Faith, Questions, Dialogue and Hope

 

 

Once again it seems the lives of innocent people have been shattered by those who feel their religious certainties justify inhuman violence.

The actions of those who perpetrate acts of terror such as the ones that tore through Brussels this week stand in contrast to those we remember in Holy Week.

Fundamentalist terrorism claims the authority of God to make victims of the innocent. In Holy Week we see God in Jesus Christ taking the role of the innocent victim. The religious terrorist claims the mandate of God to inflict suffering. On the Cross we see one who preferred to accept suffering than to inflict it.

His way changed the world and still offers hope today to a world increasingly divided by fundamentalism and torn by violence.

His way is not the way of the arrogant certainty that drives the fundamentalist.  For Christians, Easter is the constituting event; the very heart of faith. Yet, with refreshing frankness, the biblical writers tell us that those closest to the first Easter struggled to comprehend it. Mark tells us they would not believe it. Matthew, slightly more positively, notes that some doubted

It is not that they dismissed it. Far from it. For them it meant everything. It was a story they could not forsake. But nor did they hold it in arrogance. While they were confident they had grasped the heart of it, they did not claim to know it all. Years after the first Easter, the brilliant St Paul acknowledged that even the most elevated human understanding of God was like a picture seen through a smoky glass; shaded and incomplete.

Those first disciples can speak to us today. In a world increasingly divided by religious fundamentalisms and absolutist claims, this combination of passionate faith with a humility that recognises its best understanding is incomplete, has much to offer.

Our world needs a vastly different discourse about religious difference than that provided by competing absolutisms. True and deep dialogue between faiths does not require the abandonment of distinctive claims.

To be in true dialogue as a Christian does not require me to abandon the heart of my faith. What it does require is the abandonment of arrogance and the embrace of humility, the recognition that even in our strongest conviction, we too “see in a glass darkly”.

So on this day as we remember the suffering of Christ, we pray for those who have suffered through acts of terror, we remember, too, that on the first Easter Day there was room for questioning, lack of understanding, even doubt. And in the Spirit of Easter this enables us to reach out to others in dialogue and hope.

Easter peace.

Jeffrey Driver

Archbishop of Adelaide