Easter brings resurrection and renewal

It told of the Easter services planned for the first time in two years at one of Baghdad’s biggest churches after Iraqi Christians returned to homes they had deserted because of violence.

Saints Peter and Paul Church closed in mid-2007 after insurgents and sectarian militias targeted Iraq’s 800,000-strong Christian community.

Meanwhile, amid the onslaught of bombings and deaths often targeting Christians in southern Baghdad’s Dora neighborhood, the number of parishioners dwindled to a few dozen families as many fled their one-time Christian stronghold or were killed as a consequence of their religious beliefs.

But, like Easter itself with its promise of resurrection and new life, improved security over the past six months has seen as many as 800 Christian families return to Dora, according to the district’s Iraqi police commander.

In America, strong in religious diversity and strengthened by a tradition of Judeo-Christian faith and teachings, we face no such challenge to our religiosity.
Only, apparently, from within.

In its current edition, Newsweek magazine in a cover story proclaims “The End of Christian America,” noting the waning influence of and membership in the Christian church in America.

The term post-Christian is suddenly in vogue in some circles, and little wonder: The article relates that those “describing themselves as atheist or agnostic has increased about fourfold from 1990 to 2009, from 1 million to about 3.6 million. (That is about double the number of, say, Episcopalians in the United States.)”

Of course, beyond this nation’s rich diversity, one of our greatest strengths, explicit in the Founders’ writings and subsequent Supreme Court holdings, is that a freedom of religion conversely assures a freedom from religion. The choice is one of individual conscience and spirituality, and the importance of separation is critical to the very survival of the church.

But, still, especially on Easter, we are left to ponder the fact that this nation remains very blessed. Despite current hard times, more than 90 percent of us still have jobs and our financial losses, while real and for many very painful, may prove as fleeting in the long term as those imaginary and exaggerated gains of just a few years before.

And, today, as family and friends gather, we have bounty still to share.

Always, but especially at Easter, we should pause to appreciate the new beginnings spring holds where blooming and budding follow so majestically the dark and cold winter. Surely this is a metaphor for a nation’s darker days that — with continued divine intervention and guidance, coupled with a nation’s own enterprise, ingenuity and spiritedness — will pass as well.