The Egg as a Symbol of Hope and Hate
I love symbols. They possess the power to concretize concepts. They can make the abstract far more tangible.
Yet I find great irony in how there are times when the same symbol can take on different, and even divergent meanings. In the past week, much to my chagrin, I experienced an example of this phenomenon.
The symbol in question is the egg. During our local Pesach/Passover celebrations I have made a point of explaining to my congregants both the symbolism of the egg on the Seder plate and its ideological connection to the far better known egg symbol of this time of year – the Easter Egg – as well as to its symbolism within the ancient pagan Spring festival. For in all of these holidays, the egg symbolizes the beginning of life; both birth and rebirth. For the pagans, they were celebrating the rebirth of nature after the death of winter. The Christians celebrate the the rebirth – resurrection – of Jesus after his death on the cross. While we Jews celebrate the rebirth of the Jewish people after the death of slavery in Egypt. For all three belief systems, the egg is a symbol of hope, potential, and significant new beginnings.
Yet last night I also experienced the egg as a very different symbol.
If you have been reading my blog of late then you know that I have been engaged in a local controversy over whether or not a governmental agency – in this case the city government of Davenport – should be declaring religious holidays as “official” holidays; whether by doing so, the government is in violation of the First Amendment. The controversy, as you probably have read, arose when our local Civil Rights Commission recommended to our city government that they change the name of the paid holiday on their calendar from “Good Friday” to “Spring Holiday,” and the city administrator complied. The city received an immediate and harsh reaction from several city employees. As a result, the city administration buckled under the pressure, abandoned the principle of governmental agencies needing to remain religiously neutral, and changed the name back to “Good Friday.” And the debate over the issue has been raging ever since. To those who know me, it should be no surprise that I have been one of the vocal proponents of promoting communal respect for religious diversity and maintaining a high wall of church-state separation.
This brings us back to the egg. Last night, I took my teenage daughter and her best friend to a late night movie. Her friend had driven to our house and had parked in front of it. When we returned home, we found that her car and our driveway had been “egged”. I checked around the rest of our block and found no evidence of any other home being “egged.” From that I deduced that this “egging” was not just some youthful prank pulled on our neighborhood but was a directed attack on my home. I further assume that it was probably in response to my public statements about the Good Friday vs. Spring Holiday controversy.
There is a certain irony, considering the symbolism of the Easter Egg, that there would be those who would turn that egg around and use it as a symbol of anger and hatred against someone of another faith, simply because that person does not share their faith and does not wish to have it imposed upon them. It would seem that such people have missed the point of the very Easter they believe they are defending. I am confident that most of those who believe in the resurrection of Jesus do not believe that he rose from the dead so as to encourage others to egg the homes of those who choose to adhere to a different faith. It would seem to me that the perpetrators of this act of vandalism have not celebrated a Happy Easter but rather a Hateful one!