This week, as a “welcome back” to Patheos, I’ll be sharing some recent ruminations around Holy Week, beginning with the following about the resurrection in relation to the current covid-19 pandemic and what it commands of Resurrection People in the months and years to come.
I recently read a brilliant essay on Medium about the gaslighting to come. And Easter seems like a good day to address it because Christ followers are intimately acquainted with gaslighting. The disciples gaslit themselves and were gaslit by others both among and apart from them. For many, their stalwart insistence on what they Knew got them killed.
But Jesus did rise and they knew Who they were looking at just as they knew he was Dead dead three days ago. They watched him die. They buried him. So when he appeared to them, it changed everything.
That is: His rising blew it all up. The thunder by which the angel move the stone cracked the universe, too. The Light got in and everything was exposed.
There was no going back; there was no “Before.” Only “oh God. What now?” Everything they had experienced, seen, and learned in the years, months, weeks, days, and hours leading up to Jesus’ arrest, torture, trial, and crucifixion was thrown into stark relief once He appeared to them post-death very much Alive.
It transformed them, utterly. Now they knew that their Teacher was really and truly and frighteningly the Christ. He wasn’t just a magician but the One Who Conquered Death, and his angels were the ones who moved immovable stones and made of them a stool.
So it makes sense that the women who first discovered the Living Christ were overcome with joy and, crucially, fear. Because as firmly as they knew who and what they saw, they knew they’d be gaslit by the other disciples and then the world. They knew the Truth was dangerous.
They knew that trusting themselves, their sight, their experience would at least make them a mockery, and at worst another threat to be silenced by the State.
But women are used to being mistrusted and disbelieved. We’re used to having people — especially men who are brave right up until we most need them to be — tell us we can’t be right, we can’t have seen what we saw or heard what we heard; That we aren’t trustworthy keepers of Truth.
And so they did as Christ commanded and told the other disciples anyway. They steeled themselves for the doubt and insisted. (This is why Christ entrusted His Risen Self to the women first.)
In the days and weeks and years and centuries that followed, most of those 12 disciples and thousands of early Christians were martyred when the gaslighting didn’t take. They became victims of the same cowardly State that killed God, and they went to their deaths fearlessly preaching Resurrection.
So Resurrection Sunday is a reminder in pandemic that new life will come. We don’t know when or how or how long we’ll have to wait for the rising. It’s been more than three days and almost the whole world remains quarantined.
But when the rising begins — and it might look more like a slowly budding flower than a cracked stone and empty tomb; more like a slow adaptation than a miracle vaccination; we just can’t know but that it will happen — so too will the gaslighting.
There will be those who call us back to Before, luring us at first with masterful marketeering and appeals to the consumerism and waste that used to but no longer have to define us; Then threatening us with who knows what should we fail to comply and instead demand Resurrection Life in the After.
Because we see it. The universe cracked, the Light broke in, and we are catching glimpses of New Life, and this — not what but that we see — is dangerous.
So we must remember: Jesus’ resurrection isn’t just an invitation to celebrate, though it is that.
It’s also a terrifying, electrifying call to rally against the powers of death which cannot beat God but will not ever stop trying.