What if I was to ask you what images will you conjure regarding Easter? For many pictures of yellow chicks, ducklings, bunnies, and colourful eggs! This sounds like a celebration of the rebirth of nature, nothing too religious. As for the hot cross buns, these come to our local stores across the year. The calendar marks it as a spring break without any significant reference to the religion that underpins the origin of the holiday. Easter is a moving celebration that observers the lunar calendar like other religious festivals dictated by the equinox of spring and the first full moon. It replaces previous Greco-Roman holidays, and it takes its influence for the Hebrew Passover. For those who regard themselves as Christians, the message Easter encapsulates is part of their pillars of faith. The main message is that Jesus, the son of God, was arrested for sedition and blasphemy, went through two types of trials representing two different forms of justice; a secular and a religious court which found him guilty. He was convicted of all charges, sentenced to death, and executed the day after sentencing. This was exceptional speed for a justice system that many countries will envy. By all accounts, this man who claimed to be king and divine became a convicted felon put to death for his crimes. The Christian message focuses primarily on what happened next. Allegedly the body of the dead man is placed in a sealed grave only to be resurrected (return from the death, body and spirit) roamed the earth for about 40 days until he ascended into heavens with the promise to be back in the second coming. Christian scholars have been spending time and hours discussing the representation of this miracle. The central core of Christianity is the victory of life over death. The official line is quite remarkable and provided Christians with an opportunity to admire their head of their church.
What if this was not really the most important message in the story? What if the focus was not on the resurrection but on human suffering. The night before his arrest Jesus, according to the New Testament will ask “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me” in a last attempt to avoid the humiliation and torture that was to come. In Criminology, we recognise in people’s actions free will, and as such, in a momentary lapse of judgment, this man will seek to avoid what is to come. The forthcoming arrest after being identified with a kiss (most unique line-up in history) will be followed by torture. This form of judicial torture is described in grim detail in the scriptures and provides a contrast to the triumph of the end with the resurrection. Theologically, this makes good sense, but it does not relate to the collective human experience. Legal systems across time have been used to judge and to punish people according to their deeds. Human suffering in punishment seems to be centred on bringing back balance to the harm incurred by the crime committed. Then there are those who serve as an example of those who take the punishment, not because they accept their actions are wrong, but because their convictions are those that rise above the legal frameworks of their time. When Socrates was condemned to death, his students came to rescue him, but he insisted on ingesting the poison. His action was not of the crime but of the nature of the society he envisaged. When Jesus is met with the guard in the garden of Gethsemane, he could have left in the dark of the night, but he stays on. These criminals challenge the orthodoxy of legal rights and, most importantly, our perception that all crimes are bad, and criminals deserve punishment.
Bunnies are nice and for some even cuddly creatures, eggs can be colourful and delicious, especially if made of chocolate, but they do not contain that most important criminological message of the day. Convictions and principles for those who have them, may bring them to clash with authorities, they may even be regarded as criminals but every now and then they set some new standards of where we wish to travel in our human journey. So, to answer my own question, religiosity and different faiths come and go, but values remain to remind us that we have more in common than in opposition.