“In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it,
You’ll be the grandest lady in the Easter Parade…
On the Avenue, Fifth Avenue, photographers will snap us
And you’ll find that you’re in the rotogravure…”
“They tried to nail him down, but he got away.”
Marquee outside church in Massachusetts
Well, it’s that day again, and our Greek Orthodox friends, as well as our Roman Catholic brethren and sistren, are celebrating the most bizarre and barbaric events, the darkest, ghastliest nook of their religion: Easter.
Easter, dating back to a 3,000-year-old pagan spring ritual, is now about blood, suffering, sacrifice, more blood and suffering, and — what people come to church for: religion’s heroin and cocaine — the defiance of death.
It is perhaps the most excruciating of ironies that “Easter Parade” was written by a Russian Jew. Berlin’s lyrics describe Happy Easter – smiling kids, new clothes, chocolate bunnies, egg hunts, everything at Walgreens is pink, white, purple, or yellow. My neighbor has a giant inflatable pink bunny on his front lawn.
As a child, I helped my parents assemble Easter baskets for the Gentile customers of our drug store. And I supposed they would all go to church, marvel at the Resurrection, and have massive brunches, with lots of ham.
Spring is here and it’s a happy time of year.
But not for all of us. To a Jewish humanist, Easter is when Christians engage in some of their creepiest, ghastliest, most gruesome beliefs and practices. It’s when they get in touch with their inner Mel Gibson. The color of this Easter is red, as in blood.
First there is the communion ritual, which is primitive and barbaric in the extreme. I refer to transubstantiation, the consumption of the body and blood of Christ, a practice engaged in by Jesus at the Last Supper.
Whoa! Don’t they know they’re practicing an ancient form of tribal cannibalism? Just read The Clan of the Cave Bear for a description of the primitive practice of killing and eating the god/totem (in this case, a bear).
Actual cannibalism persists to this very day. I find it astonishing that so many supposedly sophisticated people solemnly carry it out in symbolic form.
Then there’s the persecution. Easter was generally an awful time for Jews, as Christians used Jesus’ (probably fabricated) story as an excuse to indulge their worst impulses. I once read that in Charlemagne’s time, one was supposed to seek out a Jew and box his ears, thereby perhaps causing permanent hearing damage.
And there was much worse. Tortures, crucifixions, burnings…truly, much of the blood of Easter is Jewish.
One of the main reasons all this Jewish blood was shed was blood itself: for centuries, Christians tortured and massacred Jews because of the unspeakable “blood libel:” the lie that Jews used the blood of Christian children for one ritual purpose or another, typically to make the Passover matzo. For more on this lie and the untold misery that it caused, go to
I think the tragedy of the blood libel is both ironic and hypocritical, since it’s the communion-taking Christians who are the ones drinking blood!
Besides the blood libel, what are Christians so enraged about? The answer is right in front of us: the passion of the Christ. After centuries of passion plays, Mel Gibson has topped them all with a truly hideous rendition of a — I repeat, probably made-up — story.
Christians should know — but most don’t — that the story of Jesus is far from unique. Many ancient Near Eastern demi-gods were sacrificed and resurrected, but only one of them got to be at the center of a world religion. If instead the cult of Mithra had somehow taken over, people would probably still be celebrating the Resurrection, because it was the same story line!
I had resolved that I would not see Gibson’s movie, and I have not. But it was a significant part of Brian Fleming’s brilliant documentary “The God Who Wasn’t There.”
If there is such a thing as Christian pornography, this is it.
The similarities are remarkable. Just as with sexual porn (but unlike most legitimate movies), the title tells you exactly what you are going to see. Like porn, this movie is intended to arouse a specific base emotion, and, like porn, with its explicit focus on throbbing genitals, it pursues that purpose with relentless intensity. Like porn, it is a non-story where only one thing happens.
In his doc, Fleming rapidly goes through the movie at accelerated speed, with scrolling words that, minute by minute, describe each gory shot and act of violence. The scrolling words are superimposed on snippets from the movie.
As with porn, the first few minutes are quiet, but then the movie really gets down to business. Fleming notes the close-up of a nail being driven into Jesus’ hand — and resulting blood-spurt. He points out the care that Gibson must’ve taken to arrange such a “money shot” (my term) and create that spurt. No effort was spared to give us a close-up of 90 minutes of sadism and suffering.
And its effect must be only to inflame the most primitive parts of Christians’ brains, to the good of no one and the detriment of many.
Happy Easter, bloody Easter
Happy Easter, bloody Easter. Lillies spattered with the blood of those killed in the name of a man who supposedly preached peace and nonviolence — and who perhaps didn’t even exist. All of that rage and anger to no purpose. And to inflame it further with the images of modern cinematic technology is an outrageous act of moral irresponsibility.
The worst thing that Christians have done with Christmas is to commercialize it. That’s nothing compared with the dark underbelly of Easter: centuries of blood, barbarism, and death.