“You mean I’ll be able to dodge bullets?” “I mean when you’re ready, you won’t have to.” So Neo and Morpheus discuss the theoretical bending of the rules of the artificial reality: The Matrix. At its heart, the film is the story of one man’s journey of self-realisation. It is the realisation that The Matrix is not real, and that he is able to overcome the rules that it has imposed on his mind. He takes the most significant step when, after he has been shot and (“virtually”) died, his mind finally realises that the bullets and blood are not real, and he wakes back up. He stubbornly refuses to accept the reality of death and becomes the resurrected Neo.
It is this same utter defiance that is at the heart of Easter. However, it is not the story of a bending of the rules of nature, but of a divine overcoming. Not a rebellion against, but a submitting to, the will of the ruler of the universe. When Jesus stood at the grave of Lazarus the reality and pain of death was intense and it broke his heart. It reminded him that this was the reason he came into the world, to destroy the works of the evil one. This was the alien death that had been brought into the universe at the moment of the first human defiance.
In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus chose to defy death – to so completely and utterly reject the finality and fatality of death that he was willing to submit to its rules. By submitting to its power and penalty, he brought about a transformation of death through the resurrection of his unconquerable, immortal nature.
As I reflect on this truth I realise that there are a couple of deep running assumptions often mistaken for realities in the world I live in, and that I utterly reject:
1. The false dichotomy that has been set up between “fair, reasonable and logical” secular humanism on the one hand and “irrational, bigoted faith” on the other. I refuse to join in the polemic tit-for-tat that only reinforces the view that Christians are small minded. I read, appreciate and listen to the leading atheists and take their critique of faith seriously. Christianity cannot be reduced to a purely rationalistic worldview, but the mechanisms and framework for understanding and applying it are rational. It is not against rationality, but rather supersedes the limits and capability of rational experience – for it requires divine self-disclosure and this will always involve an element of mystery. It is our presuppositions where we differ, our foundation; after that we both seek to construct rational worldviews.
2. The silence and retreat of the Christian voice from the public sphere. I refuse to accept that Christians should be silent in public issues because we are somehow “biased” by our beliefs. All of us have a worldview with underlying presuppositions that colour (even guide) our ethics and morals. If God is God and this is his world, then not following his path will be detrimental to our society. Christians have an obligation to sensitively demonstrate this truth empirically when we can.
I have learnt that the way to challenge these assumptions is not head on. Only rarely will people change their assumptions through argument. Like Neo, they must be shown that their assumptions of how the world works do not match reality. Like the example of Jesus, who demonstrated a better way by submission to the imposed rules, a life like this must be modelled. It must be graciously, sensitively and compassionately lived out in front of a sceptical world.
The Matrix teaches us that our assumptions are powerful forces, guiding our interpretation of reality. Easter teaches us that reality itself was once shaken – one Sunday morning, the very fabric of reality was altered forever. We now have the opportunity to live in the light of a death defeated, a purpose restored and a hope renewed.
This post was an article on Easter for the Scottish Baptist Lay Preacher’s Association, click here for the link.