‘…and let us not think of chocolate…’
So ended a short heartfelt prayer read by a small boy, in a recent primary school service I attended as schools broke up this week for Easter.
Obviously well trained in the ‘Easter is not about chocolate’ school of prayer, his words expressed the kind of religious schizophrenia that we older and not so wiser adults have come to exhibit as we try and teach children ‘the real meaning of Easter’ (those of us who try and do it at all, that is).
I’m talking, of course, about the unfortunate juxtaposition of chocolate and the crucifixion.
The Church of England weighed in this week with a grumpy repost to the news that the National trust would be putting on a ‘Cadbury Egg Hunt’, and not, as the Church would have preferred, an ‘Easter Egg hunt’. As one dry commentator observed, Jesus must have been pretty hacked off at the lack of mention of Easter Eggs, featuring so prominently, as they do, in the Passion Narrative.
So, pity the Church of England primary school teacher tasked with preparing the school’s end of term Easter service. “Children – write seasonal prayers!” Everywhere the children look, the shops are full of yellow cards with lambs skipping about, and chocolate bunnies, and then there’s the Jesus dying thing.
The casual violence, the spitting and hitting and stripping, not to mention the hammering and the bleeding and the dying.
And the impossibly weird happy ending. Which is of course, terribly important.
Hence, the ‘please don’t let us think about chocolate’ give-away. The parents, mentally ticking off if they have the same amount of eggs for each child and when are they going to pick up the roast, squirming in the school hall at the mention of death, and then apparently the dead man suddenly does five impossible things before breakfast on the first day of the week (chiefly, not being dead anymore).
It’s a perennial clash of excruciating sensibilities for anyone even remotely religious who’s concerned with delivering an authentic Easter (that is also FUN and contains lots of chocolate). And the National Church coming across as censorious doesn’t help.
The trouble is, adult prayers are oh so different to children’s. And Jesus did say unless we became like children, we wouldn’t enter the kingdom of heaven. Adult prayers (unless, of course, enlightened, which they can be) are polite, correct, worried about form, designed to meet religious expectations.
What would that small child’s prayer have been without adult religious intervention?
‘Dear Jesus is it time for eggs yet please let there be an enormous gold one and a massive purple one I really hope I get the same number as my brother hopefully a lot more please let there be chocolate buttons and those creme eggs you can lick the insides and a whole packet of mini eggs cos I love crunching those so thank you Jesus cos I absolutely love chocolate…’
Something along those lines perhaps.