So, how did you spend Easter? Did you enjoy some time off work? Did you get away from it all? Did you scarf down enormous quantities of chocolate? Was it all basically just relaxing, kicking back and so forth?
Let me tell you about how a guy I know spent Easter, about 2000 years ago. He spent it getting tortured to death for your sins.
So how do you feel now? Do you feel good, spending the holiday season in recreation and gluttony with scarcely a thought for the horrific tale of pain and bloodshed that lies behind it? Hopefully, now you feel awful and wracked with intense guilt, and seeing as we’re discussing Christianity, that’s a good start.
You see, somewhere in the course of human history, as we concerned ourselves with earthly things, with the accumulation of material goods and pleasures of the flesh and our mad, pathological lust for stable representative democracy, we allowed ourselves to forget what Easter is actually about.
Well, almost. We can thank God — all three of Him — that there remain some people of strong Christian integrity and ethics. That these people live in Geelong might seem strange at first, but really shouldn’t surprise us too much. After all, Jesus himself lived in humble Nazareth — known to historians as the Geelong of Palestine — so it makes perfect sense that it was in Geelong that a group of plucky young Christians known as Heaven on Earth Apostolic Life Ministries decided to teach the common people the true message of Easter by staging a mock crucifixion in the middle of a busy shopping precinct.
We should likewise not be too surprised that the secularist police shut the display down on the orders of a crypto-socialist government that, like all Australian governments, loves nothing more than repressing religious freedom and vomiting down Christ’s tunic.
And what was their excuse this time? What was the smokescreen for their bigotry, their concocted "reason" for denying the citizenry inspiration and moral guidance?
Get this — they claimed that children were scared by the display.
Scared! Can you think of anything more ludicrous than the suggestion that children would be somehow "scared" of a crucifixion? That innocent young folk would be "frightened" of the core message of Christianity? That wee little mites would be in some way "freaked out" by the simple, inspiring sight of a half-naked man hanging from a piece of wood covered in blood? Pathetic.
Yet this seems to be the way of the world these days. Oh, of course we’re happy to take the "easy" bits of religion — the holidays, the presents, the Guy Sebastians — but when it comes to the real meaning of faith, to the actual message that Our Lord sent to us way back then, we cower and whimper and turn our faces away. It seems that so detached are we from our spiritual base that we now believe we can have a religion of love and peace without nightmarish images of death. Keep dreaming, Christians — dreaming in Hell!
The fact is that Christianity has lost its way, and we need to heed good folk like Heaven on Earth who are trying to bring us all back to basics. We need to remember why we became Christians in the first place. It wasn’t for the glamour, or for the sense of superiority, or for the creeping fear of death — these are side issues.
No, the appeal lies in the simple power of the Greatest Story Ever Told, the story of an all-powerful being who so loved His greatest creations that rather than punish them for their entirely predictable sins, He chose instead to forgive them by disguising Himself as an ordinary man and committing temporary suicide, so that forevermore only those who chose the wrong religion would suffer eternal agony. It was because of that story, a story of love and hope, that we decided, "this is the religion for me!" It wasn’t the chocolate eggs — indeed, sometimes it’s almost difficult to see what chocolate eggs have to do with capital punishment in ancient Judea at all.
And it’s exactly that story that we need to teach our children today. So far from covering our children’s eyes and putting a stop to religious tableaux in our public spaces; we should make our children look at these things. We should make them study them up close. We should hold their heads in a strong, tight grip and force their eyelids open with our other hand as they stare at the crucifix. We should push them right up to the feet of the man playing Jesus and bark gruffly, "Think about it!" We should make them memorise every rivulet of fake blood, by rubbing their faces in it if necessary.
We should, in short, take every measure to ensure that the image of a man bleeding and dying on a cross is burnt into their neurons forever, so that it’s lurking there in the background in their every waking moment. And as they lie in bed at night, too terrified to go to sleep, there it will be, floating in front of their eyes. And they should be terrified, because you know what? The day you forget the crucifixion is the day Satan drops something in your drink, and later that night he’s going to do dreadful things to you.
That’s why we have carvings of Jesus’s death on our church walls, and hanging around our necks, and that’s why we need to have people acting out his horrific bloody demise in public as often as possible.
Christians need to emphasise why they’re different from other religions. They need a hook. "Try Christianity: the religion with blood everywhere" is the perfect slogan to carry the faith forward in the 21st century. It’s much better than competing slogans like "the religion where people don’t blow themselves up as often as the media would have you believe"; or "the religion with aliens". And it’s streets ahead of Christianity’s current motto: "the religion for firm young boys with a healthy willingness to experiment".
So there you have it: that’s why I’m calling for more public mock crucifixions, not fewer, to remind us that Easter isn’t all bunnies and chocolate; it’s also about reflection, prayer and brutal punishment.
Hopefully we can even extend this insight to other holidays: we can incorporate mock Muslim-bayoneting into the Anzac Day Parade; mock land-stealing into Australia Day festivities; and most excitingly, mock virgin births at Christmas. Of course, this last will also necessitate the insertion of mock babies into virgins before we start, but it’s surely feasible, if we’re really committed to reminding people of the reason for the season.
I’m not asking you to give up the celebrations, the parties, the bonhomie. I’m just asking that, on your next religious holiday, remember that it is also a solemn occasion; a time for reverence and prayer and recognition of the power of faith to not only transform lives, but also to compel grown adults to take off their clothes, smear red food colouring all over their bodies, and dangle themselves from planks in crowded thoroughfares.
Let’s make next Easter one to remember: get out those crosses and get moaning, people. Time to put into practice those most beautiful and moving words of the Saviour Jesus Christ: blessed are the torture-porn re-creationists, for if they do not inherit the earth, they will at least annoy the hell out of everyone in the immediate vicinity.
Amen to that, Lord.
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