Monday, 13 April 2009

Thought for the Day - BBC Radio Bristol

Text of this morning's thought:

Today is Easter Monday. I’m not a Christian, so that doesn’t mean much to me. More surprising, perhaps, is that it doesn’t mean much to Christians either. Easter Monday is an entirely secular bank holiday with no special significance in the Christian calendar. Holy Saturday, which passed largely unnoticed, was a much more important time for sober reflection on the day Christ is said to have lain in the tomb.

Today is a good example of how intertwined our secular culture and religious traditions have become. Christmas, for example, is a Christian holiday, a pagan midwinter festival, and a secular celebration. Halloween is similarly the day before All Saints Day, a Celtic festival, and a chance for kids to dress up and play at being scared.

Even those who apparently give the feasts the same significance disagree over their meanings. Take Easter. All Christians celebrate it as the day Christ rose from the dead. Scratch the surface of this agreement, however, and you find some believe in a bodily resurrection, others solely a spiritual one, while some are happy to take the whole thing metaphorically.

There is not even agreement about why Jesus died. The Catholic liturgy, for instance, talks clearly of Christ’s sacrifice for our sins. Yet the Anglican Rev Giles Fraser wrote in the Guardian on Friday of how he found “the idea that God requires the sacrifice of his own son so that human sin can be cancelled” “disgusting” and “morally degenerate.”

So when people complain that we have lost the true meaning of festivals like Easter, I wonder what they’re talking about. The meanings of our national holidays are not just there, waiting to be discovered. Christian or otherwise, we have to work them out for ourselves.