Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

01 April 2013

Who's On The Other Side?

Religions, according to The World Factbook

Christians (33.32%), Muslims (21.01%), Hindus (13.26%), Buddhists(5.84%),
Non-religious(14.09%), Other (12.48%)



When I was a small boy in the 1930s and 40s, Good Friday was so deeply solemn that the tone of the day was as that of the death of a close family relative, a monarch perhaps, or - well, Jesus Christ. There was no happy music on the wireless, people dressed sombrely, went to church and tried not to smile or raise their voices. I was sent early to the local bakery to buy hot cross buns before they sold out for they were only available on that holy day. The crosses were branded into sweet, brown buns that were still warm and smelled of cinnamon. During the war a week's ration of butter was saved for those buns, the combination of warm, sweet, scented dough and slowly melting butter was sensuous beyond belief as they were consumed while one dutifully pictured an almost naked man with exposed ribs being crucified; it was a hard picture to keep in mind.

Solemnity was carried through to Easter Day and, as with every sabbath afternoon, children were packed off to Sunday school. (My friend David has a thoery that most of the English race was conceived on a Sunday afternoon while mum and dad stayed at home having safely sent their charges to scripture lessons).

Easter Monday was when the dark curtain of public gravity was lifted and the earnestness of respectful, symbolic, crossed bun-eating gave way to the Pagan cracking of the chocolate Easter egg, a ritual that surely had its origins long before Christ was elevated,  leaving a cenotaph.

At Sunday School we were told that Christ suffered on the cross in order to redeem our sins; that 'God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life'. I didn't understand what that meant then and I still don't. But then I've never believed that Mary was a virgin when she bore Jesus (indeed, if one acknowledges that even artificial fertilization involves de facto penetration I don't believe any mammal can be born without losing its virginity!). The idea that Mary might have been impregnated by an angel is, to me, in the same pool of fiction as the Hobbit and the Mad March Hare. As for a wafer and swig of wine turning into flesh and blood, well, that borders on a mixture of cannibalism and fantasy!

I don't know when solemnity flew out of the window but suspect that television, especially TV sports, had something to do with it. While one or two programmes might cast a glimpse at Christianity, it's not overdone and serves to excuse people having four days off, days upon which a tiny proportion of beneficiaries actually go to church and most of those because they like to go at Christmas and Easter - just in case...

To most people I suspect that the legal restrictions of shopping on Good Friday and Easter Day are just a confounded nuisance. But there are always a few shops that will open, having done the calculation that, after they've paid the fine, if they're prosecuted, they'll still make a profit.

Meanwhile a far larger number of global souls (see above) will go about their business during that four days without a single clue about the Christian calendar or the sympathetic way that Christians shake their heads sadly and feel sorry for heathens, Jews, Buddhists, Moslems and others who have not heard those cryptic words of Christ, his disciples, adherents and all the gospel writers who have played tunes on the old story over two millennia.

Well les autres need not worry, even within the Christian camp there are a few - Baptists, Exclusive Brethren, Elusive Brethren and not a few Roman Catholics - who claim that they are the only ones, the only ones. That being the case, heaven must be an empty place.


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By Don Donovan