Since I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve tried to commemorate the Easter season each year. Granted I’ve not always succeeded, but the intention is there. Thing is, I was born and raised in the church and sometimes, like Christmas, it’s hard to think of anything new or imaginative to say about these festivals, festivals that are central but sometimes hard to see anew. So I’m glad I noticed that this year Good Friday coincides with Earth Day, because that got me thinking…
We all fall short of the glory; we know that, in our hearts of hearts, and we feel it every time we see the front pages staring at us from a newsagent’s window. Okay, we all disagree on what falling short of that glory looks like (some say dancing, some say drinking, some say genocide, or being gay, or wearing the wrong kind of clothes, or rock music, or…), but I don’t want to get into a thousand of those debates; we all just know that something’s wrong, and you’ll feel it in your bones next time a child goes missing or police start beating protestors somewhere in the world.
But, and this is what links this post to Earth Day, it’s not just people affected by all this. It’s more-or-less the anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and now there’s another spill in Pennsylvania, and these have been linked to inadequate safety practices and greed, and so mankind’s moral screw-ups not only affect ourselves – after all, we can justify our own shortcomings, maybe we even get good at it in order to keep ourselves sane – but the whole realm of nature.
(Kurt Vonnegut once wrote, “The biggest truth to face now… is that I don’t think people give a damn whether the planet goes on or not. It seems to me as if everyone is living as members of Alcoholics Anonymous do, day by day. And a few more days will be enough.”)
And talking of anniversaries, we hurt our communities too; they found a bomb in Littleton, Colorado on Wednesday’s anniversary of the Columbine massacre; in turn, April 19 was also the anniversary of the Waco siege and the Oklahoma bombing.
(Columbine was an event that stuck with me somehow – it always felt like something more was going on beneath the surface. There’s a Jewish proverb, “He who saves a life saves the world entire”, and I’ve often thought the reverse might be true, that taking a life could damage the whole world somehow, but those are extremes – what does it mean for the world, and in the run-up to those extreme events, if we just treat someone with indifference or contempt? Or kindness and dignity?)
Anyway, all these things are happening, and like Vonnegut says, we’re all living from day to day, and to do that we sometimes let hope wither and die – nothing’s going to change, our leaders are all the same, blah, blah, blah. Just keep plodding on and forget those dreams and visions.
And in the minds of many of those involved in that first Good Friday, it should have been that same old straight-forward narrative – trouble-maker expediently gets killed, public gets on with paying taxes and shutting up – but instead a whole new story was written. A story of sacrifice, of hope, of grace, of redemption and restoration, and not just for individuals but our communities and planet as well. A story that tells us there is a story instead of just an existence.
(In My Writing Project That Never Gets Written, there’s a character, a cowboy, who was once told he’d achieve redemption if he carried out a thousand acts of heroism, but he never seems to get there and now he’s feeling damned. And at some point he’s going to encounter grace, and I don’t know yet if he can handle that story or not.)
I’ll say this as a Christian, but Christians aren’t always good with symbols. The fish is now a bumper sticker, sometimes eating Charles Darwin, when originally it represented solidarity in the face of persecution, a faith that wouldn’t go away, even at the point of a sword. And the cross… Well, now it’s a necklace, or something used to ward off vampires and other sinners. But in reality, that cross is central, nailing together earth and God and history and humanity in a way that I don’t altogether understand but that still exerts an enormous power and attraction. I guess this year, with all its anniversaries and commemorations coinciding around this point, has made me more aware of this than ever.
I guess what I’m saying is that this year, I can see again how all the bad things are overshadowed by grace and love and redemption, and yes I know that sounds trite in the face of revolutions in the Middle East getting violent and tsunamis in Japan, but it’s not something I understand, it’s something I feel. And that makes me cry at times, and makes me angry, really angry at times, but it’s still there. A hope that won’t let go.