Monday, April 17, 2017

Resurrections: A Post-Easter Rumination

     Something is happening. Something good. It’s been quiet until recently, but it’s slowly becoming more vocal, more visible, and more self-assured.

     I hope I’m reading the evidence accurately, because it’s something that all by itself could bring these United States back from the twin brinks of disaster and despair.

     I think Americans are rediscovering their Christianity.

     There’ve been many expressions of “Happy Easter!” sentiments on the Web this year. Religious sentiments; not “enjoy your chocolate bunnies” secular crap. People are acknowledging the reason for the feast day, and acknowledging its overwhelming significance. Considering how loud the militant atheists have been in deriding faith, and considering their alignment with left-wing assholes who’ll do anything to beat down those who dissent from their Hellish gospel, that’s a development of note.

     People in my usual orbits have been more cheerful about their Christianity lately, too. There’s less furtiveness about it, generally. That’s more important than it might seem. The pragmatic, temporal impact of a sincerely held faith is its moral-ethical code. It’s pretty hard to be dedicated to the observance of one’s moral code if one’s faith is treated as a cosmetic or an accessory.

     A lot of faiths have promulgated moral codes over the centuries. Most of them, pardon the expression, have been complete horseshit. Many have proceeded from some utterly ludicrous notion about racial or regional superiority. Only two – Christianity and its ancestor faith Judaism – have embedded what C. S. Lewis termed the Law of General Benevolence: the moral obligation to be well-disposed toward others regardless of their identities.

  • Hillel: “What is hateful to you, do not do to another.”
  • Jesus of Nazareth: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

     Unless you’re Robert Axelrod or a millennial genius of fantastic erudition, it can be tough to arrive at those principles from quotidian experience.

     As I’m a Catholic, I’ll add a few words about our particular burden and obligation. The Catholic Church in America has been under a cloud for some years, owing to the “pedophile priests” scandal. I have no doubt that many of the dioceses afflicted by the problem handled it very, very badly. I also have no doubt that the public-relations dimension of the thing was wildly overblown. Sex crimes sell newspapers and commercial slots, and the more lurid, the better.

     There’ve been pedophiles in the clergies of other religious denominations: Christian, Jewish, what-have-you. They don’t get the air time or column inches Catholic priests get, because of the Catholic requirement that our priests must be celibate. And of course, there are pedophiles among non-clerical occupations, as well. Indeed, pedophile Catholic priests were not statistically more numerous than pedophiles in other walks of life. That doesn’t excuse it, of course; as has been said, and truly, even one is too many.

     However, the reactions to the scandal have been healthful and heartening. An increasing number of American Catholics have involved themselves deeply in their parishes, partly from the desire to prevent such horrors and partly out of the recognition that their faith and the Church are of great value to them. They’re determined that no such blot will afflict their parishes, and not by contriving that the hierarchy should cover it up.

     Most encouraging of all, they’re being vocal about it, especially toward diocesan prelates desperate to have the whole thing be forgotten.

     Nothing could be more constructive toward the future of this nation than a general rebirth of sincere Christian allegiance. All Christian sects promulgate the same ethics: those summarized by Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount. Yes, we differ in some theological doctrines, and on some minor ethical points, but those pale in comparison to our commonalities. A Christian nation would be a nation whose people are at peace with one another, whose assumptions about one another are benevolent: “We may differ in methods, but I’m sure we want the same things for our countrymen.” It would not excuse the State or its agents from obedience to the laws that bind the rest of us. (Especially “Thou shalt not steal.”)

     Of course, the keyword in the above paragraph is sincere. One must not adopt a faith for pragmatic reasons. “It would be good for me and those around me” is not an adequate basis for committing oneself to a theological creed. That’s why Easter is such an important event.

     Jesus Christ’s Resurrection, on the third day after His death on the cross, is the confirmation of His authority and the authority of His preachments. Of course, the qualifier of importance here is “if it happened.” One must accept that He rose, laid the Great Commission on His apostles, and will come again at the end of all things to pronounce the judgments that only God is entitled to give.

     That’s an act of faith. One must rationally work one’s way past the objections to the Resurrection. One must then experience a private, interior event – a personal commitment to Christ’s Resurrection as a matter of historical fact – despite the inability to prove that it happened. These are things each candidate for the faith must do for himself.

     Lee Strobel did it. An intelligent, atheistic journalist, disturbed by his wife’s conversion and determined to “rescue” her from her newfound faith, found that despite his best efforts he could not debunk the Resurrection. Strobel became a Christian, and one of the best lay evangelists of our time.

     What about you, Gentle Reader?

1 comment: said...

It is a constant sorrow that some Christians swell with self-righteous condemnation of others. St. Paul said the "Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost (or chief, or worst)." I am, by far the worst sinner I know and am amazed by the grace shown me. I, therefore, have an obligation to show grace to others. "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy". This always struck me as bi-directional.
This, however, does not excuse us from judging righteously to protect the least of these and to stand for justice.