I don't know whether or not Jesus rose from the dead after he was crucified.
There, I've said it.
It's one of the reasons I don't call myself a "Christian" - even though I believe in a "higher power" (which I am reluctant to call "God", only because I imagine it looks very different from what most people mean when they say "God"), and I believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ. But that's for another post.
Whether or not the actual Jesus actually came back from the dead - a possibility I don't discount (because I also believe in miracles) but about which I don't have certainty - the story of his rising is of tremendous importance to humanity, perhaps now more than ever before.
Because what we humans are, what we are at our essence, is not something that can be destroyed by death.
What we are is not defined by anything of the material world – despite the increasingly deafening (and fearful?) roar to the contrary. It's hard, even, to define it with words. But if I had to define it, I would say that it is love. Or maybe: the marriage of love, intelligence, and the power to create.
Many have said that we are in a spiritual war, and we absolutely are. It is a war against the forces of darkness and for those of us who are committed to the light, it can feel overwhelming and frightening and even hopeless. It sometimes seems inevitable that the powers of darkness will win.
They seek control of every aspect of our lives, everywhere on the globe, and it seems they will get it; They are able to convince our friends, neighbors, relatives, that it is in their best interest to take whatever experimental medical concoctions they come up with, and we have no choice but to watch as our friends, neighbors, relatives, go along unquestioningly; They tell us we are nothing but physical beings, machines, and that we should let them make us more machine-like, and it seems that they will.
But here's the thing:
The forces of darkness have only a very limited set of weapons at their disposal: Fear, lies, and violence. That's it.
These may seem like formidable weapons. They may seem impressive and frightening. But here's what we've got:
Love, truth, and the power to create.
The darkness can't create anything. It is the opposite of creation. Its tools can't be used to create anything worthwhile or lasting. You cannot build a flourishing civilization on lies. Or on fear, or on the threat of violence. That is not to say that those tools are not powerful or cannot accomplish anything at all. But they are not generative. They are not creative. And a society built with those tools does not allow for creativity, or real flourishing.
It is more important than ever to cultivate the tools of light. If you've never understood the importance of "turn the other cheek", understand it now: Feeding vengeance, hatred, and violence only feeds the darkness. Feeding love and forgiveness feeds the light and helps it to grow.
This is how we will win.
Because our powers are generative, and in accordance with the principles of life. The powers of darkness are only ever destructive. Darkness can control, and it can consume, but it cannot create.
The way we win is by remembering who we are.
My Christian friends may laugh at me for saying this, or they may shake their heads and despair for me, but I don't believe one needs to have certainty about Christ's rising from the dead in order to appreciate the meaning of Easter:
We humans are not simply material beings. What we are cannot be reduced to our physical bodies or the chemistry they are composed of. We are made of love and light, and our souls transcend our earthly existence. By knowing this and honoring it, we achieve victory over death, and victory over darkness.