Nel's New Day

April 20, 2014

Fox Declares War on Religious Freedom amid Easter, Passover Celebrations

Several religious celebrations—or at least commemorations—took place during the past week.

Exodus_MapPassover began last Monday and lasts until Tuesday night, also Earth Day. The festival, which always begins on the night of the first full moon after the Spring Equinox (about March 21), is a remembrance of the Jewish liberation in ancient Egypt over 3,300 years ago when God delivered the Jews from the Pharohs. According to the story, Moses led his people across the desert for 40 years before they came to the Promised Land.

Last Tuesday, I was privileged to attend a Seder with six other women. This structured event includes eating proscribed foods and retelling the story of the exodus. The focus of a Seder is the Jewish freedom from slavery, but our leader added the dimensions of feminism, humanism, and Buddhism with a large dash of humor. We read aloud the Haggadah that she had prepared, answering the four questions addressing the issue of what sets apart that night and talking about other rituals connected with the Seder.

I have no Jewish heritage, but the meaning of the Seder applies to all peoples. As our leader wrote:

“In modern times, the Passover Seder is again imbued with fresh meaning, in which we are called to consider the plight of all oppressed beings, human and non-human of the world and to reconfirm our commitment to make their struggles our own….

“In Judaism, there is a concept of tikkum olam, which means healing the world, which is one approach to bringing about an Age of Peace. It’s about each person’s responsibility to do what we can to help make the world a better place. We can do that by trying to be loving and kind and contributing some of our time, talent, and treasure toward helping out where we find the opportunity. We hope we can leave the world a little better than it was when we came to it.”

Sharing this tribute to an ancient story that still rings true today has made me more thoughtful about life’s connections and richer in my experiences.

Holy Week this year occurred at almost the same time as Passover. This last week of Lent, including Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, leads up to Easter.

Easter, like Passover,is based on the Hebrew lunar calendar. The date is always the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the Spring Equinox. Both Passover and Easter are taken from Pagan celebrations surrounding the return of light in spring. Early Christians took the philosophy that Pagans would be more likely to accept the new religion if it kept their Pagan practices.

The name Easter comes from the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and fertility, Ostera or Eostre, who was annually celebrated for thousands of years before the birth of Christ. Colored eggs represent the light of spring. Egyptians, Persians, and Chinese all had customs of coloring eggs, and a Babylonian legend refers to the “queen of heaven” coming from a giant egg that fell from the sky. Pope Paul V (1605-16021) referred to the “wholesome sustenance” of the egg “in remembrance of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Bunnies, another Easter symbol, represent fertility. Somehow, Easter celebrates the rabbit, which births live young, supposedly produces Easter eggs. Thus a Pagan symbol for new life is somehow tied to the resurrection of Jesus and a story about a bunny laying eggs.

The Unholy War on Easter is a conservative celebration during the time before Easter. Not satisfied with declaring that progressives have declared wars on Halloween and Christmas, Fox network devoted ten segments to what Bill O’Reilly called the continued “war on Judeo-Christian tradition.” Fox’s accusations:

  • O’Reilly said, “The goal is to marginalize religious opposition to secular programs.” His complaint was that President Obama and the White House empowered “secular progressives” to pressure school districts around the country to eliminate terms like “Easter bunny” and “Easter egg.”
  • Fox & Friends First replayed O’Reilly’s ranting, and co-host Heather Nauert asked, “What the heck is a Spring egg anyway?”
  • Fox & Friends Sunday guest co-host Jesse Watters echoed O’Reilly’s remarks and accused people who want to remove the word Easter from school activities of causing pain to most people.
  • The Fox Five co-host Eric Bolling declared an attack on Easter when the principal of an Alabama middle school directed her school to not call an egg hunt an “Easter egg” hunt in order to respect others’ religion.
  • Six segments appeared on March 27 about the Alabama school’s decision twice, asking for audience opinion and ridiculing the way that the principal talked.
  • Gretchen Carlson said that that the last week had only two religious celebrations, Passover and Easter. She said the problem would be solved if both of them were included. She missed these.

April 13-16: Water Festivals – Buddhism (a cleansing ritual to welcome the new year)
April 14: Baisakhi New Year – Sikh
April 15: Lord’s Evening Meal – Jehovah’s Witness (memorial of Christ’s death)
April 15: Hanuman Jayanti – Hindu (a celebration of the birth of Hanuman, the Vanara god)
April 21: First Day of Ridvan  – Bahá’í (the commencement of Bahá’u’lláh’s prophethood)
April 22: Ardavisht – Zoroastrian (the day to pay tribute to Fire or other sources that illuminate)

  • Father of the war against Easter, Bill O’Reilly, concluded the week’s war with stating that “Christianity is on the run in this country,” and “You rarely see those kinds of assaults against Jews or Muslims.” He also claimed that “the 10 percent who would be upset by the Easter bunny, they should be institutionalized, by the way.”

jesusIn protest against the lack of separation of church and state, the Freedom from Religion Foundation first posted an anti-Easter sign in the Wisconsin state capital and then put up two eight-foot banners featuring Presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.

5x8-Thomas-Jefferson-banner_proof2 left

freedom from religion




The display countered the Jesus in Daley Plaza with a 10-food image of the deity and a 19-foot cross. Fox network says that expressing a position other Christianity in the public square is an “unholy” attack on Christianity; the founding fathers would certainly disagree.

Warren (MI) Mayor Jim Fouts believes so much in freedom of religion that he let a Christian group put a “Prayer Station” inside City Hall. When Freedom from Religion asked to have a “Reason Station” to promote separation of church and state with secular thought, reason, and logic, Fouts explained that only the Christian station is protected under the First Amendment. He said, “I emphasize one thing. The government cannot restrict an individual’s freedom of speech, but an individual cannot restrict the government’s freedom of speech.” Maybe the government, like corporations, will become persons.

One final comment about the gorgeous “blood moon” on the first night of Passover. At least one Christian is making a lot of money on it by promoting fear among fundamentalist Christians who reject scientific reasons for natural phenomena. Pastor John Hagee, has released a book, bringing his total to over 30, to explain how this event signifies the coming of the Rapture that sweeps all god-fearing Christians off to the heavens while the rest of us stay here to burn. Author of books such as Earth’s Final Moments and Jerusalem Countdown, Hagee heads up San Antonio’s mega-church Cornerstone Church and a multi-million-dollar media empire. His money, that he gets from both the rich and the poor, helps him control GOP politics and funded the largest pro-Israel religious-based lobbying group in the world.

His founding of the 1.3 million member Christians United for Israel (CUFI) has made him one of 50 people having the greatest influence over the GOP’s foreign policy, according to Foreign Policy magazine. His hawkish approach supports a war-like opposition to Iran if Israel should decide to act aggressively toward the country. Researcher and writer Rachel Tabachnick described Hagee’s philosophy:

“Christian Zionists view themselves as ‘fishers’ who must befriend and persuade Jews to move to Israel before the ‘time of the hunters.’ Hunters are those who will violently force the remaining Jews around the world to leave their respective nations and flee to Israel.”

Hagee’s new book, Four Blood Moons: Something Is About to Change, points out that all four eclipses during this 18-month period occur within Jewish celebrations. April 15, 2014 and April 4, 2015 are during Passover, and October 8, 2014 and September 28, 2015 take place during the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles. His conclusion is “that a rapture will occur where Christians will be taken to heaven, Israel will go to war in a great battle called Armageddon, and Jesus will return to earth.” Something will happen in the Middle East within the next two years that will change history.

As proof of his theory, Hagee cites Acts 2:19-20: “And I will show wonders in Heaven above and signs in the Earth beneath, the sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.” His book is #4 on the New York Times best-seller list in the “how to” section, and he won’t be proved wrong in his prophecies because he has no specific timeline. He just gets to keep raking in money from the ignorant.

While fundamentalist Christian leaders bilk their followers out of billions without paying their fair share of taxes, we’ll look forward to see what the coming year brings. I prefer the Seder approach of moving toward freedom and peace.


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