Perhaps the greatest celebration of the Christian calendar is Easter, the commemoration of Christ's resurrection. Though not specified by that name in the Bible, the fact that Jesus rose on the third day, as promised, is of great comfort and inspiration to believers around the globe.
The resurrection, and not the advent, is what many believers would assert distinguishes Christian faith from other world religions.
Some traditions that have attached themselves to Easter are, one could say, rather extraneous to the biblical narrative. There's no scriptural mention of bunny rabbits or eggs of any sort in connection with the resurrection or with the early church, for that matter. But never mind: such elements of the celebration are enjoyed by many children in many lands.
Youngsters in England's fair and pleasant land, as William Blake called it, were in peril of hunting for special Easter eggs -- chocolate candies, actually -- without knowing that this was Easter.
Forget the calendar, it's the branding that matters. Calling it "Cadbury's Great British Egg Hunt," without the E-word, was this side of blasphemy.
Or so saith the Most Rev. and Rt. Hon. Dr. John Sentamu, the Church of England's Archbishop of York and Primate of All England, second in rank behind the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. and Rt. Hon. Dr. Justin Welby.
[Sentamu] lamented that omitting an explicit Easter reference was akin to “spitting on the grave” of John Cadbury, a Quaker who founded the company, which initially sold cocoa and drinking chocolate, in Birmingham in 1824.
“If people visited Birmingham today in the Cadbury World they will discover how Cadbury’s Christian faith influenced his industrial output,” he told The Daily Telegraph. “He built houses for all his workers, he built a church, he made provision for schools. It is obvious that for him Jesus and justice were two sides of the one coin.”
Now, as it turns out, the late John Cadbury was a Quaker and didn't celebrate Easter. Yet the company that bears his name -- now part of a global confectionery conglomerate -- has certainly tied itself to Easter for many, many years.
Archbishop Sentamu might sound like a bit of a crank, but there is an underlying cultural issue here.
A writer at the Gatestone Institute website noted that 500 London churches of varying stripes have been decommissioned and converted into homes during the past 16 years. In the same period, the writer notes that 432 new mosques have been opened in the city, some so crowded that worshipping crowds spill out into the street. So it is perhaps understandable for Sentamu to be sensitive about cultural references.
An interesting aspect of this is that Sentamu's position drew support not only from some British Christians, but also from Theresa May, the prime minister, who addressed the question while on a quick visit to Jordan and Saudi Arabia (see video clip above). May is, as she notes, the daughter of a Church of England vicar who has not been shy about expressing faith as part of her public life.
But even Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn -- whom no one would confuse with the far-more-pious "New Labour" PM Tony Blair -- protested the Easter omission. Given Corbyn's continuing problems over allegedly anti-Jewish remarks by former London mayor (and Labourite) Ken Livingstone, the chance to endorse Easter was probably a welcome relief.
The National Trust relented and added an Easter reference to its webpage describing the Cadbury's hunt. Case closed.
There are two journalistic points to note here, I believe: One is how unusual it is for Britain to erupt in such sectarian debates at the political level. The country has long been evolving in its spiritual and cultural makeup, as Daily Mail columnist/blogger Peter Hitchens continues to note. Unlike the United States, however, the spiritual and the secular don't mix as often.
The other is that The New York Times got it pretty much right in this story, which is encouraging. Too many Times pieces these days include a large, sometimes overwhelming, dash of "Kellerism" in explaining religious issues. This one didn't and that's cause for celebration, perhaps with some candy.
To be honest, though, I think I'd prefer some Peeps, even if they no longer reign supreme in the U.S. market.