ONE of the key festivals in the Christian calendar – it’s right up there with Christmas, and some would say more significant – has just happened. No, honestly, check the calendar if you don’t believe me.
That was Easter, that was. It’s not just an excuse for traffic jams, trips to the garden centre, over-indulgence in chocolate eggs and puzzled contemplation of Simnel cakes in the supermarkets – Easter has a real meaning for many people, and I’m not just talking about bunnies, bunches of daffs and four days off.
It’s news to some of you, I know – according to a survey out this week, only one in three people could correctly answer five simple questions about the origins of Easter, including what happened on Good Friday.
There’s been a bit of a rumble this year from denizens of the dog collar about how followers of the faith ought to be making it a bit plainer whose side they are on.
Christians should be not just prepared, but proud, to wear a cross each day, they say – this in the light of isolated but high-profile incidents in which people have been prevented from wearing a crucifix to work, praying for patients in hospital or starting council meetings with a prayer.
And those who follow such things will know that soon judges at the European Court of Human Rights will consider a test case on religious freedom in Britain, in which lawyers are expected to argue that Christians do not have the ‘right’ to wear a cross because it is not viewed as an essential component on their religion.
But on behalf of the massed ranks of the uncommitted, let me tell them that, while anyone who wears a badge professing their membership of a particular group may take comfort when they see a fellow traveller across the room, the rest of us just take it as a sign to steer well clear.
That’s true whether you’re owning up to being a Mormon, a member of the Caravan Club, or a past president of a donkey sanctuary. To us it’s just a warning sign that you’ll steer any conversation around to your particular hobby horse, and most of us don’t want to chat about what you like, we just want to talk about ourselves.
The trick is to impress strangers with your kindness, helpful attitude, warmth towards others and general goodness, which shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to a cross-carrying Christian, and then go for the reveal.
Oh, a Christian? Really? Seems to have it all together, perhaps there’s something to it after all...
What’s more, there are lots of Christians who already go for the public display, and it hasn’t worked out well as far as I can see.
Many enthusiastic followers of the faith make a public show of their belief by affixing Christian fish symbols to the backs of their cars.
Now I don’t know if it’s because they are perpetually pondering the mysteries of faith or because they are confident that they have an inside track on the road to life eternal, but in my experience any car with a fish on the back needs watching carefully – the person at the wheel is more often than not as much of a menace as anyone with a rear shelf full of fluffy toys or an amusing bumper sticker.