Easter - Religion, Eggs & SlaverySaturday, 22 March 2008
To some it’s a time of huge religious significance. To others it’s a couple of days off work and a nice long weekend. For some, an excuse to indulge their craving for chocolate. In deepest, darkest Northamptonshire, in the heart of the English countryside, redpillboy started thinking about what Easter meant to him and came up with some disturbing conclusions. Something for consideration and hopefully some action by those with faith and those with none.
As I write, it’s threatening to snow. Outside my window, I can see a few white flakes engaged in a less than passionate battle with pale wintry sunshine. The meteorological equivalent of a lower league mid-table soccer match. If only Bing Crosby had used his brain a bit and come up with the blindingly obvious follow-up to White Christmas. “I’m dreaming of a white Easter, just like the ones which might be becoming more likely because of global warming caused by corporate greed and individual selfishness”. Ok, the lyrics will need a bit of sharpening up.
Outside my office, two of my sons and two of their friends are playing a creative jousting game with a pair of crutches. One of the combatants has a broken leg and has obviously got bored with their traditional use. I’m awaiting the pained cry of a young teenager with a re-broken leg or a poke in the eye from some medical equipment. In my literary vanity, I wonder whether people like Orwell and Vonnegut had such distractions to manage as they wrote classics like 1984 and Slaughterhouse 5.
Surprisingly enough, children who are encouraged to put tea towels on their heads and worship a plastic doll from Toys R Us in nativity plays are rarely persuaded to take part in dramatic re-enactments of the Easter story. Nervous parents and health & safety legislation possibly prevent primary school passion plays
CRUCIFIXION? I HOPE YOU’VE DONE A RISK ASSESSMENT?
Beyond the weather, there are significant differences between Christmas and Easter. Although Christmas has become more of a greedfest than a religious celebration*, many people still know something of its Christian origins (if not the pre-Christian pagan origins to which some would rightly refer). Many basically non-religious people who’d still consider the UK to be a Christian country (and I have no idea on what evidence they would base that belief) might think of going to a traditional carol service or saying ‘bless’ at their child’s nativity play. Few would have such thoughts at Easter (I mean attending any religious service, obviously not a carol service!)
We probably looked like a bunch of extras from some post-apocalyptic film like Mad Max or Children of Men. Hopefully we didn’t drop to the level of the zombie extras from Shaun of the Dead
Surprisingly enough, children who are encouraged to put tea towels on their heads and worship a plastic doll from Toys R Us in nativity plays are rarely persuaded to take part in dramatic re-enactments of the Easter story. Nervous parents and health & safety legislation possibly prevent primary school passion plays. “Er, are you actually going to bang those rusty nails into my son’s wrists and ankles?” and “How on earth am I going to get that tomato ketchup out of my best sheets?” There’d probably be fewer parents pushing for their child to get the lead part in this play.
EMBARRASSING MEMORIES OF EASTERS PAST
At Easter, passion plays and religious processions are left to the adults and I have painful memories of days when, purely out of some twisted form of obligation, I was convinced into going on something called the March of Witness (sounds like a system which might be used at Guantanamo Bay). A few dozen grim-looking people would meet outside a church building and march up the local High Street, brandishing banners and a wooden cross. I’m sure the message that came across was less of ‘Jesus Is Alive’ than ‘He’s dead and you killed him!’ We probably looked like a bunch of extras from some post-apocalyptic film like Mad Max or Children of Men. Hopefully we didn’t drop to the level of the zombie extras from Shaun of the Dead. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure many of the people did what they did out of sincere conviction but I just don’t think that it was run past the marketing department.....
PUT THE NAILS DOWN, SOMEONE’S GOING TO GET HURT....
I may have been embarrassed by the less than racy antics in a sleepy English suburb, but if I’d grown up in the Philippines I might have had more to worry about. Check out this story from the internet:-
“In the most extreme display of penance, a handful of devout Roman Catholics in the northern Philippines went through an agonizing Good Friday crucifixion re-enactment that has become a gruesome and increasingly controversial annual ritual.
Neighbours costumed like Roman centurions dragged penitents through the village streets of San Pedro Cutud and toward a barren hill where three wooden crosses and a large crowd of at least 2,000 tourists awaited.
Seven-inch (18-centimeter) metal nails were driven into both palms and feet as they lay spread-eagled over the crosses, which were then raised for about five minutes before being hauled down again and the nails pulled out.
The process was repeated for a total of nearly 20 volunteers.
Many more whipped their own backs until they ran blood.
The Roman Catholic Church frowns on such extreme practices and the Filipino health department had warned penitents to take anti-tetanus shots first and to sterilize their equipment.”
When it comes to spreading the good news, these guys have really got it nailed........
The film Amazing Grace told the story of William Wilberforce and his role in the abolitionist movement. What the film missed – and Christians have tended to overlook – is the role of many so-called Christians in sustaining the trade for so long for reasons ranging from racism to pure greed.
EASTER EGGS & CHRISTIAN HYPOCRISY
In 2007, Christians, especially British Christians, had the opportunity to bask in the reflected glory of the celebration of two hundred years since the abolition of the slave trade. The film Amazing Grace told the story of William Wilberforce and his role in the abolitionist movement. What the film missed – and Christians have tended to overlook – is the role of many so-called Christians in sustaining the trade for so long for reasons ranging from racism to pure greed.
It’s fairly widely reported that there are probably more people in slavery today than there were in 1807. Many of these people – often children – are involved in the chocolate industry. Thankfully there are a growing number of Christians – as well as many others – who are raising the profile of modern day slavery and you can read the facts and find out about current campaigns at excellent sites like Stop the Traffik. Their Easter Egg Hunt campaign is challenging people to visit local retailers and track down fair trade Easter Eggs. Sadly our local Co-op had none (despite stocking fair trade chocolate bars) and Waitrose had only one.
Even sadder is the fact that we justify buying cheaper non-fair trade certified Easter Eggs purely on economic terms, the very same justification used by anti-abolitionists in Wilberforce’s time. This weekend loads of Christians will celebrate Easter at religious services and then by giving their kids chocolate eggs made by people like Cadbury’s** and Nestlé (and some posher but no more ethical corporations) which have probably been made using cocoa beans from farms in the Ivory Coast (an estimated 12,000 children have been trafficked into cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast).
A REDPILL EASTER
Even though I have major doubts about much organised religion (especially in terms of the misuse of power and money) and a distaste for the unreasoning dogma inaccurately labelled as Christianity, I still firmly believe in the core message about Jesus, including supernatural events like the physical resurrection of Christ***. I hold onto an imperfect relationship with God and a life which falteringly attempts to live out the words and principles laid down by a man who probably never ate a hollow chocolate egg filled with Smarties.
The consistent failure to connect religious belief with ethical behaviour undermines the power of the message. There’s a desperate need for a more ethical and thoughtful type of faith. My ten-year-old son faces the same dilemma that so many of us face. He wants to treat his brother to an Easter Egg made from his favourite chocolate but he knows it’s not fair trade. I’m not going to decide for him because I want him to learn to connect his values with his actions.
Here’s a parting thought, strong words from God through the Old Testament prophet Amos, which might be appropriate for this time of year and this particular issue. “I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.....do you know what I want? I want justice – oceans of it. I want fairness – rivers of it. That’s what I want. That’s all I want.”
So, redpillers, let’s put a bit more social justice back into Easter – and life. Have a great holiday weekend!
* take a look at 44 Thinking Days Until Christmas
** Cadbury’s also own Green & Black’s who sell organic but not fair trade chocolate – check out Where’s Your Money Going?
*** Paul, who Christians believe wrote large chunks of the New Testament, wrote that if there was no resurrection, “your trust in God is useless”.