Easter has been more relaxing this year. No church service to avoid. No one going on about the blood of the lamb. Nobody saying the words “he has risen” and expecting me to repeat them back.
I’ve been holed up all day avoiding it for the most part. My folks might be bummed that they can’t go to their yearly service. I haven’t brought up the subject. I don’t go looking for excuses to talk about it.
Easter is weird for me.
The other day I saw an ad for a ministry. It was in the evangelical style. Straight-laced pastor with a car salesman smile and eyes that are sugary-glazed menace. Rolling voice that soothing the audience into listening but not quite. A familiar message of how love means torture and slaughter and the impossible three days later.
I recognize it now as the love bomb of nice evangelical ministry. This is love, they tell me. An invisible friend, sure, but totally real. The assurance: the invisible friend is real enough. Just take a chance on it. Nobody’s asking much.
Except they’re asking everything. It might be different in some churches, but the ones I know want to consume people down to the soles of their shoes. They want people to rely on the message, to depend on it being true whatever they say it is. Easter isn’t some excuse to eat candy and hide eggs in the yard. It really happened for real reasons that have a real effect on people after they die.
The thing is, I can abandon the faith while remembering what it was like to be in it. Those memories haunt me. Hearing about salvation every year carried some sense of relief, a renewed commitment that maybe this year would be better than the last one. For a brief moment, I’d feel what I used to think was a connection to the divine. All my problems weren’t forgotten. Persist in faith, and there would be that promise that one day all will be well.
People who still believe and people who never believed don’t feel the full weight of the emptiness of those Easter promises. For the faithful, it’s like being in the middle of grasping a red-hot iron. There is only the feeling as it happens. For the secular, it’s like seeing the burn scars without having felt what it was like to earn them.
Those who have let go of a demanding faith have a good idea of what I’m talking about. They, like me, have scars visible and invisible, relics of holding onto danger too tightly. The pain of earning them is something that can only be hinted at and never fully shared.
This is why Easter is strange. It’s people bragging about flayed skin and open wounds. I know they believe it is right to brag. I know, because I remember what it felt like.
But I also know that the feeling was incomplete. It had to get renewed every year, and every year I’d forget that I’d been waiting on promises that never were fulfilled. What’s changed is the realization that these promises will never be fulfilled. They never will be, because they are impossible.