April 19, 2011

Easter: Not Just Chocolate and Eggs

When I was growing up, Easter meant two things to my brother and me: taking time to color eggs and searching on Sunday morning for our over-filled Easter baskets. We ate hard-boiled eggs, chocolate, and jellybeans for breakfast and egg salad sandwiches, chocolate, and jellybeans at lunch. We grazed from our baskets all day but still tried to eat some of the obligatory ham and potato dinner.

To my knowledge, my parents didn’t have an ax to grind with Jesus. Both had grown up in families that officially belonged to Christian churches so I presume they knew the Easter narrative. But for some reason, they opted against raising their children with that knowledge. And no one else told us either.

As a classroom teacher many years later, I taught English to immigrant kids at the secondary level. Many of my students were Southeast Asian refugees and had little knowledge of western history. One March day, 13-year old Vang raised his hand and said, “Miss, what is Easter all about anyway?”

I’d actually come to saving faith in Christ during my college years, but I nevertheless could have chosen the safe, politically-correct road and waxed eloquent about chocolate and eggs. However, though I knew I must respect the faith perspectives of all my students, I realized I’d do Vang and the others a grave disservice if I didn’t provide them with the historical context. And so, without a shred of purposeful proselytizing, I took some time to recount the story of “what Christians believe.”

Even many Christian teachers incorrectly believe that the Christian origin of Easter cannot be discussed in public schools and, thus, go out of their way to avoid any mention of it. However, I contend we abandon our students to cultural illiteracy by failing to insure they know “what Christians believe.” We’re not to evangelize, but neither can we presume they know. In fact, many kids today are like my students and even more are like my brother and me. We must make sure to share in an objective manner, but if we care about our students’ knowledge base, we can’t ignore an event upon which the history of so much of the last 2,000 years hinges.

So I challenge you this week in your classrooms. If the topic comes up and mentioning the history would be relevant, do so. Be sensitive. Be dispassionate and fact-based. But don’t be afraid. If you’d talk about George Washington or Shakespeare or Cyrus the Great, talk about Jesus – not just chocolate and eggs.

Photo Credit: Pelagija


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