Culture challenge of the week: Easter makeover
On Easter Monday, the White House will host its annual Easter Egg Roll. Before you applaud the Obamas for maintaining the traditional celebration, consider how things have changed. This year's theme (Why does Easter Monday demand a "theme" apart from Easter itself?) is "Be Healthy, Be Active, Be You!"
Yes, that's right.
The Egg Roll, an event that has been around for 135 years, acknowledging Easter's importance in the cultural and religious lives of our people, has been reduced to a physical fitness promotion, with Michelle Obama as the Richard Simmons-style cheerleader.
This year's Egg Roll is hosted by Let's Move, Mrs. Obama's signature obesity-fighting initiative. Along with the traditional egg hunt, the Egg Roll will feature "sports and cooking demonstrations" and will aim to "help educate families on smart ways to incorporate healthy eating and exercise choices into their daily routines."
Worthwhile objectives, surely, but why override Easter's meaning? The "Be Healthy" theme trivializes an event supremely important in the lives of believers. Instead of pondering the great mystery of Christ's death and the triumphant power of the Resurrection, we are encouraged by the presidential family to ponder the great mystery of obesity and the triumphant power of physical fitness.
Why, as a nation, do we let this go without even a peep?
Perhaps part of the problem lies with our growing religious amnesia. According to a recent study, 67 percent of Americans describe Easter as a religious holiday, but only 42 percent identify Easter with Christ's Resurrection. A brave and informed 2 percent consider Easter the most important holiday of their faith — an alarmingly small number, considering that Christ overcame death and opened the gates of heaven for 100 percent of the world.
How to save your family: Believe in and share the joy of Resurrection
Let's be clear what Easter is all about. The Christian holiday of Easter commemorates Christ's rising from the dead — he became man, walked this earth for 33 years, working and living just like us, then suffered horribly for our sins, taking on that burden to redeem us before God. He was crucified but then raised himself from the dead. He "was put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification" (Romans 4:25).
Easter Sunday is a day to celebrate the love of God — a love so strong it endured death in order to bring us into new life. Isn't that a cause for deep joy for all Christians?
Families everywhere celebrated Easter with all of the delightful traditions of times past — the jellybeans, dyed eggs and chocolate bunnies. But if yours did not reflect on the symbolism behind those traditions (eggs and bunnies are symbols of springtime and new life), it's not too late to discuss them.
Easter marks the beginning of a new and abundant life — made possible because God sent his only son to redeem us, so that we might be called sons and daughters of God. Let's teach our children the truth of the Resurrection and help them grow in awe of its meaning. Encourage them to nourish personal relationships with their savior and to live lives worthy of that calling.
But on a larger scale, as Christians, we hold a great treasure that ought not be hidden — or obscured by a secular culture. Perhaps many of us invited friends, neighbors or the unchurched to join us at Easter services.
Perhaps we wished others a "Happy Easter" on our way out of the grocery store or the mall. Perhaps we shared our own witness of the life-changing power of God's love — and his mercy on all of us (for none is worthy of Christ's saving grace). Those are great things to do — routinely, not just once a year. Easter's meaning accompanies us on our daily journey through this secular culture, so let's be prepared to give account of the joy that's within us.
Forget the vapid, secularized messages of the White House "Easter" event. Let's shout the life-changing message of Easter: Jesus lives.
• Rebecca Hagelin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.