This week I was interviewed by a local radio station about the place of Easter in the post-Christian West. Specifically I was asked how I felt about schools removing references to Easter in their annual hat parades.
I told them I couldn’t care less.
I honestly don’t care if schools want to run a “happy hat parade” or a “crazy hat day” instead of an Easter hat parade.
I just don’t.
And then I heard about the two suicide bombings at Coptic churches in Alexandria and Tanta and the deaths of 44 worshippers on Palm Sunday at the beginning of Holy Week.
And then I didn’t just not care about Easter hat parades, I was outraged at our insensitivity and complete lack of perspective on these things.
And then I saw this photo (above) of a shocked and grieving nun staring blank-faced into the debris caused by the bombing at St George’s Church in Tanta, and I remembered that there are Christians in the West who actually talk about experiencing “hostility” because of their faith. They say they are being persecuted and marginalized, silenced and ignored.
This Easter, Egyptian Christians will have to clean the blood spatters from the marble pillars of their church and grieve the deaths of worshippers and priests and choristers. And I really hope no one tells them that the biggest challenge facing Christians in the West is the “controversy” about Easter hat parades.
I hope they don’t find out we think we’re persecuted because the state is removing statues of the Ten Commandments from outside our city halls.
I hope they don’t find out our biggest problems include whether Christians can refuse to bake cakes for same-sex weddings.
I hope they don’t discover that in the West, with all the opportunities, freedoms and privilege afforded to the church, we still whine and complain about the occasional loss of that privilege as if it’s the end of the world.
Can we make a pact here in the West to stop referring to our own persecution or hostility or marginalization ever again? Can we reserve those terms exclusively to describe the horrors faced by the Copts in Egypt, the Maronites in Lebanon, the Assyrian church in Iran and Iraq, the Nestorians in Bahrain, and all Christians across the Middle East?
Can we pray for those who suffer because of their allegiance to Christ? Can we mourn for their loss? Can we act in solidarity with them? Can we recite the words of our Lord, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.”
And can we just get some perspective, please?
[photo credit: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters]