Easter when I was a young boy are among my richest memories. My Mom and I lived with my grandparents in the south, at a time when on Easter Sunday men got into their new summer suits, and boys were put into little blue blazers with snappy ties. Moms dressed like Jackie Kennedy in pastel suits and pillbox hats adorned with silk flowers. Girls were put into frilly, fully-meringue dresses and patent leather shoes. (I still feel sorry for them.) And woe to those poor same-sex siblings, made to wear matching outfits. The Help were off on Sundays, of course (we didn’t live in Mississippi, for god’s sake), but inevitably they would drop by with some special Easter treat, dressed to the nines with gigantic hats that offered sun protection for every kid within a six-foot radius.
Easter baskets and egg hunts. Special early supper with the grown-ups. It was all so good.
By far the biggest deal of the day to me was my role at church. My grandmother, Mernie, was the organist and choir master at our Episcopal church, and on Easters, she “opened-up” that huge pipe organ in a way that chest-rattlingly announced that Easter was no ordinary Sunday. Mernie was a dervish: fingers would be flying, playing the upper and lower keyboards, pulling and pushing the stops, feet pumping pedals. My job was to stand quietly by the side of the organ while she brought Bach to life. In contrast to the complex chaos of her movements, she would glance at me and smile, entirely at ease, as if she were dinking out “Heart and Soul,” and give me the slightest of nods—my signal to turn the page of the sheet music. The entire Easter service depended upon my doing that right!
By 1967 my Mom and my new Dad had moved us to California. Easter still meant Sunday services, but some of the magic was gone. Soaring music became dour hymns. No grandparents. And no big black women in even bigger hats dropping off coconut cakes and baskets of goodies. However, my Dad invented a wonderful new Easter for me and my soon-to-arrive little brother. The man had a wicked talent for hiding Easter eggs, and he created the annual Egg Off, a great race to find your eggs first and win.
By the early 1970’s Easter had kind of fallen off the radar. If we went to church, I don’t really remember. I do remember still having the Egg Off, but afterwards it was Off to the Beach. In the evenings it was lamb, mint jelly, and homemade southern biscuits for dinner. Not like my grandparents’ Easters, but great days, always.
By the late 70’s, evangelical Christianity had been brought into our home, and at 16, I happily joined in. Easter again became a day of joy and celebration of Jesus. Jesus Has Risen! Sunrise services. Bach and Mahler gave way to Keith Green’s “He is Risen” (with the accompanying and happy cringes as the congregation attempted to hit those high notes).
Jesus is Risen … the crux of our faith. That which sets Jesus apart from the prophets who became before him and who have come since. A sacrifice so great it could change the world. I felt profound joy on those Easters.But years pass. Faith shifts. Sundays became more about Bloody Marys and the NY Times crossword. But my love for Easter has remained intact. Thousands of miles separate us, but on Easter my parents and I—for all our differences and dramas—still chat and laugh about the days of big organs and big hats and Egg Offs.
And then yesterday, a very dark shadow descended over Easter.
On ABC’s Sunday morning talk show, This Week, the Reverend Franklin Graham (I just gagged a little typing “reverend” in front of this evil man’s name) and Ralph Reed, former leader of the Christian Coalition and now head of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, spent almost half of their allotted time explicitly and unreservedly demonizing gay people.
Rev. Graham first spoke of Jesus’ love, and then reiterated his admiration for Putin’s/Russia’s new anti-gay laws, which has wrought torture and death upon countless gay men. He talked about how children must be protected from gay people. They replayed an interview in which Graham made a point of saying that when gay people adopt children, what they’re really doing is “recruiting” them.
Then Ralph Reed quoted statistics of “irrefutable” social science which he claimed proves how destructive to children it is to be raised by same-sex parents. (A minute later he was forced to admit that, in his own words, “the social science is just simply not in yet”—meaning he had just lied about the ‘irrefutable’ claims of harm done to children by same sex parents. But by then he had of course said what he wanted America to hear and believe, which is that same-sex parents destroy the lives of the children they raise.)
That is Reed in the picture above, as Franklin Graham is talking about how gay people are welcomed into heaven, as long as they “repent and turn,” the same as any sinner.
It was Easter Sunday. And on national television, all these Christian leaders wanted to talk about was how evil and destructive people like me are.
Easter morning. And the message they were moved to proclaim to the world was:
Jesus is Risen. Protect our children from evil gays. Hallelujah.
I thought of my grandmother Mernie. I poured myself a Bloody Mary. And I cried.
*For this blog Mr. Moore has also written A good week to hate Christians, A gay reader confronts a Catholic Bishop at an airport, and, Would you confront a pastor as this gay man did?
The This Week segment Mike is writing about is: