by Canon F. H. Drinkwater
Is conscience vindicated?
LAST Christmas Eve the Guardian's cartoonist showed LAST conventional Father Christmas reading aloud to a little boy, from a book entitled "The Christmas Story." The boy asks, "And how did it end?" and Father Christmas looks out of the corner of his eye, clearly embarrassed by the untimely question. The point of the cartoon is that the two are sitting underneath a large wayside Crucifix with an unmistakeably dead Christ drooping from it. A few days later the newspaper printed a single comment, from a correspondent who recommended readers to read the whole story, preferably in Greek or some up-to-date English version. This would make it clear (he said, sensibly enough) that the Christmas story did not end with the Crucifixion; "in fact, whatever you make of it, it did not end at all—it is still going on."
Not for me to judge the intentions either of the cartoonist or correspondent. Neither of them, you will observe, actually mentions Resurrection; possibly that was the best way of making the intelligent reader think of it for himself.
On the other hand, not all readers, even of the Guardian, are given to thinking. Many a reader might gather the impression that nobody believes any more either in the Christmas or the Easter story, and that the name of Jesus still goes marching on only as the noble memory of one more brutal martyrdom.
Even believers (such a reader might conclude) no longer claim that the Resurrection is a fact to be announced, but only a faith to be clung to by the mystical-minded few.
In Easter week let us remind ourselves that that is not the kind of God we believe in. True, Our Creator sets a value on our will to believe and leaves room for our free act of faith. There is even an element of enigma, not at all unsuitable for the seeking mind of man. But he made us rational creatures, and the faith he invites will always be reasonable, not against right reason either philosophically or historically.
From the first day of the Christian Church, the Resurrection of Jesus has been put forward publicly as the act of God publicly vindicating his Son in the eyes of men of good will, against all the Pilates and Caiphases the world will ever know. Without that sign from God, given to the disciples and through them to all men, we could not reasonably accept the claims Jesus makes on our human conscience, or even trust very much in our human conscience itself.
Non-believers describing Our Lord's fate never fail to mention what seems to them his final cry of despair: My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? They never seem to have heard that the words are the first verse of a scriptural psalm well known to every Israelite; a psalm which epitomizes all Jesus had taught and suffered for. A psalm which ends not in despair but in a triumphant hymn of the future victory, with the Sufferer rescued to new life and service, and with the whole earth, from end to end, coming back to the Lord.
Our Christian witness means that we should be ready to put right such unfortunate misunderstandings. There are plenty more, even about the Easter story.