Three years ago (2015), the then Prime Minister wrote an article for Premier Christianity magazine, giving, as it were, his Easter message to the Christians of the UK. This is definitely a step up from the “We don’t do God” politics of the Blair/Campbell era of the late 1990’s, and this in spite of the viscous rhetoric of the so-called “New Atheists,” particularly since the 9-11 attacks, Cameron’s willingness to advance a smarter politics by engaging the UK’s Christians. That is to be commended, but.
I’m just suspicious of it all never-the-less. At least the UK lad and ladette culture of rampantly secular and materialistic 1990’s meant that senior politicians would never get away with a nod to the UK’s diminishing religious groups. It was open season on those silly people of faith.
However, what Cameron said was of a generally sufficient vagueness that might fool some of the people some of the time, but not me . . . three years after the event!
He tells us what Easter is – are you ready for this?
“…for me, the key point is this: the values of Easter and the Christian religion – compassion, forgiveness, kindness, hard work and responsibility – are values that we can all celebrate and share.”
These are not the values of Easter. They are the values of decent people anywhere of any religion or none, as he said, “values that we can all celebrate and share.” They are humanity’s virtues, even so, they may be entailments of Easter, but they are not the “key point” at all.
These comments amount to a flattening out of the dynamic power and truth of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, as recounted in the Gospel. So what comments like this are designed to do, is to take something like a fast flowing river and turn it into a pleasant pond! Or worse, imagine Martin Luther Kings “I have a dream” speech being delivered on PowerPoint!
Not one bit of it. If Christianity’s central claim that Jesus is risen from the dead (and he is by the way – checkmate atheists), and all that serves is to make me a docile but pleasant and productive member of society who exhibits the lovely Middle Class virtues of “kindness, hard work and responsibility,” then, frankly, I’m out!
In Mark’s gospel, when Jesus died, the earth shook, there was an earthquake! That is what should happen when an individual encounters the risen Christ – the earth of their world is torn in two, buildings of idolatry and sin and rebellion towards God come crashing down, fear in the face of a holy God are turned into bold and empowered living by the indwelling Holy Spirit. For sure go ahead and show kindness, work hard and be responsible, but note that they in themselves are not the telos of Easter.
P. T. Forsyth once said something like, it was easier for God to create the world than it was for Him to redeem it. Redemption, Salvation, these mighty acts of God are what Easter is about. It is holy; it is mighty; it is transformative. It is not a PowerPoint on nice living and good citizenship. That diet-Gospel religious blandness you can keep; it just whiffs of a kind of new opium of the people, when what we need is the aroma of Christ.
Forsyth once again,
“The greatest product of the Church is not brotherly love (as some suppose) but divine worship. And we shall never worship right nor serve right until we are more engrossed with our God than even with our worship; with His reality than our piety; with His cross than with our service.”