Another Christian observance of Easter is upon us, with its celebration of the resurrection of Christ, the man whom many consider to be the Son of God.
During his brief time on earth, Jesus preached peace, tolerance, faith, forgiveness—and, perhaps most importantly, love for all humankind, even one’s enemies. In return, he promised eternal life for all who believed and acted in accordance with these precepts.
As a child, I learned quickly that one of my mother’s interpretations of his teachings was that I must not fight with other children. She was very firm about this. During my early school years, it seemed like good advice; I was a friendly little guy, and others seemed to like me just fine.
As I got older, however, I learned that not every kid subscribed to her viewpoint. Some of the classmates I encountered in the older grades were quite aggressive, to the point of being bullies, and for a while I was at a loss as to how to cope. That was one of the reasons, maybe, that I became a fast runner.
Alas, it was not always possible to escape the marauders, so fighting became the only alternative to being pummelled and punished repeatedly. It was safer to stand up to the bullies, even if I lost the fight, than to do nothing.
My father quietly helped me with the dilemma of disobeying my mother by suggesting that, although her sentiments were correct, fighting back when attacked was okay. Starting a fight was really the thing to avoid.
I still remember an occasion in my mid-teens, when my mother agreed to accompany my father to watch me play a hockey game, the first time she had done so. About halfway through, I became involved in a fight on the ice, not one I started, and was ejected, along with my opponent. My mother was, by all accounts, aghast.
Although I played recreational hockey for another forty years, she never attended another of my games.
That incident shapes my outlook today when I consider the state of humankind on the planet we all inhabit. Christ was not the only person to preach peace and love; many devout prophets professing other faiths have advanced the same messages.
But just as not every Christian follows Christ’s teachings obediently, so, too, do some adherents of other religions also stray from their prophets’ words.
The situation is complicated by the fact that there are also false prophets from all religions, who have preached a wilfully-distorted or violent version of the message, demanding their adherents forcefully convert everyone to what they call the true faith—and failing that, to kill them. They have existed under many guises—the Christian Crusades, Islamic jihad, radical Zionism, the Hindu saffron terror, and so many more.
They survive even today, in a god-eat-god world.
If we assume that the vast majority of people alive right now want to live in peace and harmony—perhaps not anxious to love their neighbours, but at least happy to leave them alone—then why is there so much warfare and bloodshed across the globe? Are we being driven to demise by the bloodthirsty minority, the zealots, and (as a friend likes to call them) the lunatic fringe?
As a questioning Christian at yet another Easter (believing in the wisdom of Christ’s teachings, but unsure about the promise of a heavenly hereafter), I see benefit in acknowledging, if not a literal resurrection, at least a continuing relevance of his message. And further benefit in acknowledging the similarities between that message and those of other great prophets of different faiths.
Back in that long-ago schoolyard, there was ample space for me to run from those who would harm me. On this increasingly-crowded planet Earth, however, whither can we flee from the radicals and fanatics seemingly bent on our destruction?
Shall we turn the other cheek, perhaps to be slaughtered? Shall we fight back, perhaps ensuring mutual annihilation?
Or shall we continue to do what we can to spread those universal messages of peace, tolerance, faith, forgiveness—and, perhaps most importantly, love for all humankind, even our enemies?
It is up to all of us in the end. Or it will be the end of us.