For a couple of years now, before the loss of my faith, I have been rather ambivalent towards certain religious holidays and the things associated with them. While most people flock to churches on Christmas and Easter, these were the two days out of the year that I wanted to be nowhere near the church. Mostly because, after attending church since the age of four, I have had my fill of Christmas and Easter sermons. They are all exactly the same and the "twists" that pastors try to put on them to make them more relevant (or whatever it is they are trying to do) just feel gimmicky. At Easter the tradition was to sing some songs like Because He Lives, Arise My Love, Christ Arose, or I Know My Redeemer Lives. Usually all of those one after the other. If you have a larger church or one with a youth group, perhaps there will be a pantomime of one of those songs or some weird interpretive dance that makes your mom look like a good dancer. Maybe the children will appear for a few minutes to do some sign language version of Jesus Loves Me or whatever before being ushered back to their classrooms which are as far away from the sanctuary as possible. Then comes the sermon, which at Easter is about the "Good News", but usually includes a lot of information about whipping, the human body's ability to endure pain, and how, even after getting nailed to a cross, not a bone on Jesus' body was broken because that fulfills prophecy. This sermon, which is tailor-made for the backslidden visitors who only attend church twice a year, then brings those who have been manipulated by the sermon to the front to beg for forgiveness and thank Jesus for his sacrifice. This is then followed communion, with a video of The Passion of the Christ playing in the background for dramatic effect. Church ends with everyone feeling saved again, the miracle of resurrection, and cute pictures of a grave and angels colored by four-year-old. If you are super lucky, sheep made of cotton balls. And then everyone goes on their way. Those who never attend church reappear 8 months later at Christmas time and everyone else continues on their merry church-going way because let's admit it, this service wasn't really that different from any other church service except that it had a theme.
The best Easter I ever had was about 9 years ago. Three friends and I traveled to the mountains. We stayed at a Bed & Breakfast for two nights. On Easter morning, we checked out, drove to a hiking trail and hiked for two hours down to a huge waterfall. We sat down on a giant rock at the base of the waterfall, pulled out a Bible, read the Easter story and then broke bread and poured grape juice for communion. It was the first time I hadn't spent Easter in the church. It was also the last time I have spent Easter in church. What that day showed me is that there is more than one way to celebrate a religious holiday. That morning on a rock on a waterfall, I felt more connected to my spirituality than I had in any church I had ever been in.
Yesterday, I spent Easter with my family. There was my family, all of my brothers, niece and nephews. My aunt with her new boyfriend. My uncle. Two of our neighbors and childhood friends, one of which just returned from being out of the country for four years. Another neighborhood kid stopped in to say hi. A girl my mother met in church that morning and invited over for lunch. One of my brother's friends. Altogether, seventeen people broke bread together. Years ago, I chose to make Easter something more than a ritual or an obligation. Now, even after my faith has eroded, I choose to continue in that.
I don't believe in a resurrected Jesus, but as with any holiday, I choose to find love and joy in it. Who better to do that with than my family and friends.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.