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Sunday, February 14, 2021

Resurrection, witness, democracy, and hope

No doubt you have wondered, why didn't Jesus appear post-resurrection in more indisputable flash-bang forms that would have left less room for doubt? Our team is reading Surprised by Hope, and in discussing the historicity of the resurrection testimonies, the author points out that the disciples did NOT expect to see Jesus' bodily resurrection from the dead, it was not even in their universe of imagination. The accounts are so similar, with such odd details (like the women as witnesses, or the combination of both eating fish and appearing through locked doors) that they carry a ring of truth. He also, however, mentions the human capacity to ignore evidence counter to what we want to believe, becoming ever more strident in our claims. This week we can surely see that even if all the first century Palestine events had been recorded on video and  presented in the highest court of the land, even if more than half the people agreed that what they saw and experienced was real, a vocal minority would still refuse to engage with the evidence if it threatened their core world view. 

Because knowing is a very complex process. 

If the secret ballot (AGAINST censuring Rep. Cheney by a massive margin) and the public ballot (only a small handful going against the party line) differ this much, then there is more than rational weighing of evidence on the line. There is fear, there is calculation, there is anticipation of consequences and self-preservation or promotion. 

In 1947, Winston Churchill pithily said: ‘Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…’

And there we have it. 

Democracy is only as great as the integrity of the people exercising it. What is happening now in America is the very reason that Africa has been skeptical of democracy. As long as tribalism seethes below our surfaces, fear of others, a scarcity mentality, the suspicion that we are under threat from those who are different and there isn't enough for all, these fears work against the basic function of democracy which assumes that the best options will eventual win the most votes.  We watched the election, we read the news, we paid attention to the results, the speakers, the newspapers, the court cases, the attorney generals, the challenges. Whomever you wanted to win or lose, the system worked and there was a winner by both electoral college and popular majority. We were watching CNN on Jan 6 in real time as the riot spectacle unfolded, listening to the real time "a woman has been shot" distress. When a mob gathers to impose their will, democracy is threatened. And when our senators try to play both sides, pandering to the mob and yet trying to appear sensible, hoping to keep their voters even at the cost of their consciences, it is depressing to watch.

Democracy requires changing hearts and minds of individuals in order to bring about a more just society, a more enabling and hopeful atmosphere. Trying to short-cut that with violence will never bring a lasting good result. 

Which brings us back to belief in the resurrection. A hammer of force is not God's style. Jesus appeared to handfuls, dozens, hundreds, who were scattered like salt and light into the world. Very grass-roots. For the Kingdom to come on earth as it is in Heaven, we pray, we work. We argue in court or work night shifts in the hospital or till the earth; we write books and preach sermons. It is slow work, but lasting work. 

If your January 6th sorrow has not been improved by the February 13 vote, here is a quote to end with:

And this is the point where believing in the resurrection of Jesus suddenly ceases to be a matter of inquiring about an odd event in the first century and becomes a matter of rediscovering hope in the twenty-first century. Hope is what you get when you suddenly realise that a different worldview is possible, a worldview in which the rich, the powerful, and the unscrupulous do not after all have the last word. The same worldview shift that is demanded by the resurrection of Jesus is the shift that will enable us to transform the world.  (Surprised by Hope, NT Wright)

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