Some things I hate and others I like about Easter

Once, a boy was standing in front of his father’s new car. The idea of slipping into the car and driving it was tentalising. In no time he got into the driver’s seat and was marvelling at the steering wheel, switches, pedals, levers. A few seconds later he found himself moving off but suddenly bumping into a parked car. The father, who was in a nearby shop came running out and was furious! He started hitting the boy like crazy. His wife could not help seeing her son being beaten up like that and tried to shield the boy. By the time the man had exhausted all his anger, she was badly bruised and aching all over but at least her son was spared.

During this time of the year we hear this message over and over again. This is what Easter means for many Christians: humanity sinned and God had to do justice by punishing someone… luckily for us it was his son who bore his outrage and we have been spared!

I cannot express enough how disagreeable I find this message to be! This is so wrong! Apart from portraying a tyrant image of God, this idea says a lot about our idea of justice. For many of us justice means suffering for the wrong one does. No wonder I meet so many people who are guilt stricken, who feel they do not deserve to enjoy life. Unsurprisingly, our justice system is also still heavily based on this idea of punishment with little emphasis on reformation despite the “correctional” in the name of our prison.

While I used to be offended over and over again with phrases like “… my blood which will be poured out […] for the forgiveness of sins”, I tried hard to make sense of it all. As a believer, the sense I found in Easter was that God was suffering with(in) us; the incarnate God never shunned suffering. I used to find this idea of a God full of solidarity very comforting for this life where suffering and pain abound. More profoundly, this gives a new dimension to suffering – a somewhat divine nature.

Today Easter has another meaning for me: it is a sign of hope for humanity. The fact that people are still celebrating the life of a simple, powerless man from an insignificant village after two millennia is incredible. OK, millions of celebrators might not know what they are celebrating, but surely, some do appreciate the beauty of this man who was brutally killed because he said things as they were, because he did not conform to the status quo, because he was kind to all kinds of people. The belief that so many people are celebrating these values fills me with hope. Yet, even if nobody is actually celebrating these qualities, the fact that there was once a man with all this beauty is enough reason to celebrate!

My hope is that this beauty outshines the ugly throughout the whole world – even within myself. Although there is a lot of ugly around us, people like Jesus, Gandhi, and many others who are still fighting for truth and freedom to this day, keep my hopes high. I will sum up with a quote by Etty Hillesum who never lost hope despite living in a very ugly Nazi concentration camp:

“It is sometimes hard to take in and comprehend, oh God, what those created in Your likeness do to each other in these disjointed days. But I no longer shut myself away in my room, God; I try to look things straight in the face, even the worst crimes, and to discover the small, naked human being amid the monstrous wreckage caused by man’s senseless deeds. […] I try to face up to your world, God, not to escape from reality into beautiful dreams – though I believe that beautiful dreams can exist beside the most horrible reality – and I continue to praise your creation, God, despite everything.”

7 thoughts on “Some things I hate and others I like about Easter

  • Reply Sinclair Bugeja 30th March 2013 at 11:46 am

    I couldn’t help find the analogy you highlighted at the very start of the article somewhat flawed. Surely this is not the story of salvation I believe in! I will not go into the great debate between the Thomists and the Scotists about the motive for incarnation and salvation but I will be using both ideas to highlight my point. For me salvation history goes as such: God created man; He created him as a free being (man can opt to seek and not to seek God); man chose the God-less path and as a consequence his being is radically broken (in plain English ‘he sinned’); God (in His love) desires to reconcile us back with Him. This brings us to the HOW did God save us? As the infinitely Absolute being, God could have chosen different ways how to redeem man. Yet He chose one particular way: God became man and dwelt among us (this is the main reason for incarnation according to Scotus). To show us the fullness of His love, he not only became man but debased himself to the extent of suffering the excruciating pain of the cross. Through this humble example we are invited to love God and one another as He did: to the very extremes.

    I suggest that a better story to explain the redemptive character of Christ’s incarnation would be that of ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ by CS Lewis. Similarly striking is this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LKR7oublZcY.

    HAPPY EASTER!!!

    • Reply Christian Colombo 31st March 2013 at 12:59 pm

      The aim of the analogy is not to portray the official Church teachings but to portray the way many Christians see it and how it is unfortunately still portrayed in many homilies to this day. I think that this is unsurprising given the strong parallels drawn from the Old Testament idea of the sacrificial lamb.

      I like the way you presented the idea of salvation through incarnation but I see a gap when it comes to suffering, i.e. this sentence: “To show us the fullness of His love, he not only became man but debased himself to the extent of suffering the excruciating pain of the cross.” In what way does his suffering shows he loves us? In what way did his suffering bring us salvation? As far as I’m concerned, suffering should be avoided when it’s avoidable. (I’m assuming you agree with me that it was avoidable, otherwise there was no choice involved.) In the video you posted, things happened because of an accident, but it would have been stupid for the boy to simply choose to be crushed by the train to show the people he loved them.

  • Reply Sinclair Bugeja 31st March 2013 at 4:31 pm

    You are hinging on a pivotal theme in Christianity: the problem of suffering. Indeed it is central in the HOW? of salvation. In Christianity, love and suffering are one and the same thing. To love is to sacrifice a part of oneself; a renunciation of the ‘I’ to the ‘You’. And indeed, isn’t suffering part of the human condition? (careers need painful exams; a mother has to go through labour to bring a child into the world).

    This may sound crazy to a nonbeliever. An atheist and a Christian bear two irreconcilable notions of what suffering is. Though the Christian avoids unnecessary pain (in no way is Christ’s passion and death an act of suicide or masochism), he knows that the passage from birth to death is a mere prelude to eternity. What we suffer over here will pass just as anything else; what matters is eternal life. In this sense, as you have said, suffering has “a somewhat divine nature”.

    With respect to the last sentence of your reply, the video is simple an analogy and it obviously lends us a part and not the whole picture. I cannot say what was the son’s motive for doing what he did. Yet I thing that he did it through a free act of his will to save the passengers on the train. It is interesting that you used the word “stupid”. Indeed, the boy (as with Christ) is seen as irrational by the world. It is crazy from an atheist point of view to expire one’s life for another human being because what matters is the interval between birth and death. The Christian looks beyond.

    • Reply Christian Colombo 31st March 2013 at 5:07 pm

      I think I haven’t explained myself well… I do see the point of someone giving his life for another. If I have to give my life to save that of, say, a 100 others, it rationally makes sense that I should give up my life. My point was that the boy accidentally fell into the drawbridge gear works – it wasn’t stupid that his father saved the people or that the boy tried to warn his father, but it would have been stupid if the boy intentionally fell so that he would give his life for the train passengers.

  • Reply John P Cauchi 31st March 2013 at 6:56 pm

    I would like to give my opinion on this. I am no expert on theological matters, but I have struggled to concile the Crucifixion of Christ with my experience in faith.

    The fact is this – we are taught, as Chris rightly said, that we wronged God through our sins, and therefore the only way to stop God beating us up over it was His Son dying instead of us. Hence the “He died for your sins” argument.

    That, to me, sounds like a Schizophrenic God, pardon the bluntness. Why would God, omniescent and all-powerful, even bother creating us if he knew he would get peeved off in the future at our sins, etc etc. It is quite a silly argument if you ask me.

    The mystery of Christ’s Crucifixion as I see makes perfect sense when taken in the context of the Old Testament. One of the most intriguing books in the Old Testament is that of Job, a righteous man who, despite his righteousness, suffers greatly. He effectively puts God on trial, and is a fascinating read.

    God doesn’t really answer him in the end – the reply is more of a “what can you, a man, see in the greater context of things?”. I see Christs’ Crucifixtion therefore as a reply to that suffering – that we may not understand suffering., Nor may we see sense in it. But at the end of the day, Jesus came and suffered with us in the most humiliating and painful ways of his time. In effect, God replied by saying “You may not see clearly yet, but I want to tell you that I too shall undergo your suffering to show you I am with you.”

    • Reply John P Cauchi 31st March 2013 at 7:08 pm

      In effect therefore, we cannot tell God “You do not understand our suffering because you are God.” No, God chose to undergo that suffering Himself so that we can refer to a fully human side to Him.

      Therefore the Crucifixion becomes redeeming in the sense that we can now identify with God – we can now know Him personally, as He too has suffered with us. The “Sacrifice” becomes therefore a point of reference we can relate to. The “forgiveness of sins” is taken in context – if Jesus suffered so greatly because of our sins and foolishness, and He was fully righteous, so too we can expect to suffer because we are not fully righteous.

      God’s reply to our sin, therefore, is to Himself undergo great physical, spiritual and emotional suffering as a man. He therefore replies to our sin with utter, complete empathy. Sins, therefore, are more “rendered irrelevant” than forgiven – they become a means through which we can relate to God, and not a stumbling block which needs a sacrifice to be “paid back in kind”. God, in effect, becomes utterly relatable, and serves as The example.

      Therefore I totally agree with you on this one Chris. A God who sends His own son to suffer his anger is, frankly, a very schizophrenic God. But a God who chooses to suffer with us? That, to me, fits perfectly with the image of a loving God. And a God who ultimately also responds to the silence of death through a Joyous Resurrection.

    • Reply gavazzu 2nd April 2013 at 11:21 pm

      I beg to differ with some of the ideas presented so far:

      1. the problem of suffering, which Chris refers to in his analogy needs to be clarified. I believe that suffering becomes a burden because of sin. In my opinion, the myth of Adam and Eve presents this truth clearly. Adam would still till the land and Eve would give birth accompanied by pain prior to eating the apple, but it was only after they sinned that they were burdened with their suffering. This leads us to the question, can we suffer joyfully or peacefully? I know people who actually do and I believe that this is one of the miracles of Resurrection in everyday life.

      2. Jesus’s death can be viewed, as several theologians propose, from the perspective of his strong desire to proclaim the Kingdom of God and forgiveness. This message was not accepted by his contemporaries and therefore Jesus saw that the only way forward was that of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah, actualising what he proclaimed through his very death.

      3. The truth of “the blood poured out” should be seen not simply as the epitome of senseless suffering or even masochism. We need to keep in mind that the word “blood” for Jews was synonymous with “life”. Given their culture they would never had dreamt of drinking the cup of any animal’s blood, let alone a person’s. It is therefore the giving up of one’s life to the end, which incidentally – and in practice, ended up with Christ’s actual blood spilt on the cross.

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