The Politics of Easter

Christianity is often misunderstood, and often misunderstood by the "believers."

Easter is a political fact: that the merciful governance of a power beyond our understanding has been inaugurated in human history. Easter is not a mere "religious doctrine" to which Christianity calls potential adherents to give their intellectual assent, so that they might receive some reward in the after-life.

But if Easter is to be rightly recognized as a political fact, it must always be kept in tandem with Good Friday: what Easter vindicates is not the self-righteous claims of any particular group of people who see themselves as the good guys. Instead, Easter vindicates suffering love.

Note that Easter is not the triumph of suffering love. The triumph of suffering love is demonstrated on Good Friday.

When the powers-that-be would trump the truth with their big sticks and walls and torture, and yet the threatened one chooses, still, to bear witness to the truth: this itself is a victory. When the powers-that-be mock the one who protests the conceit of the powers, or when the powers-that-be spur the crowds to violence: in the midst of such fear-mongering, where is one who will stand undeterred, who will exhibit courage, who will not return hatred for hatred? Where is the one who will embody the meaning of being a true human?

Good Friday exhibits the true human, victorious in suffering, undeterred by the arrogance of the powers.

But he was a loser; he was tortured, killed; and if he had had a wife and kids, they might have been tortured and killed too.

Yes, but, the true human's apparent defeat is in fact a triumph. How else could the fundamental truth of this claim -- that suffering love is the grain of the universe -- how else could this public, political claim be tested, except in such a public, political ordeal?

And the true human's apparent defeat is, in fact, a triumph in this way too: in showing the arrogance and the ultimate emptiness of the powerful for what it is. It was a representative of the super-power who stood by on that Good Friday who realized, watching the torture and killing of the true human, what the empire had just done. "These are not good people, kill 'em, shut them up" -- this is the glib way the super-power killed the true human. But at least some, through the ordeal of that Good Friday, saw the conceited, bombastic display of power for what it was.

To be willing to suffer well is itself, then, the triumph of suffering love.

What then, of Easter, the politics of Easter? Easter is the vindication of suffering love. Easter: a non-repeatable, public, political claim that the true human shall not be kept in the grave. To cultured despisers of religion and any notion of "revealed truth," it seems laughable.

But if it is true -- that the way of suffering love has been vindicated, has been shown to be the way in which the universe ultimately works -- then it is a question with which we must all deal, religious or not. To argue with Easter is like arguing with gravity: it does not matter whether one "believes" it or not; it is simply a matter of whether we will continue to wound and harm and destroy ourselves by refusing to respect its reality.

That the way of love, even when tortured and killed, shall not be kept dead: if this be true, then such a claim would re-order not merely one's private life, but the whole of life, and the whole of history, and the whole of politics.

Easter vindicates a new kind of politics: "whoever would be great among you must be your servant." "Let your yes be yes, your no be no." "Do good to those who do evil to you." "Welcome the little children." "Pray for those who spitefully use you."

So, after Easter, if we would speak of making our community "great again," we must come to terms with the politics of Easter: to be great requires a deep and liberating humility, a mercy and quiet persistence in meeting others in their distress, an allowance for others to speak and to be heard, a universal proclamation of the goodness of all human beings.

Easter is the ineffable, incomprehensible claim that the fundamental power beneath, above, and in the Universe has spoken with unmistakable clarity: the way of suffering love is the very grain of the universe, and nothing shall trump its beauty or power or truth.