16 April 2017

The war people seem to ignore

For years now we’ve been hearing about the ‘war on terror.’ Yet across the globe another war has been building momentum for decades with little public recognition - the war on Christianity. In the birthplace of Christianity, the middle east, persecution regularly manifests in the bombing of churches, ultimatums, executions, socioeconomic exclusion and exile. The Palm Sunday bombings in Egypt last week are yet another deadly example of this terrifying reality.

In the West, the war on Christianity is subtler but becoming less so. Sure, it seems petty compared to what Christians are facing in other places, but I do think we are becoming increasingly marginalised, misrepresented and silenced by secularism. And, to be fair, part of this is our fault for failing to protect children and cover up abuse in the church. And the waning affection for Christianity is also in part a reaction to our inability to communicate and demonstrate the timeless gospel in an ever changing social landscape. Perhaps the church in Australia is beginning to taste what was normal for disciples twenty centuries ago.

In light of this, I was surprised that I was surprised by the news this week of some public schools choosing to remove any reference to Easter in an effort to be sensitive and inclusive. Apparently, by using the word Easter,  some people may be offended because it doesn’t represent all other religious traditions and celebrations happening at this time of the year.

Following that logic, if someone might be offended or feel excluded by another belief or tradition, we should ensure they feel included by redefining or removing the existing shared traditions, even if it may offend everyone who was included the first place. Now that makes sense! I can’t see how celebrating a core tenant of one belief system becomes an affront to every other belief system. Are we all that insecure? Is this not political correctness gone mad?

So it’s  no longer an ‘Easter hat parade,’ it’s a ‘funny hat parade!’ Personally I don’t really care what they call the silly parade. I’d be quite happy to kill off everything that turns the grand story of God’s love and sacrifice into a novelty, a free day off and an eating binge. I'm not saying we all boycott chocolate this Easter, my kids would kill me. But remember that Easter is no more about hats and chocolate bunnies as Christmas is about Santa and Christmas trees. These (largely American) trimmings distract from the real message of Easter and Christmas turning something meaningful into something trivial.

Jesus did wear a hat of sorts, and he did march in a parade. Only his hat wasn’t adorned with fluffy chickens, freshly painted polystyrene eggs and springy multicolored pipe cleaners.

His head was covered in long thorns, a twisted garland of torture and mockery. He wore that crown in an agonizing march up a hill to the place where nails were driven into his limbs then he was hoisted naked up a recycled Roman cross for all to see. No proud mums posting their children’s catwalk creations. No laughter, no applause. Just a grieving mother in an atmosphere of shame and loathing and helplessness.

Perhaps the real reason why there is a war of sorts on Christianity, is because when we are exposed to the raw gospel, the gospel exposes us and beckons us to follow the way of cross-bearing, sacrifice and servanthood. And frankly, that’s not popular.

Knowing this, Jesus reassured his disciples, ‘Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.’ (Matthew 5.11-12)