Upon learning she had Lou Gehrig's disease, my aunt said: "It's not the dying I fear; it's the living." What she dreaded was the suffering and deterioration of her human body. What she believes is the word of Jesus Christ: "If you believe in me, you will never die" (John 11:26). That belief is why millions of Christians still celebrate Resurrection Sunday, commonly called Easter.
The artificial trappings of the culture - new clothes, egg hunting, chocolate candy and jelly beans, even the adopting of chicks and bunnies - illustrate that something real initiated them. The spring season proclaims newness.
Even pagan beginnings testify to the longing of souls for eternal life. If they are used to point to the event that happened in a now empty tomb in Jerusalem, then we mimic one of the greatest church fathers, the Apostle Paul. When confronted with a long lineup of Athenian gods, he noticed one with a sign to "the unknown god." He began his message with "I want to talk to you about that one" (Acts 17:23).
What are people expecting when they attend church only on Christmas and Easter? For some, it is mandatory family tradition; for others, it is curiosity or guilt. Barring a catastrophe like 9/11, after which church attendance increased briefly, the majority satisfy themselves with the frills of a religious holiday. Pope Francis' popularity is growing among Catholics and non-Catholics, but that is not increasing the number of people in the pews. According to a March Los Angeles Times' article, when people go to church expecting to hear Pope Francis' views on breaking "small-minded" rules and illustrating compassion for the poor, they do not find them in the local setting.
If we go anywhere, including church, looking for the wrong thing, we will find it. Some travel to the Holy Land and only see commercialism. Some attend church and only see hypocrisy. The one thing that lifts us above tradition, self-talk, or small-mindedness on Christmas, Easter, or any other day, is to acknowledge a need for God.
Louisiana lawmakers are debating a proposal to make the Bible their state book. This will no doubt succumb to an early death by lawsuit threats. The Bible claims, like Jesus, to be the "Word of God," not just literature. Though Rep. Thomas Carmody argues that adopting the Bible as state book does not endorse Christianity or a specific religion, it is impossible and not desirable to separate the book from its adherents and their beliefs.
The biblical record supports Christianity's claim that Jesus rose from the dead and made appearances to his followers, including once when he was seen by over 500 witnesses together (1 Corinthians 15:1-6). The Bible says that Jesus is alive and offers life to we who believe.
Is there extra-biblical evidence? An unexplainable thing is happening now: "thousands of people in Iran and throughout the Middle East reporting visitations of Jesus in dreams and visions" (Charisma, April 2014), something the Bible foretells. For a few days in March a relic some believe is Jesus' "Crown of Thorns" was shown at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Are these Easter's backup? For celebrators, all offer the true "why" of Resurrection Sunday.
Finding truth requires the right starting point. That is the quest of this column. If we seek simple truth, we can find it together-side-by-side.
Linda M. Downing is a freelance writer. Contact her at lindadowning.com.