Word Up, Christendom!


It is hard these days to escape the conclusion that we live in troubled times. Misery stalks at us every turn. Surrounded by stories of disaster, crime, economic catastrophe, environmental Armageddon and promiscuous televised lesbians, it can sometimes seem as though the human race is doomed to an irrevocable downward spiral and that life holds nothing for any of us but pain and sorrow and hyper-obesity.

With the universe so cruel and indifferent to suffering, what’s the point of anything? Does it really matter whether we keep going with our lives, or simply crawl into bed and while away the rest of our lives sobbing quietly over the inspirational tales of courage and internet fraud in That’s Life magazine?

And it is because of this bleak and unnecessarily realistic view of life that Easter is such an important time of year. For Easter is a time for hope. A time for renewal. A time for faith and charity and quiet reflection. A time for patronising Easter messages to flood the media with their simple sentiments of love and religious intolerance. Not for nothing is Easter called "Christmas’s uninteresting little sister".

Easter has always been an important date on the Australian spiritual calendar. Indeed, it dominates the first third of every year. The festivities begin in January, when folk everywhere gather together for the traditional Bitching About The Premature Selling Of Easter Eggs, and everywhere the air is filled with the sound of happy, whiny voices. Mid-January is in fact the happiest time of the year in this country, when all the weighty issues of the world slip into the background and we are united in our hatred of supermarkets that force us to look at chocolate rabbits before we’re ready.

After this comes Lent, when good Christians prepare themselves for the celebration of Easter via a period of sacrifice and self-denial. It is customary for Lent to be marked by the giving up of something important to the individual — for example, in Australia, it is traditional to give up knowing what Lent is.

Following Lent comes the big day itself — Good Friday, when we commemorate the sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus, who selflessly allowed himself to be nailed to a cross in order to spare the human race from God’s holy bloodlust.

It’s important to take some time, this Easter, to reflect on Christ’s sacrifice. These days, with so many people turning away from the Church and finding themselves "too busy" to pay attention to religion, it’s easy to forget just what horrible, undeserving scum we are. That’s the price we pay for ignoring George Pell. But Easter is a time when we can step back from the "rat race" for a few days and rediscover our deep inner guilt. A time to reconnect with our innately filthy souls.

Of course, as the story goes, Jesus rose from the dead three days after Good Friday, which is why we celebrate the resurrection on Easter Sunday — a recognition of the miracle, mystery and poor maths of the Christian story. We celebrate this with the traditional Easter symbols of the cross, representing death; eggs, representing rebirth; and rabbits, representing devastating agricultural plagues.

In many ways we can see that the Easter long weekend — Good Friday, Easter Saturday, Easter Sunday, Easter Monday — is a metaphor for the four stages of life: Depression, Shopping, Over-eating, and Boredom. Easter is, indeed, the holiday which more than any other informs us about who we are, where we are going, and why we are all so fat. That is why it remains the most sacred of days for people of all faiths: Christian, Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian — all of them.

But I know what you’re saying. You’re saying, "Why is this normally incisive political commentator writing on such esoteric religious matters, rather than cutting to the quick of the social discourses that shape our experience as citizens, as he usually does?"

And yes, there is a reason that I have chosen to send an Easter message rather than dissecting the minutiae of parliamentary procedure or eviscerating the mighty and powerful with my usual irrepressible wit.

As I noted earlier, we are in trouble. If we are not about to be blown up by terrorists, we are almost certain to starve to death after being made redundant by a major multinational automotive company. If our job remains intact, it is only so that we can support ourselves up to the point where we are drowned by rising seas or baked alive by an ever-hotter atmosphere. And should we somehow avoid the hot suffocating embrace of global warming, we will probably be shot by bikies or mauled by chimps or raped by footballers. Even our own governments are out to get us, with the news this week that Kevin Rudd wants to extend sinister information-carrying cables right into our homes. Big Brother, welcome to Australia.

Yes, there is indeed nothing good to say about what’s in store. But still, at Easter we can put all that aside. We can join hands, and look with warmth and compassion upon our fellow man. We can remember the less fortunate among us, and kindly, sincerely, move on to less depressing thoughts. We can sit with our loved ones and share moments of peace and goodwill, stuffing our chubby faces, leaving the inevitable Type 2 diabetes to be dealt with another day. We can rejoice in what is best in mankind, and live, for just a few days, in a gentler, simpler time. A time of smartie-filled bunnies and morning egg hunts and jerky stop-motion bible stories on TV. A time when yes, we truly can believe that if we are good, a gigantic rodent will slip silently into our bedrooms while we sleep.

So, this Easter, I beg you — don’t think about the wider world. Put down your newspapers, turn off the news. Take a break from Chinese takeovers and global downturns and Middle Eastern violence and crybaby air-force staff.

This Easter, take some time to remember what’s really important: the temporary heartfelt adherence to a dominant religious doctrine in order to reassure ourselves of our innate moral righteousness in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence.

And I think there’s something about fish.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.