The makers of Cadbury Easter Eggs have sparked controversy by dropping the word “Easter” from the package of its iconic brand. In all likelihood, the subtle change of packaging will go unnoticed by those who have always called the Easter chocolates simply “Cadbury Eggs,” but the apparent effort to avoid the religious connotation of Easter is upsetting. Aside from the desecration of an iconic candy, critics of the move see it as part of a larger effort to “secularize” a popular religious holiday in order to make it more inclusive and appealing to non-Christians.
Easter is, of course, the most important holiday in Christianity, even when compared to Christmas, because it commemorates the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and his resurrection. As the selflessness, forgiveness, and hope of Jesus Christ are central to Christianity, attempts to transform Easter into a secular occasion threaten the cultural identity of Christians. In a broader context, it also raises questions over the right to maintain one’s cultural identity.
Looking at the occupation of Palmyra by the Islamic State, for example, their destruction of historic sites and artifacts is part of a larger effort to erase the cultural identity of anyone outside of their extremist belief system. Not only does the Islamic State want to erase the identities of people, they seek to commit genocide against the world. Although not as dramatic, the cleansing of the Christian identity is analogous to the actions of the Islamic State.
That said, the same can be said about efforts to remove Confederate monuments in New Orleans. One might argue, even though the Confederacy defended slavery and represented seditious factions, that such monuments are part of the cultural identity of Southerners and cultural rights extend to the losers of the American Civil War. One might also argue that this is an example of the government sponsoring symbols of discrimination. One compromise would be to transplant the monuments to a Confederate museum.
In many respects, Easter is already a holiday that seeks to be inclusive. After all, most Churches welcome even non-Christians to commemorate Easter with them while the traditions of Easter are focused on family, friends, and community. The numerous pagan rituals and symbols that have been incorporated into Easter were attempts to assimilate non-Christians into their traditions. Both Easter and Christmas have been highly commercialized, but this also reflects the inclusiveness of Christianity, i.e. why the world is able to capitalize on Christian religions.
That said, non-Christians who observe Easter traditions with Christians are asked to show respect for Christian beliefs and traditions. This means accepting Easter as a religious holiday and respecting the religious message of Easter. When it comes to Easter, non-Christians are guests, thus they should respect the rules of the house. Trying to gut Easter of its Christian roots demonstrates a lack of respect for the beliefs of others while it undermines the right to maintain one’s cultural identity.
Clearly, non-Christians will always feel somewhat isolated during Easter celebrations, but this is because they do not share the Christian identity. Christians living in Muslim countries, for example, will always feel somewhat marginalized. The same is true for non-Hindu and non-Buddhists in countries like India. Changing Christian traditions because they happen to be popular in the Western world and non-Christians do not feel obliged to respect Christian beliefs, will not change the outsider status of non-Christians. What it will do is erase the Christian identity to cater to non-Christians.
Inclusiveness is about opening one’s self to the lifestyles, beliefs, and traditions of other cultures. It is not about changing someone’s lifestyle, beliefs, and traditions to help others feel included. It is one thing to chastise others for failing to respect the cultures of others, but it is quite another to disrespect someone’s traditions by changing them. Anyone who wants to participate in Easter traditions is welcome to do so, but they must participate in the holiday by recognizing it as a religious observance.
Read old posts