IT'S EASTER, GOOD FRIDAY, a day when government flunkies fan out around the country to sacrifice shop-owners, and the Christians who insist on their sacrifice to the gods of bureaucracy celebrate the sacrifice of their own ideal two-thousand years ago.
Every religion has its own myths that go to the very heart of their beliefs. The Easter Myth is central to Christianity, and all too revealing of the ethic at Christianity's heart. Bach's St Mathew Passion' musically and beautifully dramatises the Myth, and is all too revealing of the nature of it.
Just think, Christians revere Christ as their ideal, and Bach has his chorus praise him, worship him, and eulogise Him -- this after all was their hero, the man they believe their god sent to earth as an example of the highest possible on this earth -- and then they and that same god went and had him killed.
That's the story. This, says Bach, is what Christians revere: The murder of their ideal.
In Pagan times, Easter was the time in the Northern calendar when the coming of spring was celebrated -- the celebration of new life, of coming fecundity. Indeed, the very word "Easter" comes from Eos, the Greek goddess of the dawn, and means, symbolically, the festival celebrating the rebirth of light after the darkness of winter. But with the coming of Christianity, the celebration has been hijacked to be a veneration of sacrifice.
Such is the nature of the Easter Myth, and of the ethic at the very heart of Christianity. Not peace, not love and understanding, but sacrifice -- the murder and torture of tall poppies -- the sacrifice of the Christian's highest possible for the sake of the meanest most rotten 'sinner,' whose redemption Christ's murder was supposed to buy.
To put it bluntly, the Easter myth that Bach dramatises so well is one of suffering and sacrifice and murder, and the collusion of a supposedly omnipotent and omniscient god in the murder of his own son -- and if you subscribe to the whole sick fantasy that's what you have to believe; in the name of religion he shows us that the good (by Christian standards) must be sacrificed to the rotten; the constant to the inconstant; the talented and inspirational to the lumpen dross -- the ideal to the worthless.
For Christians, then, Easter is a time to revere that sacrifice and to remind themselves (and us) of the centrality of sacrifice to their fantasy. Oh yes, there's a 'rebirth' of sorts, but not one in this earthly realm, and not before a celebration of intense pain and suffering that supposedly bought redemption and virtue for those who possessed neither. As Robert Tracinski says so bluntly, "Easter's Mixture of the Benevolent and the Horrific Reveals Religion's Antagonism to Human Life."
THERE IS ANOTHER STORY that stands in complete contrast to this one, that is in all senses its polar opposite. Unlike the heroes of Bach's Passion, the heroes of Ayn Rand's novel The Fountainhead shun sacrifice. The ethic of The Fountainhead, one for which each of the leading characters fights in their own way, is one in which genius has the right to live for its own sake. The contrast with the demand of Christianity that The Good inheres in the act of suffering and dying for the expiation of others could not be stronger, or the question more important! Rather than demanding and worshipping the sacrifice of the highest to the lowest -- or as Nietzsche did, retaining the ethic but reversing the beneficiary of the sacrifice by demanding the sacrifice of the lowest to the highest -- the ethic of The Fountainhead insists that The Good is not to suffer and to die, but to enjoy yourself and live -- without any sacrifice at all.
In my book, that really is an ethic worthy of reverence.
NOW, I'M ALL TOO aware that if you believe the Easter Myth, then anything I say here is going to pass right by you. So if you do insist on venerating sacrifice this weekend, and especially if you're intending a bit of crucifixion yourself, or even just a bit of mildly flogging or self-torture, then here are a few simple Easter Safety Tips for you from the Church, which are not unfortunately intended as satire.
And now here's a Nick Kim cartoon from The Free Radical for all the bureaucrats who are working today ...