Charlton Heston & Clip On Ties: My Childhood Easter Memories

by Brad Alexander

Easter is one of those times of year when in our culture there are things you are “supposed to do” simply because it’s Easter.

Kids will turn milk jugs into partially open rabbit heads built for the sole purpose of finding colored plastics eggs filled with candies and treats galore.

Facebook is filled with screaming toddlers in the lap of a giant bunny that resembles a college mascot more than a gentle steward of Spring and new life.

Women will wear new outfits or at least wear ones they haven’t dawned since the Fall officially took residence last November.

Little girls will wear dresses other than the Disney princess costumes they typically prefer.

Little boys will tug at tucked in shirts and brown shoes with actual laces, wearing them more because mom and dad told them to than for their own enjoyment.

Lamb or ham will be roasted. Hot cross buns and hard-boiled eggs will be served alongside other common Spring fair for a more-than-average Sunday meal.

While it may not carry the same sentimentality of a Christmas holiday, Easter is another one of the annual remembrances on the Christian calendar, and some will even argue that it’s even more important that Christmas simply because of the subject matter at hand.

But I’ll leave that argument for you and your Easter dinner guests.

As a child growing up in a small traditional reformed church in the early 80’s, my Easter childhood memories are probably similar to anyone else who grew up with church and Easter being a packaged deal.

One thing that particularly stands out is that Easter was the one time a year that I was asked (a.k.a. forced against my will) to wear a necktie.

Like any red blooded American boy, I preferred shorts and bare feet to wearing Dockers and a blazer or Hushpuppies loafers and the stiffest white dress shirt JC Penny had to offer.  

And the final blow of my boyhood independence was that vicious contraption called a clip-on neck tie.

Innocent in appearance as a hand-me down from my older brother, the clip-on tie felt much more like a Chinese finger trap attached to my throat.

The more I adjusted it, the more uncomfortable it became. And when I stealthily unclipped it during Sunday School, I would always scrape my adolescent adam’s apple trying to reattach it before rejoining my parents, because while it felt cool and rebellious to take it off, I feared the wrath of my mother much more than the teasing remarks of my friends.

I’m not sure how old I was when I was no longer “asked” to wear a neck tie, but I’m sure I said a prayer of thanksgiving and had an added element of joy in my worship that Easter Sunday.

But that’s not the only thing vivid thing I remember about Easter.

Who remembers this guy?

Charlton Heston as Moses in Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments

Charlton Heston as Moses in Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments

For me, watching The Ten Commandments around Easter time was as much a part of the season as that plastic shredded grass stuff that people use to stuff their Easter baskets.

To this day, when I read the story of Moses, the person I see in my mind’s eye is Charlton Heston.

Admittedly, I rarely made it through an entire showing of the film. It was already long enough as it is, but throw in the network commercial breaks, and my little boy brain could only take so much melodramatic overacting before I remembered I also had He-Man guys to play with.

But the story of Israel’s Exodus, and the First Passover, and the 10th plague that hit Egypt’s firstborn sons, were all part of the mystery that shaped my young understanding of how mysterious and powerful God really is.

Cecil B. DeMille got plenty of things wrong in making the film, but something he DID do well was to take the beauty, power, wrath, might, and mercy of the Almighty God and put it in front of us visually in such a way that made it real.

What some viewed as a myth suddenly moved beyond a good story and instead planted itself into reality.

By no means am I claiming that The Ten Commandments was some sort of God-ordained salvation tract, or even that it should be used as such, but for many in the mid 1950’s the God of the Bible came alive right before their modern-minded eyes.

And for me, and my young spiritual formation, God used Charlton Heston as Moses just as much as He used the flannel graph stories I heard in Sunday School to plant seeds of belief. Not belief in the saving power of Christ, but belief that there really is a God, and that He is a God to be revered and respected just as much as loved and adored.

This weekend is a time when our own church body will gather on Good Friday to remember and grieve the death of Jesus. And then return to rejoice and celebrate the fact that He has risen (risen, indeed!).

For us, as Christ’s followers, Easter is the ultimate expression of a good story planting itself into our reality.

  • We were separated from God because of sin, yet Christ died for us and paid the debt we could not pay.
  • We were enemies of God, but through Christ, we’ve been reconciled.
  • We were slaves to sin, but through Christ we’ve been ransomed back to God.
  • We were dead in sin, but now through the resurrection of Jesus, we are alive to God, new creations who are alive and able to live by the power of the Spirit’s work, which was accomplished by a real God, with a real plan, and who really did rise from the grave.

So in the midst of meal prepping, egg coloring, jelly-bean eating, and dress shopping, let’s be sure to also remember the greatest story every told, and that that story also happens to be true.

Oh yeah, and on behalf of little boys everywhere…avoid the clip-ons!