A season of renewal

Religious holidays: Easter, Passover are feted in a nation of increasingly varied beliefs.

April 23, 2000

OVER THE past few days, tens of millions of Americans have paused in reflection. Jews have feted the liberation of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt; Christians have commemorated the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth.

Today, secular America will join in the festivities. While choirs sing hallelujahs and church bells proclaim the tidings of resurrection, Easter bunnies take over parks and backyards, leading tots to hunts for multicolored eggs and a cornucopia of candies.

In the past several decades, this nation's religious beliefs have become increasingly varied. Charismatic Christian groups have won new adherents. A parallel development has occurred within Judaism, with the growth of the Lubavitcher movement and other such Hasidic groups.

The number of Muslims has exploded. The influx of Asians has introduced many previously little-known faiths to the national mosaic.

Yet the themes of this Easter and Passover season are universal. Victory over bondage and death is an inspiring message that can be celebrated by anyone, regardless of religion.

Maybe this explains why many otherwise non-observant people renew their links to their religious heritage during this season. Or they proclaim their bond with common humanity by breaking bread with neighbors at Seder or Easter tables.

The messages of deliverance and resurrection are full of mysteries. They are seemingly unfathomable and challenge easy explanations. Except that this is a season of other miracles as well. Just look at the glory of reawakening flowers and plants.

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