Category Archives: Kids and Religion

Building a Better Easter

In true Uncool Mom fashion, of me always trying to re-engineer things and make them better, this year I once again set my sights on Easter.  I’ve always thought that Easter, the foundational holiday of Christianity, should be a much bigger deal than it is, and have always wondered why Christians don’t make as much fuss over it as Christmas.  I mean, at least in my family, people don’t bend over backwards at Easter to try to be together by plane, train or automobile. Each individual family usually just “does their own thing” and that “thing” usually means new spring dresses for the females; Easter baskets hidden for the kids on Easter morning, filled with a few presents and candy; going to church; participating in an egg hunt or two (egg hunts that often are a week before Easter); and maybe “going out to eat”…as kids grow older, the “Easter Bunny” and Easter baskets go away and the excitement over egg hunts diminishes as well, so eventually we’re down to going to church and going out to eat.  Ho-hum. Some would say great, that keeps the focus where it needs to be— church, but I say that Easter is a celebration that should go on all day, not just for an hour at a morning church service…

 

This isn’t the first year I’ve pondered this…when we were just starting our family, I tried thinking of Easter traditions we might start, to commemorate new life.  Why not take the kids to a farm every Easter afternoon? So when Allison was around 2 or 3, we did just that.  The City of Dallas’ Samuell Farm had animals, even Easter hayrides—it was perfect. But then we had a second child and got busier, and by the time we decided to visit the farm again, it had closed. 

 

A couple times, I decided we would host a big Easter dinner at our house, with an egg hunt in the backyard. (One of our wedding gifts was a giant funky salad bowl held up by four silver rabbits doing handstands, so I figured, I was destined to host a meal on Easter …J)  To these dinners, which would have rivaled anything found in Martha Stewart Living J, we invited a bunch from Andy’s side of the family, including all his stepbrothers and their wives…but in subsequent years, people were on vacation, and/or busy with their own new families, or they’d moved away, so that tradition never quite “took hold”…

 

This year, the wheels in my brain got turning again, and Andy and I decided that after the morning church service, we’d take a long family bike ride, i.e. about 17 miles, ending in a park near where several of his family members live, and invite them to join us for a big picnic.  While plans changed a bit (we cut our route down to 13 miles; Allison got sick and stayed home; the relatives opted out of the picnic and chose to host us for supper instead), the bike ride was great, and it was a real eye-opener.  For as Andy, Emmie, and I rode all around Dallas’ White Rock Lake, we got to see how many members of our area Hispanic population celebrate Easter—  in a big way, with lots of family and friends.  Along every mile of White Rock Lake Park, there are at least 20-25 picnic areas, and every single one was taken by a Hispanic family celebrating Easter.  (Think about it—that’s a lot of picnic tables and a lot of celebration.)  Most had brought their own BBQ grill or smoker and the air was fragrant with the smells of roasted meat… their children, no doubt brothers and sisters and cousins and friends, dressed in beautiful Sunday clothes, were hunting for eggs hidden in thick clover.  Music was everywhere–  cumbia tunes boomed out from portable stereos and some families, even small ones, had hired mariachi bands to entertain… at or near every table, people were laughing, talking, eating, smiling, flying kites, throwing Frisbees, playing soccer, dancing… …Anglos on bikes (like us) wearing Spandex (not like us—we were the dorks in jeans and denim shorts) quietly wove in and out of these celebrations… it was so fun to observe but at the same time, it almost made me cry, thinking about how our own celebrations pale in comparison…and that even if our own picnic had materialized, we wouldn’t have been able to find an empty table anywhere in that park…

 

So what’s a WASP family to do?  I vowed to keep working on it.  Meanwhile, as nine of us joined hands later than evening at my sister-in-law’s to pray before chowing down on Uncle Dan’s gourmet meal, I realized we are on the right track.

Pop Goes the Church

Is it just me, or is anyone else bothered when the sacred tries too hard to be cool when embracing the secular?  I think I started feeling that way about 13 years ago when I watched a neighbor’s video of her church youth choir, or I should say, megachurch youth choir. There were hundreds of teens onstage, swaying back and forth to a funky beat and singing (or would it be rapping?), “You down wit G.O.D.? Yeah, you know me!”, sort of a Christian Weird Al version of the song, “O.P.P.”  For those of you unfamiliar with “O.P.P.”, it was a 1991 hit by the rap group “Naughty By Nature”, a disgusting ode to infidelity, i.e. “getting down” with “other people’s p_ _ _ _” (you’ll have to Wiki that if you’re having trouble filling in the blanks). The video that accompanied O.P.P. was equally disgusting (naturally, an MTV success), full of moaning women in lingerie and men giving the thumbs-up in front of cheap motels.  While I get the religious idea of “We’re taking a bad song and cleaning it up!”,  to me it still pays homage to the original song by using its lyric structure and other elements. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  Why even give a nod to that gross song?  Why let us know that the song arranger, or the choir director, was “hip” to it? Wonder if they had to pay royalties to Tommy Boy Records (and the swaggering rappers) for using the song?  Creepy.

 

Just like the red T-shirts with the re-worked Coca-Cola logo that say, “Jesus Christ—He’s the Real Thing” or the glammed-out local church youth center housed inside a former dollar theater, with re-done movie posters on the walls that are “RATED R for REALITY!”

 

Or a local youth pastor who is tattooed all over and pierced and sometimes gels his hair up like a Kewpie doll.  I’ve seen him around town saying stuff to teens like ,”Dude, let’s meet for coffee sometime!”  While I don’t doubt his sincerity of faith and good intentions and know that type of pastor could reach out to a group that’s turned off by other religious “dudes” who wear robes and collars, there’s still something weird about it all…isn’t it a fact that a person’s chances for a decent-paying job go down considerably with each visible tattoo and nose piercing? Isn’t it unhealthy to do all that to yourself? I could definitely see someone like that in adult ministry (like at a prison), but as the head of a suburban church department that nurtures and inspires youth?

 

Maybe Hank Hill summed it up best in an episode of the TV series “King of the Hill” called “Reborn to be Wild”.  In it, he wants his son Bobby to hang out with a good crowd and be an upstanding citizen, so he sends him to a church youth group. To Hank’s surprise, the group and its leader, Pastor K, are into leather and chains, Christian metal music and skateboarding, shouting “Praise Him!” after every successful turn on the half-pipe.  Soon Bobby is onstage at “Messiahfest” pumping his fist like everyone else and diving into the mosh pit. When Bobby protests after his dad makes him leave the group, Hank gets a box down from the garage attic and shows Bobby the contents.  In it are things like a Rubik’s Cube, pet rock, etc.–  things that were all once fads, Hank explains, things that are hugely popular and then fade away.  “I don’t want God to ever be a fad for you, Bobby,” he says.

 

Ditto for my own feelings as I raise my children.