Saturday, 15 April 2017

Love, Allegorically

What if Easter actually happened?

We can approach Easter as a figurative truth rather than a literal one. That it is – and always has been - allegory rather than chronicle. This allows us detachment from which to consider peripheral elements like:
  • How neatly it coincides with the Vernal Equinox.
  • How neatly it coincides with other festivals which feature death, like Passover, Ching Ming (China), and Higan (Japan).
  • How it may have evolved from, or been combined with, other pagan festivals.
  • How it’s such a pity that modern agnostics simply treat Easter as a chance to get time off work and perhaps travel (at peak prices).
By treating it as an intellectual curiosity, we can easily put it aside and return to the quite present demands of social engagements, planning holidays, and bracing for a return to work. The biggest inconvenience for me in considering Easter figuratively is a slight resentment at colonialism having imposed doctored Christian rituals on my ancestors, who had no use for 4-season meteorological analogies in a region where there were only 2.

The fun lies in taking Easter literally. That John 3:16 is, pardon the pun, the gospel truth:
“There is a God. He sent his son. We slaughtered him as a scapegoat. But not really, because he respawned over the weekend.”
Panic is my first reaction to the Easter story as literal truth. What is God like? How do the mechanics of divine sacrifice work? Is this what love is? Wouldn’t God, who spazzed out when his people looted cities incorrectly, be even more pissed that the same culprits killed his son? Somehow, a literal Easter is more immediate, harder to intellectualise and abstract away.

Easter as fact was championed most famously by C.S. Lewis. His ‘Lord, Lunatic, or Liar’ trilemma is ultimately reductive, but challenges us to confront the possibility that Christ’s sacrifice – stripped of dilutive context - was real.

Carl Jung bravely proposed that Christ was the “Answer to Job” in his eponymous booklet: God redeeming himself for the suffering he inflicts on Job and mankind, rather than creating an avenue for our salvation. However, this also distracts from facing Easter as God’s terrible magnanimity.

Some would be reassured. Others would be uncomfortable. I panic. I have long operated on the basis that God and his works are so far removed as to be absent. An absolute truth so contrary to my assumptions is disturbing as to be disabling, which quite reflects my character.

Also telling is my reflexive retreat to ambiguity. I resort to concluding that the God I fear is a product of my childhood. Many great people were also liars and lunatics, why not Jesus? Thus, I can put a God that defies definition back on the shelf by wrapping him in my ignorance. My knowledge of God will always be imperfect, so why bother?

Atheists may think I am wasting my time, but I have a whole long weekend to play with, so surely I can spare a few minutes cowering at divinity. Christians may consider my reverence insufficient, but perhaps our wiser forefathers chose to hold Easter only once a year for good reason. I can consider God's love allegorically every other day.

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