An Oddball Easter

This has been one odd-ball Easter, at least for religion news.

First there was the Whipping of the Easter Bunny and the Easter egg hunt in Michigan where kids found two loaded handguns.

Then a pastor in Ohio gave away a car in a drawing made up members who brought 10 friends to church with them on Sunday.

Even the serious news stories were oddball. The New York Times described the Paulist Center
where John Kerry attended Easter Mass as "a kind of New Age church." This is a congregation run by the Paulist Fathers a missionary order of priests. The only elaboration on the New Age description is that the center stresses "family religious education and social justice." Sounds like the Celestine Prophecy to me.

Though I've read it three times, I am still scratching my head over this piece on the changing image of Jesus "from meek to mighty." It's got a great lead--about a painter who specializes in Macho Jesus pictures (the article is accompanied by a painting of Jesus as a boxer) but goes downhill fast from there. Here's a couple of supposed factoids in the piece--the Puritans thought Jesus was an "insignificant figure" while the ancient Greeks worshipped him as a "spiritual being." In the 1770s, Americans began to turn to Jesus as "a religious symbol"

And then there's this section:

With the future feeling uncertain amid escalating violence in Iraq and the U.S. government's growing conflict with the Islamic world, historians say the need for a wrathful Christ has emerged once again, particularly among evangelicals.

For some, Christ's suffering and torture leading up to the crucifixion serve as a demonstration of his power.

"Because he took the beating and didn't retaliate, that showed his strength," said Rev. Hilliard Hudson, pastor at Pilgrim Baptist Church on Chicago's South Side.

And this:

At the same time, many evangelicals are seeking to develop a personal relationship with Christ. Since the release of "The Passion," the Willow Creek megachurch in South Barrington has offered a program called "The Man Behind the Movie." The program explores the many aspects of Christ's character.

"There are many depictions of Jesus. What is his character like? What did he say? How could he be fully human and God?" said Nancy Beach, director of programming for Willow Creek.

But even before the movie, Willow Creek aimed to help the faithful connect with Christ on a personal level.

OK, so we've got a Jesus who is so wrathful that he doesn't retaliate even when he's tortured and evangelicals who --even before the Passion of the Christ--wanted to know Jesus on a personal level.

Finally there's this commentary from the Guardian-- which equates the Madrid bombings with Franklin Graham calling Islam and evil religion and then blames it all on Mel Gibson.

To be fair, there were some thoughtful stories this weekend as well.

The last Easter for a church scheduled to be closed in Boston. A church in Indonesia attacked by gunmen.

A church still in mourning on Easter Sunday, after two members were killed when a church van -- overturned on Good Friday. The two were musicians that accompanied the congregation's youth choir.

The youth choir's annual concert tour usually ends with a dinner on Good Friday--this year it ended with a funeral.

"Forty-two years in my ministry and I have not had a day like this," the church's pastor, Henry Wells, told the Sacramento Bee.

Wells said the church will most likely continue the annual concert tour but will probably not travel by van.

Good Friday now holds even more significance for church members, he said.

"Because of what we believe in, we're able to carry the burden," Wells said. "Today we're mourning, but Easter is coming and we have faith in Jesus Christ and we know that they're with the Lord."


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