It’s that 2-day event every year where on a Friday Christians(as well as other applicable faiths) celebrate the crucifixion and slow death of their savior Jesus Christ. Then two days later they celebrate Jesus rolling the rock away from his tomb and heading back to heaven, like a kid going home on an extended college break. This celebration is done by attending church, then afterwards having a nice ham dinner with family and friends whilst not speaking of or even making reference to Jesus Christ or the serious nerve damage in his hands.
I grew up not going to church and not discussing religion at all in our house, yet my parents counted themselves as believers. We were lax Presbyterians, living next door to both southern Baptists and sketchy Lutherans. Everybody seemed to have chosen a winning team in the big religious game, so how could there ever be losers?(as we all know, everyone’s a loser unless you get on bended knee for the other guy’s deity.)
Despite not going to church and not praying before every meal, my parents believed in God. They did their time growing up with butts planted in pews and listening to a sweaty pastor talk about loving thy neighbor, casting the first stone, and even a word or two about a fiery lake somewhere in Hell(I think that’s located in Georgia.) We may not have gone to any house of worship(though we did hit a house of pancakes on trips now and then), my mom and dad loved putting the fear of God in me. But my dad would get to a point with Christianity where he seemed to have had enough. The earliest sign of that was when I came home from vacation bible school with the southern Baptist neighbors and told my dad the lady said if we didn’t go to church we’d go to Hell. “She said what?? Who the hell does she think she is?! You’re done going to that shit!”
And that was that.
My dad was of the belief that you could worship your own way, whether you were getting splinters from a shady pew on a Sunday morning or you were washing your car in the driveway listening to John Fogerty’s Centerfield on the garage boombox. God’s love wasn’t limited to specific, designated, tax-free buildings where true believers and hypocrites alike would gather to make themselves feel better(or at least better than you.) Now I’m not saying everyone that would attend church services on a regular basis were hypocrites. There was a steady mix of lifelong believers and insurance policy believers. You know, those types that live outside the realm of Christian doctrine but show up every Sunday morning for the warm and fuzzy feelings they got from the feeling that they were clearing the filling slate of sins they’ve accumulated through the week. Plus, it was a great way to be seen in some social situation. My dad didn’t buy the whole “organized” aspect of organized religion. Once religion gets organized, it tends to get less about religion and more about “things”. And yet, we’d still have ham every Easter Sunday. Like a muscle memory, or involuntary reflex, the grandparents would show up and we’d have a spread of ham, scalloped potatoes, corn pudding, deviled eggs(ironic), and a pie of some sort. My dad may have had an issue with organized religion, but a quality organized meal is never anything to turn your nose up to.
My mom, like my dad, saw the hypocrisy in the religious sect as well, but still held onto her belief in God and power of prayer. She also could put together a mean looking Easter basket. Chocolate bunnies, Reeses’ Peanut Butter eggs, those gross malted Easter eggs, and some toy of some sort(started out with coloring books, then worked up to GI Joe figures and cassette tapes.) The Saturday before she would buy the easter egg dye kits and I’d get to dye some hard-boiled eggs. This whole tradition was completely lost on me, but I did it because I liked hard-boiled eggs. On Easter Sunday morning I’d rise from my tomb and head out to the living room and check out what was in that wicker basket, then quickly turn on WNDU Channel 16 and tune into their crucifixion/rise from the dead coverage. It was the same program they’d play every year and every year I’d tune into this macabre oil painting they’d display of Christ on the cross. It was like tuning into The Charlie Brown Christmas Special in December, or The Charlie Brown Halloween Special in October. It was a tradition I kept up for several years until the Catholics at WNDU stopped showing it and went to various Easter Day parades.
I’ve grown up with the same mindset as my dad’s in regards to religion in general. I think I might be slightly more pessimistic in my view of religion. I see far more problems than solutions in the organization of religion, yet I think something like faith is a good thing. If your belief in God can get you through some earth-bound problems, I’m all for it. Just don’t judge others that don’t believe what you believe. Don’t ostracize others because their faith lies elsewhere. Love God in any language, country, continent, and faith as you like. Worship him in church, washing the car, making toast in the morning, or on a long afternoon walk. If faith and worship in God gives you peace of mind and completes you on some metaphysical level, keeping doing what you do.
And never turn down a ham dinner. Never.