Are Real Easter Eggs more problematic than they seem? Is it possible that something as wonderful tasting as chocolate could be linked to more sinister problems in the church? I suppose small children are taught not to take sweets from strangers for a reason.
Vicky Beeching has an interesting piece on the Independent comment pages looking at Real Easter Eggs and suggests they are an identifiable step towards a Christian culture, and a Christian culture that can become a ghetto, and within that ghetto allow things to go on which should never be allowed.
I think Vicky has the principles right, but has the wrong product in her sights. Christians should be concerned with impacting all of society rather than just a niche, and they should do so in a way that serves all regardless of their beliefs. I also think Christians should be the very best at creating culture – Andy Crouch’s work has been instrumental in helping my thinking in this area.
Crouch suggests in his book Culture Making that Christians should focus on creating and cultivating instead of condemning, critiquing, consuming and copying. The latter all have a place, but should only be gestures and not our posture. Our posture should be to create and cultivate.
The danger of doing our culture making in an insular way is that we create norms that are alien to the world around us. So if our focus is solely driven towards Christian films, books, t-shirts and tea towels, these things will become our reference point. The upshot of this kind of Christian culture is a ghettoisation that separates Christians off from the world.
The more sinister aspect of this is when norms are redefined, or morphed in such a way, that things which should never occur take place without question. It’s here that there is a link between seemingly innocuous things prevalent in Christian culture and the scandals we have seen both far too much of, but also too little and too late. We listen only to what is within the bubble we create, and if our norms are not being challenged then they can take a form we would previously have not believed possible. This is why silence has too often been the answer to scandal.
And now to where I thing Vicky takes a misstep: I don’t think the Real Easter Eggs are a marker along this path. Firstly, they are explicitly aimed at a wider population. The manufacturers have now succeeded in getting them into mainstream shops. They taste good by all accounts, and tap into an important cross-over between secular and Christian festivities.
Secondly, I think there is a potentially damaging impact of branding something that is explicit as Christian beliefs as not having a place in the public square. I think that’s exactly where these eggs should be. Not sold at the back of churches to the faithful, or via mail order from a website only known by a few. Too often we have become very good at defending our faith to each other, or marketing our wares among ourselves. The gospel should be for all of society, and getting it into Tescos is brilliant.
Easter should be about celebrating Christ’s death and resurrection, and if these eggs are communicating this message to a wider public then I think that is an excellent way of doing it.
Finally, aside from communicating a message to the public, the eggs are sending a message to other manufacturers and sellers. They are providing consumers with a way of saying that they want to celebrate Easter, want to celebrate it through eating chocolate, and chocolate that is ethically produced. But they are also saying why they want to do that. And in doing so they may be making a small improvement in our collective public understanding of Christianity. Educating the world and not the ghetto. On balance I think these are good eggs.