[I contributed this week’s ‘Connecting with Culture’ from the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. This one effectively served as the Institute’s Easter message, hence the greetings at the end.]
Last week’s London Evening Standard reported on a current trend by designers and fashion houses of using the symbol of the cross in clothes and accessories. Columnist Rosamund Urwin noted the irony that ‘the cross’s popularity with designers comes at a time when some Christians feel their right to wear their faith on their chests is under threat’.
Incidentally, it might be worth noting a similar irony surrounding the public outpouring of prayer for injured footballer, Fabrice Muamba, at a time when professional health workers and others have been censured for offering to pray for people in need.
As it happens, in his Easter message earlier this week, Prime Minister David Cameron said he welcomed something of a Christian ‘fightback’, referring specifically to defending the right to wear a crucifix and the overturned attempted banning of prayer before council meetings. In keeping with other recent speeches about Christianity, Cameron said he hopes that any fightback ‘will be based around values more than anything else’. ‘The values of the Bible, the values of Christianity are the values that we need – values of compassion, of respect, of responsibility, of tolerance’, said Cameron, even while conceding that such values are not confined to Christians or even the ‘religious’.
However, whilst noting that Easter is ‘the most important of the Christian festivals’, Cameron perhaps misses the significance of the Easter event which sustains the values he hopes the country will adopt.
Indeed, for all of us, Easter is a pertinent moment to remind ourselves of the danger of separating the teaching of Jesus from the larger framework of the gospels in which his teaching is set – accounts which move inexorably towards the events of Holy Week. This being the case, Jesus’ exhortations to ‘love your neighbour’ and ‘do to others what you would have them do to you’ are not disembodied commands, but are rooted in the story of the one who makes his way to Jerusalem to suffer and die for others and then rise again – historical events which entail a universal claim.
Christians follow Jesus not primarily because his teaching fits a convenient ‘values’ agenda, but because this side of his death and resurrection, ‘all authority in heaven and on earth’ has been given to him (Matthew 28:18).
This comes with Easter greetings from the LICC team, trusting that you may experience the love of our Father God, and the peace and joy that comes from knowing that Jesus has died and risen again.
‘Beyond Belief’ (BBC Radio 4, 2 April 2012) – on the symbol of the cross in contemporary society.