There she goes, there she goes again.
What we have here is another classic example of M.Z. "GetReligionista emeritus" Hemingway spotting another cultural hook that is big enough, and hot enough, to cover as a valid religion-news trend.
To state the question bluntly: Has Easter evolved into the new Xmas?
Saints preserve us.
Please note that Hemingway -- writing at The Federalist of course -- is not predicting something along the lines of the dreadful church-state "War on Christmas" stories that, tragically, have become a permanent part of America's cable-TV and click-bait online news marketplace.
No, she is asking a more serious question, one captured in the double-decker headline on her piece:
The Easter Bunny’s War On Easter Is Going Too Far
If you celebrate Easter with fake bunny ears, you're set. But what if you celebrate Jesus' resurrection?
Journalists note: The Easter Bunny is not the secular state. It's the bright, shiny world of pop commerce, which is way more comfortable with candy than with theology.
Earlier this week I went to get my children Easter cards. I was in a holiday store that sells goods for Christmas, Halloween, and Easter. Its Easter card selection was cute but didn’t include anything even remotely religious. So I went to the neighborhood card store to pick up something a bit more on-topic for the highest day of the church year.
Paper Source had a bunch of cards featuring bunnies. Some chicks. Dogs with bunny ears. Cats with bunny ears. One card was just bunny ears with no animal attached to them at all. The only remotely religious card was one making light of Judas. ...
I went up to the counter and asked to be directed to the religious Easter card selection. The lady at the counter took me right back to the Judas card. Literally, a card teasing about Judas.
Now, M.Z. isn't claiming that Americans have always celebrated Easter -- the most important season in Christianity -- with proper fervor.
No, in this culture's past many Protestants have suffered from a severe case of Rome-aphobia that prevented them from having anything to do with the observance of Holy Week and Easter, with the possible exception of a milk-toast community sunrise service or two.
Eventually, as immigration pulled in millions of new Americans from liturgical churches, Easter began its rise to cultural prominence. At the level of the marketplace this meant more Easter bunnies and chocolate eggs, mixed with some items -- think Easter cards -- that contained muted versions of the radical messages of Holy Week and Easter.
That was then. M.Z. is thinking about trends in the here and now. What is left if a culture attempts to take Christ out of Easter?
It’s worth emphasizing ... that the move away from specific religious convictions into fuzzy animals was mostly recent, despite what comedians might wish to believe, and largely about the ease of selling goods and celebrating spring.
Stephen Colbert liked to make fun of the “War on Easter” each year during his show in which he played a caricature of a conservative television anchor. But the examples he pretended to criticize were frequently of things that showed the war had already advanced pretty far. Changing the name of the Easter Bunny to the Spring Bunny, after all, is of not much importance to the Christian.
Compared to Christmas, Easter hymns and art are far more difficult to secularize. Christmas is a story of family, and its celebration isn’t exactly undermined when it’s marked around hearth and home. The Triduum and Easter — about Christ’s rejection, crucifixion, and resurrection — are a bit more difficult to retain their meaning alongside secular celebration of bunnies and chicks.
How did Easter become so shlocky and shallow?
This leads to her tips for editors and reporters facing a perceived need for some kind of Easter-lite coverage. Here are some excerpts:
(2) Media, could you stop it with the stupid Jesus debunkings? This annual tradition in the media is so stupid. It doesn’t always happen around Holy Week, but it frequently does. This is where a media outlet releases some story about how someone has proved, based on laughably incorrect scholarship, that Jesus had a wife, or his father was really a Roman centurion, or he didn’t die so much as pass out on the cross, or he didn’t actually live, or that he is buried somewhere, or so on and so forth. ...
(3) Media, could you learn a little bit about Easter? Whether you’re The New York Times and you’re claiming that Easter is a Christian holy day marking Jesus’ “resurrection into heaven,” or you’re The New York Times and you’re mischaracterizing what makes the Church of the Holy Sepulchre special, could you work on just learning some basic knowledge about Easter and the Holy Week that precedes it? You might even find some good stories out of it! ...
(4) Remember that Christians don’t celebrate Easter before Easter Sunday arrives. The White House announced, “The last Easter Egg Roll of the Obama Administration will be held on Monday, March 28th, 2016.” That is good, right, and salutary. My neighborhood just sent out an announcement that we’d have a “candy-free” Easter egg hunt on Saturday, March 26. Leaving aside the disappointment that these children will feel when they hunt for eggs and find a calculator or whatever in them, remember that Easter lasts 50 days until Pentecost, and that you can use that time to go crazy. Using Lent, Holy Week, or the Triduum to go crazy is not so ideal.
Read it all, please. And while it may be late to affect Easter-lite coverage this year, journalists can always file M.Z.'s piece as background for planning next year.
Of course, you also have a month to get ready for Orthodox Easter, which is called "Pascha." If you start planning now, you could even prepare a story or two that goes deeper than an explanation of the differences between the Gregorian and Julian calendars. Just do it!