity. It’s pretty obvious they have nothing to do with the New Testament account of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.
In fact, some fundamentalists don’t celebrate Easter, and they rail against its Pagan overtones and assail its emphasis on the sensual.
Of course, none of this matters to the kids in Munson Township. They’re just looking to have a little fun, and they’ll have it no matter what the event is called. Good for them. And if some parents want to teach their kids about the resurrection, they have that right – at home and at church.
Meanwhile, the AFA has achieved a great victory for Paganism, fertility rituals and celebrations of nature’s promotion of unrestrained copulation.
Somehow, I don’t think this is what the group had in mind. But perhaps, from her perch in the pantheon surrounded by her fellow gods and goddesses, Eoestre smiles with approval.