Before you get to your Easter ham, we have to get through the solemn Passion period, the holiest week of the religious year.
Then you can wash your hands of everything.
Sorry to break it to you, but you will kindly notice there is no Easter Bunny present at the Last Supper.
Personally, I like the Easter Bunny and all he/she represents in that euphemistic parallel world that honors the coming of Spring.
In the prolific bunny, the ears may be large and the teeth cry out for orthodontia, but we really have the perfect symbol for life and renewal.
It’s just not very spiritual.
Deep in the throes of an economic recession, with no real end in sight and the partisans bickering about bottom lines and Donald Trump’s hairline, it doesn’t’ surprise me if you are yearning for something slightly more spiritual than an Easter Bunny can provide.
As a journalist, I’m conditioned to keep things in the Easter Bunny realm, unless I’m doing a story about organized religion. When I covered Papal visits to America, I didn’t have to get into whether there was really a God. Or if Martin Luther was re ally right. I just had to report on the guy in the Pope-Mobile.
That’s the standard approach by the media: Keep God out of it. What’s he got to do with anything. We’re covering humans and what they say. God? Show me two sources.
It’s an important distinction. Reporters are information providers, not missionaries. And we’re respectful of the line that keeps the Holy Spirit on one side and Lady Gaga on the other.
Constitutionally, that’s what America guarantees. You’re free. You can be God-fearing or God-less, no problem. We keep God out of our policy debates. And we keep him out of our reporting.
Reporters only pray when deadline approaches. Just like athletes only thank God when they win. (I didn’t hear anyone on the Knicks after losing by a point to the Celtics on Palm Sunday say, “O God, why have you forsaken me?”)
But Easter and Christmas are different for the media when it comes to approaching religious ideas, mostly because this is the time when even the non-believing believers start to believe. It’s a spiritual migration.
This year the mainstream media’s most spiritual reflection apppears to be Time Magazine’s “Is Hell Dead?”
Asking if there is a hell is really just another way of asking the age old question ,” Is there a God?”
You can’t have one without the other, right?
That a young evangelical reverend like Rob Bell has a best selling book, “Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who ever Lived,” is a nice timely excuse for some kind of re-examination.
I actually like the idea that if the churches were full of love and not guilt, fear, and repression, we’d see more people at churches.
Bell is proof of that. He’s packing in the people. And more conservative pastors consider some of what he says to be pure heresy. But someone wants what he’s selling.
The questions he raises are worth discussion. If there is no hell, does that mean there are no consequences?
If hell is the place for punishment, and it didn’t exist, wouldn’t that be like closing down Rikers Island? If that happened we could save money, make the “bad guys” stay at home, give the cops more to do.
OK, maybe we really could use a hell.
But does hell act as a deterrent?
Does it make you want to commit fewer ill-advised acts? Or do you even think about it at all?
For a minute, let’s say you are a hell believer. Would it be terribly disappointing if in the afterlife, you show up all virtuous, and then it’s revealed that there wasn’t a real place called hell after all.
“Hell? “a voice would say. “That’s a placebo.”
Ah, didn’t you know, you were in “hell” when you committed that act?
Why would God want to create a new place just for you and your bad-acting kind?
Besides, Hell isn’t green. Too big a carbon foot-print. Without it, think of God’s energy savings.
If you’re non-Christian, all this hypothesizing may make you feel superior as a Buddhist or Muslim, or perhaps an atheist. Or not.
But whatever your perspective, an examination of conscience, a spiritual tune-up is always worthwhile. (Don’t worry. No one is trying to inculcate. No missionary will call.)
A HANDS ON APPROACH TO CATHOLICSM
For me, I am a traditionalist in the organized realm. I’m a Filipino American, and the Spanish got there first. I am a Catholic.
As a reporter, I don’t know if there’s a hell or heaven. But as a believer, I have faith in the teachings that there is a there there.
Given that, here’s my secret Spring Break/Holy Week fling:
I’d like to go to the Philippines to see a crucifixion. Maybe even my own.
Call it “Extreme Catholicism,” though I’m really more curious than passionate about driving some nails into my hands.
One guy Ruben Enaje is practically a professional. He’s been nailed 24 years in a row.
It’s good to see that in the Philippines, crucifixion is an equal opportunity thing.
Given that the Church will frock a man, but not frock a woman, to crucify a woman is practically a sign of progress. Imagine you can have his and her crucifixions, maybe even re-do your marital vows on the cross.
Of course, if I go, I’d have some practical concerns. For example, wouldn’t you want to make sure the nails are sterilized first? Maybe bring your own nails?
And I’m not sure if I’d want to go all-nail the first time around anyway. It may be better to gradually take it in. Perhaps a little back-whipping self-flagellation (not the metaphorical kind) then do a cross on a subsequent trip.
What do you think? Maybe next year we can organized a “Passion Pilgrimage.”
Well, now you know why God created the Easter Bunny.