Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday Shouldn't Be So Good

Good Friday is the most somber day on the Christian calendar. Not only did Jesus die a gruesome and publicly humiliating death; his friends and followers also had no idea that the cross wouldn't be the end of the story. As far as they were concerned, the person and way of life in which they had invested their entire being were dead. All of a sudden Jesus' disciples and supporters were like survivors of the Jonestown Massacre.

Good Friday was not and should not be a happy day. Yet I find myself looking forward to Good Friday, because, at my workplace, it is the first paid holiday in nearly three months (since MLK Day back in January). This year Good Friday for me is an opportunity to play with the kids, catch up on Super Mario Galaxy, and possibly run a few errands. Many years Good Friday is a beautiful spring day perfect for taking a walk outside or pushing the kids on the swingset. At least this year's Good Friday forecast is "strong storms and wind with a high of 64." Seems appropriate.

I understand why Good Friday is a paid holiday at my place of employment. (I work for the church.) But it always has seemed strange to me that all Nashville-area schools also get a day off on Good Friday. (Nashville is not alone in this regard. Such also is the case in Evansville, Indiana, where I went to college, and in the Atlanta suburbs where my sister teaches.) Of course, Good Friday is not the official reason why kids are out of school today, but it's no coincidence that each year these schools' "spring holiday" falls on the Friday before Easter.

If school districts and employers really want to appease Christians, they shouldn't cancel school and work on Good Friday. Growing up in Indianapolis, my school district wasn't so eager to push the limits of the Establishment Clause. I always went to school on Good Friday—I suffered while Jesus suffered. If I had left school to attend a Good Friday service during the school day, I would have jeopardized my perfect attendance record. (I went eight years, from fifth grade through my senior year of high school without missing any school.) For me to have participated in Good Friday festivities—"festivities" probably being the wrong word—would have required true sacrifice.


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