by Rev. Laura Barclay
As Easter approaches this year, the topic of consumerism has been on my mind. It wasn’t until a recent Saturday morning when my spouse and I were watching television. A commercial appeared with a cartoon Barbie swimming around in the ocean. The announcer said something about how the story of Barbie achieving her dream of being a human would make a great Easter gift. Really? A cartoon based on a plastic doll that has dangerously unbelievable body proportions and may encourage poor self-esteem in our youth is the perfect Easter gift?
I began to notice some of my divinity school friends on Facebook complaining that they couldn’t find anything Easter-related in stores that didn’t have to do with an bunny or an egg, fertility symbols from a pagan holiday that Christians co-opted many centuries ago (similar to the Christian co-optation of the Roman festival Saturnalia into Christmas). One particular children’s minister was looking for cutouts of figures from the Easter story and was met with a sea of candy, baskets, and plastic grass.
The reality is that we are living in a culture that is becoming more and more secular by the day. Some aspects of this are great—public schools, separation of church and state, freedom of conscience—and some are more challenging—consumerism and competing values. Businesses in a capitalist economy know that cut-outs of the Easter story won’t sell like candy or Barbie, so they bombard us with images that allow us to forget the less palatable story of the arrest, trial, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus.
I’m a realist. I know that teaching our children and ourselves the story of Jesus amid the barrage of competing ad campaigns is more difficult than in recent history. However, I think the resulting questions, reflection, and faith is more genuine and more committed than it was when everyone claimed to be a Christian, whether they really wanted to be or not. Not so many decades ago, you had to be a Christian to get elected in most districts, to succeed in most social circles, and to fit in most places. Now, in the post-modern marketplace of ideas, most of us that choose to follow Christ do so because we really feel led, not because of peer pressure. We have the freedom to ask questions and deepen our faith in a way that the rigidity of the all-or-nothing modern world didn’t allow. So, while we are losing the ability to find Christian products in every store, we have gained a new way of thinking about our faith.
As we approach the cross, what ways have we carved out of our life to renew our faith as followers of Jesus? How do we reflect on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday? How does the Easter story relate to us today? What does Jesus ask of us as Christians? What crosses do we see in our community that we should take up? Asking ourselves these questions can help center us and focus us on the path of Christ when so many images threaten to distract us.
I wish you a prayerful and reflective Holy Week.