WE ARE THE EASTER PEOPLE…
WHY DO SOME PEOPLE DISMISS CHRISTIANITY?
“Easter is always a good time to revisit G.K. Chesterton, who reminded his readers that ‘Christianity has not been tried and found wanting, it has been found difficult and not tried.’ Difficult it certainly is. And when you consider the glee with which the secular world delights in our shortcomings and manifest failings you can see why so many think it’s safer not to even try.
BEING A CHRISTIAN MEANS SACRIFICES
The vitriolic anti-Christian writings of Richard Dawkins, the hostile fiction of such writers as Philip Pullman, the political manifestos of party leaders and the musings of the great philosophers rarely require heroic efforts from their adherents and disciples. It is considerably less difficult to follow those paths and to make them your ‘church’; so much easier to dismiss Christianity…; much less demanding than risking trying [seriously] and failing and the inevitable charge of hypocrisy that follows.
‘YOU CHRISTIANS ARE JUST HYPOCRITES!’
The late David Watson… was once challenged during a sermon by a heckler who shouted, ‘You Christians are just a bunch of hypocrites.’ Watson responded: ‘Maybe, but there’s always room inside for one more.’ Watson’s reply was deadly serious. His point was that, of course, we are forever falling short but at least we are engaged in the struggle: a struggle on which our very live and destiny depends… Believers know that believing is a tough way of living and that the gift of faith can feel more like a hospital pass than an easy option.
It is sometimes sneeringly said that the Catholic Church knows all about sin – but it’s precisely because it does know about sin and failure that it makes living possible. It’s not that being Catholic means that we have all the answers but it does mean that we ask some of the right questions.
THE INNER ANGST OF THE ATHEIST
We are accused of hiding behind dogma, but ‘dogma’ and ‘belief’ are entirely different things. In coming to belief we have to ask the deepest questions about who is God and what He expects of us. Paradoxically, it is the unbelieving atheist who is the true dogmatist. In an often bigoted way they insist on a universal negative. The whiplash of their inner anger is often revealed as they embark on tirades against religion and its entire works. But we can comfort them with a witty remark of G.K. Chesterton who reflected that ‘if there were no God, there would be no atheists.’
‘IF THERE WERE NO GOD, THERE WOULD BE NO ATHEISTS’
They may not believe in Him but He believes in them… The German Marxist philosopher and atheist, Ernst Bloch, understood the uniqueness of Christianity’s central claim better than many Christians: ‘It wasn’t the morality of the Sermon on the Mount which enabled Christianity to conquer Roman paganism’, he said, ‘but the belief that Jesus had been raised from the dead. In an age where Roman senators vied to see who could get the most blood of a steer on their togas – thinking that would prevent death – Christianity was in competition for eternal life, not morality.
RICHARD DAWKINS SEES NO FUTURE BEYOND THE CONVEYOR BELT
Mohammed did not rise from the dead. Nor did Buddha, Confucius or the Hindu deities and Richard Dawkins sees no future beyond the conveyor belt to the ovens at the crematoria. For them life is not reconstituted by a resurrection which defeats death. This, as Ernst Bloch clearly understood, is what makes Christianity different and what makes the struggle and the failings bearable.
‘MY NAME IS LAZARUS AND I LIVE’
Easter offers the possibility of new life beyond the grave. It cleanses us from the past; it liberates and frees. Dostoyewsky, in The Brothers Karamazov, writes movingly of a man who confesses to murder after suppressing it for decades: ‘I feel joy and peace for the first time after so many years. There is Heaven in my heart… now I dare to love my children and kiss them.’ Properly understood, Easter gives each of us the same opportunity to start again… Easter, for me, is the triumph over the despair which human failure represents and it signals again the willingness to run the risk of hope. It is as Jesus said the triumph of life over death because: ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life.’…
And… on the day he became a Catholic, [G.K. Chesterton] wrote a poem called ‘The Convert’, where he singled out the difference between Christianity’s central claim and that of all other religions, ideologies or philosophies, boldly asserting that: ‘…all these things are less than dust to me because my name is Lazarus and I live.'”
– The above are excerpts of an article by David Alton, published in The Catholic Universe, Sunday 31st March 2013 (capital headings added)