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Celebrating Eostre

When John posted the picture of the Jesus feet in the photo column on Good Friday, I flinched: "You need to take that down. People are going to make one of two incorrect assumptions: you're either being sarcastic and sacreligious, or we've misrepresented ourselves on the blog so far and we're actually 'religious'." Then I realized that 1.) this was our blog and we could post whatever random thing we felt like posting, and 2.) if anyone had a question or comment about the intention with the photo, they could comment or e-mail us. (Actually, they couldn't e-mail us since we have no contact information currently available on the site. As a side note, we can be reached at kristenandjohn at homeonthefringe dot com - we'll have that added to one of the side columns soon.) John will be posting a brief comment on the Jesus feet later, because he has something to say about that picture...even though after some reflection, I told him I feel conflicted about putting any sort of "justification" or "explanation" about what is another example of his artistic talent. There is no commentary on the pictures of the tulips, the shark, the shoes, or the buildings at night. Discussing the Jesus feet makes me feel like we're apologizing for something, and those of you who know me well know that that COULD NEVER BE. Apologizing is not my strong suit.

Having both grown up in Christian households (albeit different sects of Christianity), and living in a region where the assumption is that if you are white and middle class, you attend a Christian church and identify yourself unquestionably as a Christian, we are well aware of the social ramifications of any deviation from traditional Christian thought. We are also aware, though, of the lack of education most Christians have about their religion and its history, and the very foundation on which the religion is based. For all of the Sunday school classes and "small groups" and bible "studies" made available to Western Christians, there is a severe lack of understanding about the actual facts surrounding Christian belief. If, rather than quietly accepting this fact, you were to point this out to (the average) Christian, you would be scoffed at and told "it's simply a matter of faith." Translation: I don't feel the need to have facts and historical information, and if you do, there is obviously something wrong with you, you lazy, sinful, dirty infidel.

Luckily I grew up with parents who encouraged me to question and challenge belief systems. Today I'm sure they feel like they shouldn't have pushed this virtue so hard on me; I've probably taken it to a point they aren't completely comfortable with, considering the fact that they each still identify themselves as Christians in at least some sense of the word. John grew up with Catholicism, which, in my brief two-year experience attending Catholic services and even classes on how to shed my disgusting Protestant shell so that I could be considered worthy of eating cardboard-like wafers and drinking free wine from a community cup every week during communion, does not lend itself to questioning much of anything. So it wasn't until John had been exposed to several different Protestant churches and a few years of my own rambling, exploring rebel talk that he could clearly articulate his stance on religion in general and Christianity in particular. Neither of us have much opportunity to DO this, mind you; just the ability to do it. And it's been a very gradual approach to get us to this point; this is the first year we haven't attended a church service on Easter Sunday - even if our attendance in the past was merely the result of respectful acceptance at the request of another family member. We've educated ourselves and reflected over the years to a point that we could now be clear and logical if pressed by our family about why we don't attend a church, and why we wouldn't at least go to church on the major Chrisitan holidays. But it is only recently that we've felt confident enough in our stance that we could comfortably have this conversation if the opportunity were to arise.

None of this is to say that John and I have all the answers, particularly about parenting our young kids, in matters of religion and Christianity. We still observe the cultural and secular aspects of Christmas and Easter, and we talk with our kids about the Christian teachings surrounding these holidays, since the rest of their family is Christian and they are presenting us with questions about Jesus' birth and death stories. (And also because I believe that if they aren't exposed to a basic education about both the current prevailing religious beliefs and the lesser known ones, they will have no ability to do what John and I have done over the past seven years - mull over all the information and come to their own conclusions of what truth means to them when their brains are capable of doing so.) As they age, we'll also give them the historical context for these stories and how that context is so significant to the rituals accepted by Christians and non-Christians alike in our Western culture today. Wreaths, trees, eggs, bunnies, Christmas in winter, Easter in spring: all completely unrelated to the actual biblical stories given as foundational by the Christian church, yet accepted within the mainstream Christian circles as a natural part of the holiday. In reality, as I'm sure most people now realize, these aspects of the holidays that are considered purely "commercial" or "secular" have ancient pagan rituals at their root, and aren't technically "secular" at all. Similarly, the death, resurrection, and ascension story of Jesus in the bible has multiple look-alikes that, surprise! were circulating through more than one pagan community hundreds, even thousands of years before the preacher potentially named Jesus potentially lived in Galilee and potentially died during the reign of Pilate.

Yesterday we took the kids to an Easter egg hunt at a friend's house. She has a huge party every year where she invites the entire neighborhood and anyone she knows with kids. She provides a feast and invests in substantial amounts of candy, eggs, and Easter toys. She even has her front and back yards sectioned off for different age groups to allow the youngest children enough space and time to gather their plastic, sugar-filled treats without having the older kids knock them over in their mad dash for jelly beans. She carefully monitors her RSVP list and ensures that all the kids are present before starting the hunt. Once all the kids are accounted for, she gathers them around her, explains the age group sections, and then gives the "ready set go" okay before they all scatter wildly in search of their Easter loot. It's quite a sight, all those young kids in their fresh spring clothes listening intently to the hostess, the expressions on their faces exposing the most complex thoughts they have in their heads at the time - we want candy, and we get to go find some! Their faces aren't like their parents', whose tired, worried eyes can't be disguised even by the undoubtedly genuine smiles generated by watching the kids anticipate something so simple. Age and Responsibility and Life In The Western World has made disguise virtually impossible. But the kids have time on their side; they have a lack of experience with the constraints the world will place on them as they grow; they have appreciation for things their parents so easily take for granted - like the sun, the grass, and going on an expedition for bright blue and yellow plastic eggs.

For a brief moment yesterday, I understood what Bryce meant when he said he felt like we'd been here long enough already. He's getting old and mature enough to begin to experience the very first twinges of what I would ultimately call jadedness or discontent. The notion of springtime as a rebirth after the death of winter has something universally appealing to those human, age-constrained emotions. Whether you think of this time of year as Eostre's celebration or a remembrance of the Christian story of Jesus' resurrection, the universality of youth's newness and possibility is what the ancient holiday was originally intended to celebrate and to remember. Ultimately none of the specifics -- religious, secular, pagan, or commercial ones -- really matter all that much.

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