Roger Wolsey has written an article on Elephant Journal: “A Kinder, Gentler, more Grown Up Easter.”
The article, with fantastic visual illustrations, explores the challenges of triumphal Easter:
The problem is that Christians started incorporating the ways of empire into their expression of their faith. From the most ancient of days, from warring tribes to the Roman empire—and on through the British and American empires—dominating forces sang victory songs and held grand victory celebrations and parades. Celebrating their conquests and might—as well as mocking and taunting their defeated foes. Pax Romana! Hail Caesar! Rome Rules! Long Live Caesar! Down with the Huns! The Greeks are sissies! Rule Britannia! Christ the Lord is Risen Today!…
Now it makes sense that Jesus’ earliest followers would’ve felt incredible comfort, vindication and outrageous joy upon their realization that even the worst that the Roman powers that be could dish out wasn’t enough to defeat Jesus and the Kingdom of God that he sought to usher in. They experienced an empty tomb and a risen Christ, confirming the truths and teachings that Jesus taught and showing that unconditional, vulnerable love is indeed the way, the truth, and the life—including loving our enemies. This (and the infusion of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost) emboldened them to continue on, and spread, in spite of severe hardship and persecution.
Over our first 300 years, the early Christians were brutally, harshly and systemically oppressed. Many hundreds, if not thousands, of them were crucified, torn apart by lions, or lit up as human torches along the city streets. Then, in 313 AD, Constantine ended the persecutions, converted to Christianity, (it’s debatable how fully however), legalized it, and eventually, it became the official religion of the Empire. In time, and arguably in part due to the spread of Christianity, the Roman empire collapsed and… drumroll…one could say that God had the last word and reclaimed for Him/Herself the titles that the Caesars had been claiming for themselves—including “God,” “Son of God,” “Savior,” “Divine,” “Lord,” and, even “Prince of Peace.”
And yet, it is that human impulse to gloat in the defeat of our enemies that’s the problem. You see, it isn’t what Christians are called to do. Relishing in the defeat of others isn’t what Jesus did or would do.
Wosley goes on to look at our hymns and compares them with sports fans taunting the other team and their fans:
Rather than love their enemies, they prefer to engage in the theological version of over-excited football players who spike the ball in the end-zone and gloat with dances and taunts.
I don’t deny the reality of the resurrection, and I certainly enjoy a great Easter celebration—and consider every Sunday throughout the year as a “mini-Easter”—heck, everyday for that matter. I’ve experienced resurrection power in my life and have witnessed it in the lives of others.
That said, I’m not willing to pretend. I’m not willing to pretend that Jesus’ resurrection completely defeated evil—a quick glance at a newspaper will disprove that.
And the ending is particularly powerful:
I waited until after Easter to submit this blog—as I didn’t want to rain on any of our parades—at least not on the day of them. I realize that my voice is a dissenting and minority one and that I may be shouting to the wind. Future Easter celebrations aren’t likely to change very much, but then again, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus weren’t very likely either.