Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter in America

Easter morning. The kitty is scaring the birds away from the bird-feeder, the dog is chewing on his toy, WPFW is playing some acoustic jazz, the coffee is made. It's cold outside, as I discovered when I went out to pick up the morning paper. I'm the only one up so far.

Easter is a good day to think about religion in America. This lunar holiday is a perfectly unreasonable blend of Christian and pagan traditions. Unbelievable, in fact, that we can get away with it. You have, on one hand, the New Testament story of the resurrection, occurring, in classical form, when the sun is regaining its strength after the darkness of winter. You have on the other hand, the bunny and the eggs.

Even the word, Easter, is as un-Christian as can be. There have been Easter goddesses since time immemorial. Ostara, Eostre, Astarte, the Old Testament Esther, Ashtoreth, Ishtar ... This is, pointedly, the root of our word "estrogen." It all has to do with fertility and generation. Where solar deities tend to be reborn in the springtime, the goddesses have a habit of giving birth.

And let's not forget, the Last Supper was probably a Passover meal. This date on the Christian calendar corresponds not-coincidentally with the Jewish holiday, in case you didn't think it was eclectic enough already.

The merging of pagan and Christian practices on this special day seems to me to be one of the most fascinating accomplishments of our profoundly irrational culture. Who complains about the Easter Bunny? Who refuses to hide Easter eggs? The practices aren't explained away with Bible stories, they just lie there at the surface, traditions that contradict one another, coexisting without conflict. We are a more interesting people than we give ourselves credit for.

The word "theocracy" doesn't often come up in our debate over sex-ed in Montgomery County, Maryland. More often, words like "morality" and "values" are used, occasionally "bigots" and, OK, I admit it, "nuts" comes up pretty often. But zoom out a little and see what this is. In 2004 the public schools, a secular institution, decided to include some teaching about sexual orientation. And certain panty-puckered religious individuals, notably evangelicals and Mormons but there were a few Catholics, too, decided to express outrage over the school district's failure to pay proper tribute to their taboos.

The fact is, our whole controversy should be seen as an attempted theocratic coup. The people of the county, by and large, have a fair and tolerant opinion of their gay neighbors. We don't call them "deviants," and the only place I've heard gays referred to as "sodomites" was at meetings of the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum.

But some people wanted to make it an issue, that God doesn't approve of gay people and the schools shouldn't act like they're okay.

May I point out -- there's no other way to come to the conclusion that homosexuality is immoral. It doesn't meet any of the criteria of immorality. Nobody gets hurt, nobody loses anything, nobody lies, it's just a matter of somebody's love-life being different from somebody else's. There is no ordinary system of morality that would conclude that homosexuality is wrong, the only thing is a myopic reading of certain religious passages, and a certain authoritarian interpretation that says that everything in scripture is a direct command from God.

This Easter weekend there is an interesting project going on, a "blogswarm" called Blog Against Theocracy. Follow that link, and there's a list of participating sites, you can click through and read different bloggers' perpsectives on the theme. At the moment, I count ninety-four blogs linked there. Lots to read there, lots and lots to think about.

Personally, I am thinking that the real threat has passed -- for the moment. The theocrats had their chance. Did you see that there are 150 graduates of Pat Robertson's Regent University working in the Bush administration? That includes Monica Goodling, the lying assistant Attorney General who resigned Friday. Yes, they've had their chance, they got to run things for a while. And somehow the word of Jesus became transformed, through their ministry, into a gospel of greed, corruption, lying, death, hypocrisy. They had their chance, and that's what it turned into, at the national level. And people seem to have mostly figured it out now -- I don't think many of these clowns will be voted into office the next time around.

That doesn't mean we can rest -- this isn't something that will really go away, it is just something that failed this time. Those who believe America should adhere to their narrow religious habits will not be giving up -- there's too much money in it, for one thing. Those of us who support freedom in this country will have to remain vigilant. Well, that's the way it's always been, we might as well get used to it.


Blogger andrea said...

I was in Philadelphia and thank goodness, because Zitner Easter Eggs- not available in this area- were on sale today at Shoprite. No more until next January 12. They go into my basement until after Passover. I do not know the connection between dark chocolate, double coconut- or even the famous "ButterKrak" zitner eggs and Easter. My daughter, also a practicing Jew, is fondest of Cadbury mini-eggs. Again, I don't know the connection between pastel hard sugar coated chocolate eggs and Easter- but we are just glad the candy exists.

April 08, 2007 7:08 PM  

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