No, I’m not trying to win a prize for most obvious statement of the year; I’m responding to an article by Vicky Beeching in The Independent last week in which she apparently failed to spot some fairly significant differences between the two commodities.
She was bemoaning the appearance in supermarkets of the Meaningful Chocolate company’s Real Easter Eggs this year. Much as she loves the foil-wrapped chocolate treats in general, Beeching says “I’ve never felt I needed a Christian version of an Easter Egg, just as I’ve never felt I needed a Christian version of shoes…”
This seems to be quite outstandingly missing the point.
Shoes were not created to celebrate a specific Christian festival. Shoes are not named after what Christians –Vicky and I included– believe to be the most earth-shattering, game-changing event in history. Shoes are not given to friends and family on Shoe Sunday in order to celebrate the Shoe story. Shoes, in short, are not like Easter eggs.
Beeching is right that it is wrong to create a Christian ghetto. The Christian faith as preached by Jesus is all about ‘loving your neighbour’. This involves things like ‘giving without expecting anything in return’, ‘feeding the poor’, ‘visiting those in prison’, ‘supporting the weak’ etc – all things which are pretty hard to do if you’re huddling together behind a giant protective wall. Giving your neighbour an Easter Egg decorated with pictures and activities telling the Easter story, on the other hand, hardly constitutes ghettoization.
“I can’t imagine,” Beeching says scornfully, “Bob the Plumber walking into Sainsbury’s, seeing a chocolate egg with a message about Jesus on it and instantly falling to his knees in confession and conversion. The eggs will be purchased by Christians and probably given to unsuspecting ‘unbelievers’ who although grateful for the free chocolate will be bemused by the cut-out-and-keep paper Jesus figurines inside it.”
Indeed. I can’t imagine anyone who dreamed up the Real Easter Egg envisioned spontaneous conversions in the supermarket aisles either.
The eggs were designed as an acknowledgement that Easter is not just a cute spring festival about cheeping chicks, leaping lambs and buds blossoming on trees throughout the land. Yes, as one of the commenters on the post pointed out, the word Easter is derived from the name of a pagan festival that celebrated new life, but it was ‘hijacked’ (or perhaps redeemed?) by Christians to celebrate an entirely different kind of birth and new life – the birth of the Spirit giving new life in Christ, made possible by his death and resurrection. If the “unsuspecting ‘unbelievers’” are really that bemused about why an Easter Egg should come with a picture of Jesus, wouldn’t that rather make the point that perhaps it is needed after all?
Just as many Christians want to celebrate Christmas by sending cards with depictions of stars, shepherds and angels (you know, the Christmas story), instead of Santas, snowmen and drunken robins, some Christians may appreciate the opportunity to give Easter eggs depicting the Easter story rather than needing to pretend Easter has no special meaning for Christians.
True, a chocolate egg with some ‘Christian symbols’ given to an ‘unsuspecting unbeliever’ is unlikely to convince him or her of the truth about Jesus. If, however, a Christian has found hope, joy and peace through the Easter story and wants to share that hope with their friends, what’s so wrong with saying it with chocolate?
Picture Credit: Never Safer’ by John Stiles (Creative Commons)