Easter brings us the joyful proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the good news of salvation for all who trust in Him. The Church is commissioned to share this word, and we must beware the world’s temptation to water down, re-direct, or alter the message. A couple of prominent politician’s takes on Easter, this year, underline how readily this happens in our culture.
President Biden gave an opinion piece Religion News Service, ‘Let us recommit ourselves to the lessons of Easter’, notable more for what it neglects than for what it says. Most significantly, President Biden makes no mention of the resurrection of Jesus Christ—which is quite odd for a supposedly committed Catholic, but explained by the fact that what he really wants to talk about is not Easter but COVID and other national issues.
“Easter is a time to celebrate the spirit of renewal and the promise of brighter days to come”, he begins, which is true if you supply all of the unspoken context about the atoning death and victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ, the fact that the spirit of renewal is the Holy Spirit, and the cosmic realities of Christian eschatology. Without that context, such vague words of hope are banal and even deceptive.
From there he expresses grief regarding the loss of the COVID pandemic, leading to the statement that “the traditions of Holy Week remind us of the journey from sorrow to salvation—that faith, hope and love can lead us out of the darkness and into the light.” Once again, an allusion to the meaning of Easter that could be stretched to fit the gospel with enough interpretive gymnastics—the three theological virtues characterize the work of the Holy Spirit in the redeemed by their union with Jesus Christ—but, much more likely, point to a vague sub-Christian spirituality whereby we may save ourselves through virtue. Faith, hope and love do not lead us out of darkness; Jesus Christ, the light of the world, came into our world to lead us out of darkness and bring us life.
More about COVID follows, pointing to how things are better and calling people to help those in need and get vaccinated. Towards the end he says, “As we commemorate this holiest of days, let us recommit ourselves to the lessons of Easter. Let us love and care for our neighbors—as Jesus did, and as we’ve seen so many ordinary, extraordinary people do over the course of this difficult year.” That is the sole mention of Jesus in the article, a typical liberal reduction of His mission to the moral influence of His compassion.
Whereas President Biden’s piece is notoriously vague and neglects to mention the resurrection, more directly anti-gospel is a tweet that has gained some notoriety, by Rev. Raphael Warnock, Baptist minister and recently elected Senator. Warnock tweeted, and since deleted, as reported in the Christian Post:
“The meaning of Easter is more transcendent than the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” Warnock wrote on Twitter Easter Sunday. “Whether you are Christian or not, through a commitment to helping others we are able to save ourselves.”
That is a direct denial of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He does not oppose or neglect the resurrection, but he attempts to ‘transcend’ it—to humanistic works-based salvation. If this is, indeed, Warnock’s belief (one news report claimed to have a source informing them it was written by an assistant), then he is not a Christian. The message of Easter cannot transcend the resurrection of Christ; it centers upon the resurrection of Christ. The message of Easter cannot point to salvation by our good works; it is precisely the message of salvation by Christ’s righteousness imputed to us, of His atoning death and vindicatory resurrection.
Easter is a message of hope, precisely because it is a specific and definite message and precisely because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. To make it a humanistic message is to reject the world-shaking significance of what God has done, and tragically miss the offer of forgiveness, redemption, and eternal life.