Recently in nearby Walnut Creek, a controversy has erupted over the name of an annual springtime event there. For years, Walnut Creek has hosted an Easter Egg Hunt, but this year officials changed the name of the event to the “Spring Egg Hunt,” which has aroused the ire of Christians everywhere. Really, it has made the news not just locally, but it has been on CNN and even the Colbert Report.
Comedy aside, I feel compelled to speak on this matter not as a Christian, but as someone who is committed to creating a peaceful world where folks can learn about different religious and cultural traditions. As a Christian, I am not offended that they want to change the name of this event. I do think that the folks who wanted to change the name of the event are misguided in their good intentions, however.
The egg hunt is an Easter tradition. What is wrong with having a public reference to that Christian tradition? I am reminded of the story about the rabbi this last holiday season who complained to authorities about all of the Christmas trees and lack of Hanukkah decorations. Their response was to take down all of the trees. He hadn’t asked for that. He asked for them to display a menorah, too. That is all he wanted.
I am a Christian, but I differ from a lot of Christians in that I don’t believe that non-Christians are going to burn in hell. In fact, I don’t believe in hell. Well, I guess I believe that humans are responsible for creating their own hell, but God doesn’t punish us. We are fully capable of doing that all by ourselves. But I digress.
The point I’m trying to make is that Evangelical Christians who are out to convert people have made non-Christians, and even progressive Christians like myself nervous about celebrating any Christian holiday publicly. We don’t want to be perceived as trying to convert people, or that we believe Christianity is better than any other religious tradition. So we say Season’s Greetings instead of Merry Christmas. We take the Christ out of Christianity and call it secular. This is disingenuous.
I believe in the separation of church and state, but I think that government can acknowledge the religious traditions of the people it represents without proselytizing. I know that Christianity is more greatly represented in American public life than any other religion, and as a culture I think that all of us should create space for equal representation. It broadens our horizons to embrace and learn about other cultures and religious traditions. We can only benefit.
Teaching children about religious traditions is not akin to converting them. Teaching children that they will burn in hell unless they believe in one particular kind of god is conversion (and child abuse, if you asked me). But sending your kid to an Easter egg hunt is not teaching intolerance or that Christianity is the best of all religions. Most of us Christians don’t even know why we hunt for eggs on Easter. Really, I have heard all kinds of explanations about the roots of the Pagan spring fertility rituals and the Christian adoption of those traditions in order to convert the heathens to Christianity. But really, no one really knows why the heck bunnies and colored eggs are associated with the story of Christ rising from the dead.
Many holiday traditions exist for kids anyway. They’re fun, and kids learn about their own heritage, and hopefully the heritage of their friends. And hopefully these traditions give them spiritual fortitude and a structure to build a relationship with the Divine, a foundation of ethics, and teaches them how to be true to themselves and nice to others.
So let the the kinds hunt for the darn eggs, and call the event what it really is, an Easter Egg Hunt.