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Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Great Revelations

As Easter approaches, the revelation that Titanic director James Cameron has helped to uncover the actual burial place of Jesus - and his supposed wife Mary Magdalene - is sure to raise some eyebrows, if not other body parts - among practicing Christians. Protests are already being heard, since for most people who believe in Jesus, the idea that He suffered on the cross, was buried and rose again on the third day, is of canonical importance.

I am no theologian, nor was meant to be, but wish to suggest that it is high time we moved beyond a forensic ideal of resurrection for the body of Christ. I do not mean the actual divine miracle should be newly interpreted as a merely useful symbol. I mean that, in fact, the "body of Christ" is more aptly understood as His teachings, and his works. More fully, the spirit of the letter of Christ's law, graced with a tremendous genius for compassion, tolerance and indifference to power's corruption, is already a body resistant, indeed triumphantly ranged against, the natural order of things. Should leaders of the world ever actually throw down their swords, and beat them into ploughshares, a heaven on earth might indeed be evident. Instead, they persist in building "Tridents" - a symbol of a different godly (or ungodly) order.

It is quite possible to believe, then, in both Mr. Cameron's cream-coloured burial boxes inscribed with the name of Jesus, and also the over-arching, surpassing continuity of Christ, as idea, ideal and supernaturally-sanctioned mortal - immortal, at least, like Shakespeare, for his words, immortal, like Socrates, for his actions, too. It seems not unwise to pray to someone so gifted, kind and other-directed. But is there life after death? Perhaps. However, Christians, to avoid the sneers of scientists who presume to plumb all deeps and record all data, should avoid a narrow definition of either death, or life. Is there, indeed, a life, while alive, for those who do not believe in the existence of themselves, apart from their material forms? Better to live a few years with a soul, than an eternity without one, might be a wager to equal Pascal's. In the curious complex dimensions available to experience, and contemplation, it is likely our already incalculably wondrous presence in real time is a kind of eternal moment. Resurrection might then be simply the instant such a recognition of one's total existential status is made. Or not.

Easter comes each year. It should never cease, on the basis of medical records or dusty discoveries. Indiana Jones is no match for the Sermon on the Mount.
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