The Word Rabbit

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This article was written on 15 Apr 2017, and is filled under Uncategorised.

The Rabbit’s Easter message

My life, in the past few years, has been a gradual retreat from certainty, such that I’m no longer sure of how much of the Christian story I believe in. When I was an awful, appalling evangelical, emotion was a substitute for rational enquiry, and now that I’ve left that idiocy far, far behind, I’m left with nothing but doubt. Some of the story of Jesus’ life feels true, but some of it seems to have been grafted on later and much of what is considered Christianity is no more than Paul’s interpretation of it, which is now so old and endlessly repeated that it feels factual. The actual, central message has been obscured by what we have chosen to build around it, such that to query part of it is to bring the whole, retrospectively-constructed edifice down on your head.

But whether you believe all of the Christian message or just, as I do, some of it, at its heart, there is a story or, rather, some old, old magick, which is still utterly relevant to us. As I write this, the world is on the cusp of witnessing a war between the USA and North Korea, seemingly started for no better reason than that the President wants to detract attention from a series of investigations into collusion between Russia and key figures in his campaign. The huge bomb he senselessly dropped in Afghanistan was one thing, but this, it seems, is quite another. The story of Jesus has such penetrating and radical things to say about our present plight, teetering on the brink of a devastating conflict, that even accepting part of them calls it all into question and compels anyone who believes any part of it to revolt.

Unlike Trump, Jesus was a poor carpenter born of poor parents. He seems to have amassed no possessions of note and to have been wholly reliant on the charity of the people who supported him, despite which he was the keystone of a religion and of a movement that changed the world. His preaching returned, time and again, to the theme of humility and to the idea that people whose monetary worth is negligible are greater, by far, than people worth a million times more. In his time, he acted as a living rebuke to the power of the religious authorities and the Roman Empire such that he had to die because of it.

To line these two figures up, then, the millionaire about to have a nuclear tantrum because he can’t get his own way and the man who lent his name to Christianity, is to be aware that the former has all the worldly power at his command and none of the morality. And this is the very least that may strike you. Bound up in it is the idea of huge, vaulting vanity which leads a man of clearly modest  mental means but significantly greater financial means to suppose he is equal to one of the most difficult jobs that there is. This is, clearly, epic hubris and the only reckoning now is how many people he will kill in order to fashion a monument to his own stupidity, piling up corpses until they form a pyramid with him at the apex, mouth smeared with blood and laughing maniacally. Set against that is the image of the gentle Jesus, who only ever counselled turning the other cheek and who never raised a finger against his aggressors.

This is what I find most compelling about the Christian narrative, that it says things which are uncomfortable and profoundly counter-cultural. An abhorrence of wealth and power goes against everything we are implicitly told and see around us: people with money make the decisions and tell us how to live our lives, from politicians who have truly odious amounts of money and for whom decisions do not have consequences, to the so-called celebrities who are held out for worship and adoration, quite beyond their actual talent. A way of thinking which says that you are valued just as much as someone on the cover of a magazine, which says that the last will be first and the first will be last, which says that it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, which says all the things in the Sermon on the Mount, is not congruent with this. One has to be found wanting and ultimately hollow and my sense is that it isn’t Christianity.

And I say ‘my sense,’ because I don’t have proof and because each certainty I have is succeeded by doubt. But if you want or need a system of values to cling to, and I do, perhaps because I am weak or because I am convinced at some, deep level I don’t know about, the Christian system of morality commends itself to me because it seems as radical and as new as the day that Jesus first uttered a sermon. It tells me that the powerful are corrupt and self-serving, that the rich are to be ignored and that true virtue lies in doing the good and noble things not for the hope of reward, because they are often hard, thankless and might even isolate you, but because they are self-evidently the right thing to do and bind us in to shared humanity.

This is not, it needs to be said, the Christianity of Middle England or even the kind which Nigel Farage uses as a synonym for What White People Think And Say. This Christianity goes to church on a Sunday, perhaps because it’s a nice, comforting old building, they think some comforting thoughts and then toddle off and vote for Theresa May, who is punishing the poor, the disabled and the sick with a savagery that defies belief, or buy shares in an arms manufacturer, or look the other way when they see a homeless person,or bank with people who make money by dealing with companies who terrorise the developing world or behave like utter bastards in some other way. This isn’t Christianity or anything like it, but a thin, weak sham and doesn’t interest me at all.

I’m left with epic doubts and uncertainties, groping my way forward as if through a fog, shorn of my original, bellicose certainty, but certainly no worse for it. Give me the honest doubter any day, rather than the man walking busily off in what may be the wrong direction,which is what I once was. But at Easter, when people like Farage and May are seemingly locked in competition with each other to protest that Jesus would give two shits about chocolate egg hunts for the kiddies and May, in particular, issues press releases about it while selling arms to the Saudis, who then use them in Yemen, it’s as well to revisit and take stock of your own principles.

Mine tell me that despair is the only logical answer to this and that our chances of being here next year, thanks to leaders who profess Christianity while they think it’s politically expedient to do so, is becoming vanishingly small. The purity of the original story has been lost, perhaps irredeemably so, and buried under a mountain of homophobia and cheap hatreds. What a pity.

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