The National Trust has found itself in hot water over the apparent decision to drop the word “Easter” from its various egg hunts located around the country instead it would be called “The Great British Egg Hunt”. Aside from the fact that the last thing we need is more commercial ventures with the prefix “The Great British” as if Britain has been stuck in a perennial VE Day celebration and never quite got round to taking down all the union jack bunting and clearing up the trifle. But hey ho it appears the kitsch post-war aesthetic is here for the time being (Keep Calm & Hunt Eggs anyone?). Anyhow The National Trust was accused of “airbrushing faith” from the holiday as it sought to appeal to a wider audience. Soon even the PM, whom need I remind you is a vicar’s daughter nonetheless, was wading into the fray and lamenting the steady erosion of traditional Christian values.
Once all the dust had settled after a couple of days it still remained unclear about what, if anything, had actually happened. One side of the debate was taking the “storm in a teapot” stance, this includes The National Trust themselves and most of the traditionally left wing media outlets. They cite the fact that “Easter” itself was still used on heaps and heaps of the branding and paraphernalia surrounding all the various events and that it was only the name of the specific egg hunt that was changed to omit the word “Easter”, ostensibly to appeal to an audience of “all faiths or non faiths.” The other side of the debate, made up of what would be traditionally labelled more “conservative” (small C) types, have been frothing about how this is either commercialisation at its worse or a grave affront to deeply entrenched British values that it seems we’re all rather embarrassed about now.
The answer it seems, I would wager, lies somewhere between the two. Whilst I seriously doubt that the people who run the National Trust are some kind of shadowy cabal of cultural Marxists’ bent on destroying British values from within I do think that there is something to be said for increased commercialisation and a certain sidelining of faith. I would seriously disagree with anyone who dismisses these religious holidays as nothing more than old superstitions that we’ve moved past now, it’s no overstatement to say that Christianity has been the pillar upon which Western civilisation has built itself and this is no accident or quirk of history. The value structure around which Christianity has built itself, for example the notion of truth as the highest value and the idea that every human, even the worst criminals, have something unique and transcendental within them, “the immortal soul”, both contributed to England being at the forefront of developing a fair justice system that gave each man his day in court and was devoted to finding the truth, rather than just mob justice or theocratic law. In addition to this, the idea of universal human rights can be directly traced back to the Christian supposition of “the Word of God” that lies within each and every person, this hardly even sounds groundbreaking now but try telling the lords and ladies six hundred years ago that everyone has equal value and see how long it takes you to visit the dungeons. Like it or not the fact remains that Christianity remains the metaphysical bedrock of Western thought.
But hold up, I hear you cry, isn’t it true that just under half of people living in Britain report themselves as Christian and so maybe this creeping sweeping away of old values is just a sign of changing demographics and you should get with the times daddy-o. In response to that I would say that we jettison these metaphysical ideas at our own peril and it’s only once they’re gone will we realise what value they had. Don’t get me wrong I’m not advocating a return to a time of religious homogeneity across Europe, we don’t want another Spanish Inquisition after all. This is more a lamentation of the standard of discourse that usually accompanies any critique of religion more than anything else. It appears for the time being that The National Trust has swerved the worst of this scandal, after allegedly having thousands of people threaten to end their membership the Trust doubled down and released a statement confirming their commitment to the religious aspect of the Easter festival. It’s still unconfirmed whether they will be having a Muhammad pinata to celebrate Eid.
Written by George Gordon