|My Hyacinths in bloom|
But though it's true that Easter is named for a pagan holiday about springtime, rebirth and fertility, two of the world's major religions celebrate acts of rebellion against oppressive authority -- successful and unsuccessful rebellions-- at this time.
|The single daffodil that bloomed by my lagoon this year|
In Our Lady of Kaifeng: Courtyard of the Happy Way, though the story is set in China during World War II in a concentration camp run by the Japanese, some of the characters are influenced by the Judeo-Christian symbolism of the Passover and Easter scenarios. Marah Fallowfield, for instance, sees the Camp Commandant as a sort of Pharaoh whom she asks to let her people go. She also warns him of the consequences, should he fail to do so. But Commandant Izu is working from another playbook, and he eventually has Marah crucified. What is ironic about the good faith, literal belief of these innocent characters is that the vast majority of people who celebrate these springtime holidays do not see them as celebrations of rebellion at all. Most devout Christians and Jews understand all their holidays as ritualized submission to authority! That right there is the real conflict in my new novel.
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Historically, there is a process whereby people forget. Successful religions are founded by rebellious visionaries, but they are kept alive only if those in power find them useful.
For instance, while Passover is about slaves rebelling against their masters in Egypt, the big focus for most believers is on the supernatural miracles and the absolute necessity of total submission to the priesthood and the payment of taxes in gold to a particular god and not some other god. Though the new testament is about a man who called himself a "messiah" -- which is another name for the King of Israel -- and who was crucified for failing to pledge allegiance to the puppet king installed by the Romans -- most Christians put the emphasis on the need for ultimate submission to their God in the form of Church membership, including paying a tithe. So while the holiday celebrates rebellion from rulers who tax people, those who take it seriously do not think they should follow the example and also rebel. They believe they should submit.
In the same way, when Americans celebrate the 4th of July, which is the time when they declared their independence from the British, but had not yet won it in an armed rebellion, most see the patriotic holiday not as a time to renew the fight for liberty, but to show submission to the Federal government -- which is much more oppressive than the British were in 1775-6.
Springtime seems to be a natural time to celebrate liberation. Coming up soon is April the 19th, an American holiday about a struggle for liberation from great Britain in 1775, but oppression of Americans by the ATF in 1993. There's just something about spring in the air that makes people long for freedom -- and other people eager to crush that longing in the bud.
|A wasp on my peach blossoms|