Easter And The Declension Of Western Civilization

Easter_LilyPerhaps some will think I’m crying wolf. Is Western civilization really declining? I think we have only to look at Easter and see how our society treats it to realize that there’s been a fundamental shift.

Many Christians–perhaps most–identify Easter as the single most important event in human history. It is also the bedrock of the Christian faith–without a resurrected Christ, we have nothing. In fact the Apostle Paul said, if Christ was not risen from the dead, we are most to be pitied:

if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. (1 Cor. 15:14-19 – emphasis mine)

For years–perhaps centuries–Easter has been afforded a place of honor in Western civilization among “Christian” nations. Here in the US many traditions sprang up around Easter that have little to do with Christ’s resurrection.

For a time it was the Easter bonnet and the Easter dress. Then there was the Easter lily, the Easter basket, and the Easter bunny with Easter egg hunts. There was even Easter vacation for school kids. TV often put on special programing, and stores kept special Easter hours or remained closed. For years Easter cards have been available, and these often contain something of the resurrection message.

What seems apparent to me, however, is that Easter, even its non-religious traditions, is fading from the public arena.

A minor controversy arose that proves this point. First Google chose Easter to “honor” Cesar Chávez with a doodle. As it happens, March 31 was his birthday and two years ago President Obama declared that date to be Cesar Chávez Day. The point is clear, however–Google had a choice, Cesar Chávez or Jesus Christ. Their response? OK, we’ll honor Cesar. After all, he means so much to Western civilization.

The other part of this controversy, however, is the way some are downplaying it, calling it “silly” and “much adoodle about nothing.” In other words, commenting or complaining about a business like Google ignoring the holiday that marks the singular most important event in Christianity is simply not newsworthy.

Of course, Google isn’t the only entity that ignored Easter. CalTrans, the road maintenance organization here in California, was busy at work Sunday morning on at least one freeway. I don’t recall any businesses posting “Closed for Easter” signs either, so perhaps the criticism aimed at Google is not silly but misguided. It’s all of Western civilization that is leaving Easter behind.

Is it such a bad thing to strip away non-religious Easter traditions? Was Bing more respectful to Christians for including Easter eggs on their site? I have to say, no, I don’t think so. They were more respectful to Easter tradition, to Western culture, however.

As the world has become smaller, those of us in the West have learned that the East also has a rich heritage and has made significant contributions to Humankind. We’re learning to appreciate different ways of looking at the world. However, some take this learning and appreciation a step farther and denigrate that which has formed the West.

I’ve heard, for example, slams against the “Greek mind” and against Aristotle. Too linear, the accusation is. The Eastern mind understands time to be cyclical, as we see all of life to be. Look, for example, at the water cycle or the life of a plant.

Individualism is bad too, according to a recent radio commentary. Especially here in the US we have prided ourselves on being individuals, but we live in a world of community. We need fewer Lone Rangers and more group hugs.

The ironic thing is that Christianity isn’t actually a Western religion. It’s roots, of course, are Semitic. While the New Testament of the Bible was originally written in Greek, the Old Testament was written in Hebrew or Aramaic. Then, too, Christians celebrated Easter all over the world, not just in enclaves in the West.

And community is practically a Christian’s middle name. In fact Christianity provides a beautiful marriage of individualism and community. God gives each Christian a special gift, and then instructs us to “employ it in serving one another” (1 Peter 4:10).

In short, if it’s possible to wrap this weighty subject up in a sentence or two, when the West ignores Christ, we’re not expanding our worldview or becoming more cosmopolitan. We’re actually taking a step backward and denying the most unifying Power and Person imaginable. God Himself said He loves the world, not the West or the East, not Africa or North America. He loves the world. He gave His followers the commission to make disciples, not just at home but in the farthest recesses of the world.

Why else have Christians from any number of nations gone to far-away places to live and work and preach the good news? It’s not to claim that one culture is better than another. It’s to bring into the family of God people from every tribe and tongue and nation scattered throughout the world. Yes, family. I have brothers and sisters in all kinds of places, some who risked their lives to celebrate Easter.

Ironic, I think, that Western civilization seems intent on divorcing itself from the philosophical and spiritual underpinnings that influenced our worldview, while people all over the East are embracing those same truths.

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Published in: on April 2, 2013 at 7:00 pm  Comments (7)  
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7 Comments

  1. I give Bing credit for trying, even though they horribly missed the mark.

    The eggs featured on their page are actually deeply significant faith symbols–as much as the cross or the Icthus–for the Coptic and Rastern Orthodox branches of Christianity.

    Unfortunately they don’t observe Easter for another month.

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    • Excuse me. That should read “Eastern”

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      • Ha! I hadn’t even noticed. You know, that brain thing, translating for us.

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    • Interesting points, Katherine. So in other words, I was giving Bing credit for their nod to Western tradition, but in reality, it was still a (poorly placed) departure from it–more of an endorsement of globalization.

      What’s interesting to me is that God cares for the whole world, so finding those opposed to Him also showing concern for the world seems off. I think this is why some Christians bristle at environmental issues. Since we understand God gave Humankind dominion over the earth, we should be leading the way in doing what is possible to care for the world.

      In the same way, since we know our true citizenship is in Heaven, and believers form one family, we should be eager to break down the nationalist divide. I understand why it doesn’t work that way, but it seems anomalous when those opposed to God (i.e. the Antichrist in Revelation) focus on unifying the world.

      Becky

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  2. Hear! Hear! I went to find a suitable Easter card, about the resurrection of Jesus, and the selection was abysmal–compared with even last year. And I live in the “Bible Belt!”

    More frightening, yet, I read the introduction to a book, supposedly by a Christian author, who made the statement that she was not saying Christianity is superior to other religions.

    While Christians have made just as many mistakes as other people, Christ Himself is flawless, and so is His doctrine. I may not not understand all of it, but who am I to criticize the Creator of the World? (John 1:1) Who am I to criticize the One Who went to the cross, knowing my imperfect love for Him?

    I have nothing, but the highest praises for Jesus, for all He Is and all He has done for me, for Western Civilization, and for all He wants to do, for the entire world! Only He can solve the problems and messes we have gotten ourselves into. It is the Truth of His Presence that changes the world!

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    • Yes, Peggy, Christ is flawless, His Truth is without error, His Way is the only one leading to Life and Salvation. I’d say that qualifies as “superior.” Not that that there’s any ranking, which that term implies. There is really only that which is true and that which is false.

      In that regard, Christ loves the World, but only those who belief in Him are saved. There is unity and there is division, but the latter is along different lines than nations or hemispheres. Christ Himself is the polarizing Person, not where we live or the philosophical outlook with which we were raised.

      Becky

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  3. On Good Friday at St Stephens Anglican Church in Mittagong, Australia they were getting ready for the service. The assistant minister received a phone call from the security company. They had detected a presence in the church buildings. The security person asked, “What’s going on in the church today? Isn’t it a public holiday?”

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