You can always tell when Easter rolls around – just keep an eye out for all the fruit loop commentary that passes for Easter reflections. Secularists and Christians alike come out in force, mangling the heart of the Christian message in general and Resurrection Sunday in particular.
Consider just two examples which appeared in today’s press. Surely this year’s winner in Easter message mangling must go to a Uniting Church minister in NSW. This is how a newspaper headline runs: “Church leader likens inaction on climate to crucifying Christ”. The press account tells the story this way:
“The Moderator of the Uniting Church Synod of NSW and ACT, the Reverend Niall Reid, said in his Easter message that climate change was the result of ‘unsustainable, unfettered and unthinking addiction to economic growth’, and those who could not entertain a less destructive path were like those who sent Jesus to the Cross for expediency’s sake. Rising sea levels and more ferocious storms, floods and fires caused by climate change had the potential to threaten food security, exacerbate poverty and create an environment ripe for war, he said.
“‘God is found in the lives of those who seek remedies and work towards God’s vision of a reconciled and renewed creation,’ he said. ‘Surely in our time [God’s] vision is most threatened by climate change, which the science seems to be telling us is caused by human activity’.”
There you have it folks. The Easter message has now been turned into yet another bit of climate change fear mongering, with some trendy anti-capitalism thrown in to boot. And those who push this new green religion are in fact the ones in whom “God is found”.
Gee, and there I thought all along that God was found in those who have repented of their sin, turned from their selfishness, and embraced Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. Oh foolish me, how could I have gotten this so wrong for so long, and billions of others as well?
According to this minister, Al Gore must be the greatest Christian preacher out there, and our own alarmist, Tim Flannery, must be one of God’s most holy prophets. And God must be dwelling in people like Paul Ehrlich, Peter Singer, Bob Brown, Penny Wong and Michael Moore big time. Let us now all bow down and worship – Gaia that is. And socialism too.
And we are obviously all wrong to have thought that it was our sin that sent Jesus to the cross. According to this minister, it sounds like the real culprits are those who dare to question the global warming hysteria and anthropogenic causes of it. They are the real Christ-killers it appears.
Of course other candidates for message mauling can be mentioned. One Melbourne Age writer also took a stab at what Easter is all about. While he did somewhat better than the minister, he still managed to miss the point big time. In his piece, Peter Craven was all over the place.
Of course having relatively secular writers in relatively secular newspapers seeking to tell us about the message of Easter is always going to be a precarious affair. This guy does much of the usual routine which is offered in such cases. He tells us that whether we believe in the Easter event or not, we all should still ‘keep alive the Easter story’.
What? It does not matter if we in fact believe what the Easter message is all about, but we should nonetheless keep promoting it and celebrating it? That is about as helpful as saying it does not matter if you actually believe that freedom and democracy are superior to tyranny and oppression, but we should try to keep the story alive anyway.
In his telling of the story, he draws upon the wit and wisdom of Hinduism and Buddhism and other traditions as he seeks to enlighten us about the Easter message. Indeed, in his version of events we should simply rejoice in the fact that we all belong to one big happy religious family. Consider for example this ecumenical gem:
“In practice, Christians who ponder the trinity can find themselves fascinated by the parallels between this mystery of their own theology and the idea of the Atman and the Brahmin in Hinduism. No one who knows the storm and the fury, the evocation of the grandeur of the wrath of the Most High, in the Old Testament will rush to judgment in condemning some of the ferocities in the Koran. It can also be handy to remember the Christian monastic tradition of prayer and contemplation in the light of Buddhist meditation or the ravishing beauties of the Sufi tradition of mysticism in Islam.”
There you go folks: moral equivalence in action. One religion is as good as another. Yet he still wants us to “keep alive the stories of the Bible and the beauty of the language in which they speak.” Yes, that is all very nice and everything, but it is not exactly the reason why Christ came, or what the Easter story is in fact all about.
Indeed, what these secular or nominal Christian writers do time and time again is miss the very heart of the Christian story. They are happy to take something like Easter and turn it into a nice moralistic tale, or a feel good story about new beginnings, or about some therapeutic lesson in good and evil, and so on.
But the story of Easter, of Resurrection Sunday, is not at all about such sentimental sap. It is about the coming of Christ who had an important life and death mission to carry out. It is about a world soaked in sin and headed for eternal torment. It is about men and women who are chained to sin and self, and are without hope in the world.
It is about the coming of a Saviour – someone who took our place on the cross, taking the punishment that we deserve for our sin upon himself, thereby making a way in which we can find forgiveness, be set free, and obtain a restored relationship with a holy and just God.
That is the very heart of the Christian message. It is not about the latest trendy greenie campaign, and it is not about our rich and colourful literary heritage. The Gospel message as reflected in Easter may well impact on all those matters, and much more, but at its core it is a simple message, one which both of these individuals have completely lost sight of.
Paul said it very simply, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15). That is the Easter message. That is the gospel. That is what Christians are to proclaim. This Uniting Church fellow missed it completely, as did the Age writer.
But if there is only one message given to us whereby we might be saved, then we should not at all be surprised that a zillion and one counterfeit versions of this message should be in circulation. If there is indeed a devil who hates the Christian message, then we can expect that he would be working overtime, helping people come up with all sorts of pseudo-gospels and false gospels.
That is his full time job. And it seems like he is being quite successful, if these two examples are anything to go by. And given that there would be plenty of other examples one could mention here, he seems to be on a roll. The good news is however that God is on a roll as well, and in the end his message will prevail.
The truth of what Resurrection Sunday is all about will never disappear. All the phony baloney gospel substitutes will disappear, but the Easter message will abide forever. So let us do our best to proclaim it fearlessly, loudly, boldly and resolutely.