With all the recent hullaballoo, Easter snuck up on me this year. Seems like I was just saying to myself, “I have plenty of time to buy all the crap – er, treasures – for the kids’ Easter baskets,” and then suddenly, I went to Target to buy paper towels and cereal, and all the Easter stuff was on clearance! I confess, I spent several long minutes considering the possibility of letting Easter slip by unnoticed this year, but I realized that the kids know it’s this weekend thanks to all the talk at school.
It brought to mind a question, though: why do we celebrate Easter? I mean WE as in us, our particular family. And then I thought, well, if the kids have expectations of Easter, be they baskets and bunny prints or otherwise, I think it warrants a discussion about what all this Easter business is about. So Michael and I opened a conversation with Joey, age 8, yesterday, that went something like this:
MICHAEL: “Joey, what is Easter about, anyway?”
JOEY: “I dunno . . . bunnies and stuff, I guess.”
MICHAEL: “Well, you know, some people believe that today, which is Good Friday, is the day Jesus died on the cross for everyone’s sins, and that Easter is when he came back to life and went to Heaven.”
JOEY: “I don’t even believe in Jesus!”
ME: “Why don’t you believe in Jesus?”
JOEY: “I don’t know . . . it just sounds pretty crazy and made up.”
ME: “What about God? What do you think about God?”
JOEY: “God isn’t real.”
MICHAEL: “How do you know?”
JOEY: “No one’s ever seen him, have they?”
ME: “So how likely do you think it is that some guy died, and then three days later came back alive, somehow got out of the cave he was put in when he was dead, and then rose into Heaven for everyone to see?”
JOEY: “Very unlikely.”
ME: “So what do you think happens after we die?”
JOEY: “I don’t want to think about that!”
ME: “Okay, but really, what do you think happens? Do you think after we die we go to some other place, like maybe Heaven, or Hell?”
JOEY: “No! Where’s Heaven? Come on. Where would it be? Nobody’s ever seen it, have they?”
MICHAEL: “So what do you believe?”
JOEY: “Well, I believe in Santa Claus, that’s for sure!”
Okay, so his critical thinking skills have a ways to go.
This morning I had a discussion with Daisy, age 6, that went something like this:
ME: “So, Daisy, do you know why people celebrate Easter?”
DAISY: “Um, no, not really.”
ME: “Well, some people celebrate Easter because they believe it’s when Jesus came back alive and went to Heaven for everyone to see. And some people celebrate Easter as a way to celebrate Spring.”
DAISY: “People can’t come back alive when they’re dead!”
ME: “Well, some people think that Jesus did. Do you know who Jesus is?”
DAISY: “Um, wasn’t he a little baby and a little girl cried because she couldn’t find anything to give him?”
(Hmmmm, interesting. No idea where that came from.)
ME: “Um, I’m not sure about that. Anyway, some people believe that Jesus was God’s son, and that when Jesus grew up, he died for everyone’s sins, so that everyone could go to Heaven when they die.”
DAISY: “God isn’t real! It’s just pretend, Mom.”
ME: “So what do you think happens after we die?”
DAISY: “That’s like bad thoughts that I don’t like to think about.”
ME: “Right. But do you think that after we die, maybe we get to go to this really special place called Heaven?”
DAISY: “No! It’s pretend, Mom!”
And there you have it, straight from the uncluttered minds of pure, innocent children.
It is interesting when you think about it, though (if you’re so inclined to . . .), that the natural inclination seems to be NOT to believe. For kids who have not undergone long-term indoctrination, it’s a stretch, even for those inclined to believe in Santa.
It seems to me that if God were real, if Jesus were the way, the light, and the truth, it wouldn’t all require such a hard sell. The knowledge would just be there within all of us, hardwired into our brains and hearts. It wouldn’t require all these mental gymnastics to try to make sense of what is really, if you want to be perfectly honest, completely nonsensical and preposterous.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16
Okay, but he could have begotten a hundred sons. A thousand. A trillion! He’s God, after all – all powerful, etc., etc. So he begets a son and sends him to earth to do good works and then sacrifices him to show us lowly humans how much he loves us. Really? Seems like pretty small potatoes for someone so big and powerful. That’s like a multi-billionaire giving away a dime to a homeless person. Big deal!
And Jesus? He didn’t sacrifice his life. He was a puppet. God’s stool pigeon! He was supposedly sent here for the specific and sole purpose of one day being brutally killed . . . and then reanimated, whereupon he would physically rise into the sky, the implication being that that’s where Heaven is located – somewhere out there in outer space. There was no choice in the matter – it was all preordained. If you believe the story.
And who wants everlasting life, anyway? I mean, seriously. When you think about it, really think about it, it’s kind of creepy. When I was still a believer, this is one of the things I had a lot of trouble with. The idea of living forever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever – even in Paradise! – freaked me the hell out. You mean it never ends? Never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever? Wow. No thanks.
I get the appeal of all this. Generally speaking, the human race is terribly afraid of death – and of life for that matter. It’s frightening to think that we might be all alone out here, completely at the mercy of a random universe. That there actually might not be a point to any of this – except what we each choose to make of it. It’s comforting to think that there is some omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent fatherly figure out there who cares about our well-being and is looking after us, that death isn’t so bad and scary because, wow, we get to go to this really awesome place after we die where all wrongs will be righted and there will be no suffering. Yeah, that sounds really great. I get it. The fact that these notions are appealing and comforting, though, don’t make them real.
As for us, we’ll just keep recognizing Easter as a way to celebrate Spring and life.