Christian Easter eggs and child abuse: The creation of a parallel universe by the Church

Creating a choice in products for people of faith reinforces the sacred-secular divide in society - and it's this ghetto culture that leads to checks being veiled with spirituality

Share

It's been reported that 'religious Easter eggs' claiming to represent the “real” message of Easter will be more widely available in supermarkets due to campaigns from Christians.

Apparently, after a three-year 'pestering' campaign, Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and the Co-Op have agreed to stock the products. The Bishop of Hereford said he expected there to be a "real demand for an egg explaining the religious understanding of Easter on the box" and he encouraged shoppers to "hunt out a Real Easter Egg and complain if they are not being stocked."

I'll confess, Easter eggs are something I can't resist buying. Lured by the shiny colours I feel like I'm five years old again, clutching my prize and gleefully scoffing it all by myself. It's a delightful part of Easter for me and far from detracting from the story of Christ it echoes the joy of that message. I'm a Christian, but I've never felt I needed a Christian version of an Easter egg, just as I've never felt I needed a Christian version of shoes, clothing or breakfast cereal.

Ten years ago when I moved to the so-called 'Bible Belt' of America I had the shock of my life. American Christians have invented their own version of everything. From 'Testamints' (minty sweets containing a Bible verse), to clothing ranges, to coffee mugs saying "I love Jesus a Latte" and even religious toilet seat covers. Christian music in the States is a totally separate genre from pop, rock or classical. I was part of that scene for a while, but with less and less ease over the years as I met thousands of young people who were banned from 'secular music' or 'secular culture'; a deeply unhealthy, head-in-the-sand reality.

The problem is this: creating a choice for people of faith between a 'Christian product' and a 'regular' one merely reinforces the sacred-secular divide in society. The idea of complaining to supermarkets that fail to stock these religious Easter eggs seems like the antithesis of what I'd want to be known for as a believer. "Hi Waitrose, let me yell into your ear about your lack of Christian branded Easter eggs" seems like an oxymoron if our faith is about love and graciousness towards others.

Having tweeted my thoughts on this I've already been criticised by some fellow Christians who feel I'm not celebrating this opportunity for the Gospel to be shared. Yet I can't imagine Bob the Plumber walking into Sainsbury's, seeing a chocolate egg with a message about Jesus on it and instantly falling to his knees in confession and conversion. The eggs will be purchased by Christians and probably given to unsuspecting 'unbelievers' who although grateful for the free chocolate will be bemused by the cut-out-and-keep paper Jesus figurines inside it.

I had flash-backs to the American Bible Belt when I visited Vatican City last summer. I was stunned by its mystery and secrecy. It seemed an entirely self-contained universe with its own postal service, stamps and prior to the Euro, its own currency. It felt eerily similar to the Bible Belt's merchandise shops as every few yards they sold Catholic versions of everything from cushions, to jumpers and tea sets. 

I say all this with great respect for my many American Christian and Catholic friends. I also respect and appreciate the vision of The Meaningful Chocolate Company; the folks producing these eggs, who are using Fairtrade chocolate and have only the best possible motives for creating their products. But simultaneously it does hit a nerve for me; that of the dangerous sacred-secular divide which through many small steps accumulates into a ghetto culture where things can seem normal that in fact really should not.

This leads me to the much heavier issues that have been in the news lately; the devastating stories of sexual abuse and cover-ups within the Church. I may be mocked by those missing the nuance of what I'm saying; suggesting that I'm blaming Easter eggs for sexual abuse, but I hope people will interpret this piece more intelligently than that. The abuse scandals have plagued the headlines daily and most of us wonder how things like this can go on behind closed doors and only now come to light. It would seem that somehow, step by step, an alternate reality is formed within many religious institutions where normal levels of checks, balances and expectations are veiled with spirituality and disconnectedness. Things become part of the furniture and no one can speak from the outside to challenge them.

These ghettos happens when Christians retreat. It's what I tasted in America, meeting a generation of Fundamentalist youth who had been home-schooled and never allowed to watch TV or go to a movie theatre. Dressed in Christian clothing and listening to only Christian music, hundreds of them have shared opinions with me about their world views, saying things that were, frankly, utterly bigoted and shocking, yet uttered with genuine naiveté from within a ghetto culture.

So my point is simply this: tiny bricks gradually build high walls. As they often say in America, "Culture is King". The Americans have realised faster than us Brits that it's not our ideals, our strategies or our goals that define us - it's our culture and that can be invisible when we're on the inside. Christian culture, language and practice is already extremely foreign and inaccessible to most of the watching world. The last thing we need is an increasingly Christianised version of products at the supermarket or a sense that buying them will genuinely promote the message of Jesus. For me that's just another brick in the wall.

I believe Christianity is supposed to engage with the world in a spirit of love, not be sequestered away in a bunker. I don't believe we need our own line of confectionary, jumpers or tea-sets. I don't believe our hierarchies should be veiled in secrecy behind locked doors, or that hidden memos in hidden vaults should contain the real story of the Church's secret past.

Sure, laugh at me for being bothered by the presence of a Christian Easter egg in Tesco's, but for me it hints at something much deeper that disturbed me during my Bible Belt years: the sacred secular divide and the strange cultures that can form when we retreat into our own parallel universe. I for one will not live in a ghetto of faith and anything that smells of that, however faintly, makes me uncomfortable.

Response from David Marshall, creator of the Real Easter Egg:

We offer people a chance to give something more meaningful and culturally educational at Easter. The Real Easter Egg is the UK's only charitable Easter egg on the market. We have given away more that £60,000 in donations from sales to Traidcraft Exchange and the Fairtrade premium we pay all go to support some of the poorest communities on the planet. Just as many people like to send Christmas cards with a religious message, so we think it’s positive for there to be an Easter egg available which is similarly explicit about its religious connection.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BC2

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Linux Systems Administrator

£33000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly successfu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A still from the BBC's new rap about the outbreak of WW1  

Why give the young such a bad rap?

David Lister
Israeli army soldiers take their positions  

Errors and Omissions: Some news reports don’t quite hit the right target

Guy Keleny
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice