Let Easter be Easter

church of the holy sepulchre insideBefore I sign off for the day, let me make note of a provocative essay by Father James Martin, a Jesuit, over at Slate.com. The headline tells you what this is all about: "Happy Crossmas! Why Easter stubbornly resists the commercialism that swallowed Christmas." As the old saying goes, the American economy is -- year after year -- driven by two great forces, the Pentagon and Christmas. Why isn't the greatest Christian holiday of the year more of an economic force? C.S. Lewis had a great answer for that, when he noted that the Christian faith, ultimately, asks believers to face the bad news before they get to the Good News. Good Friday comes before Easter.

This really isn't a news story, but Martin tries to link these questions to the news. Thus, his essay contains lots of images sure to provoke readers on the political and social right as well as the left. Take this one for example, focusing on the images of Holy Week:

We may even sense resonances with some painful political issues still before us. Jesus of Nazareth was not only physically brutalized but also casually humiliated during his torture, echoing the abuses at Abu Ghraib. In 21st-century Iraq, some American soldiers posed prisoners with women's underwear on their heads as a way of scorning their manhood. In first-century Palestine, some Roman soldiers pressed down a crown of thorns onto Jesus' head and clothed him in a purple robe to scorn the kingship his followers claimed for him. After this, Jesus suffered the most degrading of all Roman deaths: crucifixion. Jesus remains the world's most famous victim of capital punishment.

To his followers, therefore, his execution was not only tragic and terrifying but shameful. It is difficult not to wonder what the Apostles would have thought of a crucifix as a fashion accessory. Imagine wearing an image of a hooded Abu Ghraib victim around your neck as holiday bling.

But that is not the ultimate question. Martin is onto something when he makes the simple observation that the doctrinal core of Easter is harder to avoid or to link to stuffed Santas at the local shopping mall.

In the end, Easter demands some kind of "yes" or "no" response. The answer is at the heart of the Christian faith itself.

This is why, in the tmatt trio, the question about the Resurrection is always the most important question and, in the end, is linked to all other questions about Christian theology. That's why it is the No. 1 question. Always.

Now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

(1) Are biblical accounts of the resurrection of Jesus accurate? Did this event really happen?

holy sepulchreThus, Martin writes:

Even agnostics and atheists who don't accept Christ's divinity can accept the general outlines of the Christmas story with little danger to their worldview. ... It's hard for a non-Christian believer to say, "Yes, I believe that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, died, was buried, and rose from the dead." That's not something you can believe without some serious ramifications: If you believe that Jesus rose from the dead, this has profound implications for your spiritual and religious life -- really, for your whole life. If you believe the story, then you believe that Jesus is God, or at least God's son. What he says about the world and the way we live in that world then has a real claim on you.

Easter is an event that demands a "yes" or a "no." There is no "whatever."

Slate.com is on to something here. It would be interesting to see a major news organization take on this question -- as a news topic.

Is Easter all that important, really? Who celebrates this feast with their intellectual fingers crossed? If people say that Easter -- Pascha, in the East -- is the most important truth in the faith, how does that affect their lives in reality?

Was Jesus raised from the dead? That's a hard question to ask on A1. Christmas sales are easier to cover.

Photos: Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem

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