As children we live in a dream world, naively believing that there is somewhere a divine magic which can, and will in the end, swish away all evil, injustice, and pain and make a happy ending to everything.
The older we get, the harder it is for us to believe in magic and happy endings. The older we get, the more easy it gets for us to believe that George Orwell is more correct than the fairytales when he says: If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on the human face-forever” (1984, N.Y., Signet Books, 1950, p. 220).
But who is, ultimately, more correct—the child or the Orwell-type realist? Is there divine magic and are there happy endings or are death and a boot-in-the-face a truer picture of the human future? In the end, what is real and what is naive?
For most adults, even those of us with faith in God, the growing temptation is to opt for the realism of Orwell. We wish, of course, that it were otherwise, that the naive and trusting faith of the child was well-founded, but that wish is far from a genuine hope.
Experience has long since taught us how things actually are, namely, that we are radically orphaned, on our own, devoid of any help from fairy godmothers (and God). Worst of all, when all is said and done, it seems that…
Darkness triumphs over Light
Loneliness over community
Self-interest over love
Egoism over altruism
Injustice over justice
Chaos over order
Cruelty over compassion
Malignancy over graciousness
Tastelessness over beauty
Death over life.
To be realistic, to be educated, to take the facts seriously, is to believe this. Only the naive believe otherwise.
Thus, to be realistic means to live in a certain despair. This takes various forms, ranging from outright cynicism about love and life (“Life stinks!”), to an upbeat, but often empty optimism in the power of positive thinking (“Think rainbows and you’ll always get them”), to the metaphysical rebellion of an Albert Camus which affirms that, given the ultimate triumph of disease and death, we can create some temporary dignity and meaning for ourselves by fighting these.
In the end, irrespective of its genre, despair is despair. When there is no power or magic beyond our own, a boot-in-the-face is the final destiny of the human race.
Christ’s resurrection, among many other things, exposes that despairing epistemology for what it is, not realism but naivete.
In the resurrection of Christ, reality is turned upside down, the supposed empirical facts are blown to hell (literally!). What looks like naivete is, in fact, final truth. What looks like realism is, in the light of the resurrection, naivete.
If we believe in the resurrection, then Orwell is wrong, the child is right; the hard empiricists are wrong, the pious are right; those who stopped believing in magic are wrong, the believers in fairytales are right; and even those theologians who, in the name of science and enlightenment, say that the tomb was never empty are wrong, and those who believe that Jesus’ actual physical body rose from the dead are right.
Most importantly of all, if we believe in the resurrection of Christ then those who believe that, no matter how bad the story, there will be a happy ending in the end are right. To believe otherwise, in the name of the empirical facts and experience, is naive.
In the resurrection, we see the final conclusion of the story, regardless of all supposed facts to the contrary. There is real divine power (and magic) beyond our own and, when the whole story has unfolded, the final end will not be darkness, loneliness, self-interest, injustice, chaos, evil, death and the void.
No. it will be what we, as children, always knew it would be—light, love, justice, order, graciousness, joyous embrace, life, God.
With faith in the resurrection of Christ, we can stare empirical facts in the face and know that aboot-in-the-face is but an interim chapter of the story.
Beyond our present limits, pains and oppression, there is someone with the final magic wand and that someone loves us more dearly than any fairy god mother ever loved a child. Happy Easter! Christ has Risen!