Today, Good Friday, marks the start of the Easter holidays here in Australia. Sitting here in the early morning in the kitchen where I do much of my present writing, I found my thoughts drifting through apparently disconnected threads.
Back in November 2007, I wrote Was Australia a Christian country - and what comes now. The post was part of a broader discussion. and a piece of its time. But the central idea that Australia was a Christian country remains true; not Christian in a formal sense, but Christian in its ethos and beliefs.
One aspect of the Christian tradition especially relevant to Good Friday is the idea of redemption, the belief that no matter what our failings, we can be forgiven for our sins and rise again. Not all Christian groups shared this ideal. To my mind, the belief in predestination that some groups hold is especially repulsive for it seems to deny both the concept of free will and the idea of forgiveness, of redemption.
You don't have to be Christian to believe in the idea of redemption. It is actually central to that steady stream of self-help books, magazines and shows. The range is quite remarkable. Over-weight? You can fix that. Want success? This is how to achieve it. Want to improve your performance in bed? Here are 13 ways to rev her sex drive. In all cases, you can be redeemed if you just follow the recipe. However, there is a problem.
To illustrate this, here are a few of the teasers from the March edition of Australian Men's Health: lose double the flab in half the time; 10% stronger in thirty seconds; muscle-boosting French stew; hard muscle fast - no gym required. The reference to 13 ways to rev her sex drive comes from the same front cover. This is all redemption, but channeled in a very particular way.
The Christian concept of redemption recognises failure and human frailty. We are all imperfect, we will all fail, none of us can be perfect. But we can be forgiven, we can do better. The Christian faith goes further.
The Lord's Prayer says in the old wording: "And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive them that trespass against us." The Bible also says in Mark: "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these". These are pretty powerful words. To be forgiven, you must forgive. If you don't love yourself, how can you love your neighbour?
None of us can achieve the particular models of redemption presented to us all the time. I don't know about you, but I get tired of the constant demand that I be perfect, that I must fit with models as presented. It means that I must always fail, and I don't like failure. I am a tad too old to acquire the male body presented on the cover of Australian Men's Health, or attract the female cuddling up to his back in somewhat submissive mode.
Mind you, I don't want too, for I don't find her at all sexy. As presented, she is not a woman, but a presentation of someone that I am meant to find sexy. I don't, although I might if I met her outside the cover stereotype. Still, probably not, My tastes are different. A woman is not just a body, but a person who sits within a body. It's the combination that's important.
I digress. Still, so far as bodies go, I prefer plump, voluptuous!
I said that my mind had drifted along through apparently disconnected threads. One of the really big social changes that has occurred in Australia, one that affects all religious events, is changes in the way we work. Further comments follow this photograph. This photo placed on line by Pelle the Poet shows a wheat stack from around 1910. Up until very recently, life in agrarian and industrial societies involved constant hard labour. In the case of the photo, every one of those bags had to be individually shifted.
Religious days whether Easter or Sunday were not just religious celebrations, but also a forced rest. They were a chance to recover, as well as reflect in an uncertain world. To a degree, we have lost that perspective.
I have no desire to return to that past. But on Easter, perhaps we might reflect on what we have gained, forgive ourselves for personal failings, and think of redemption in the sense that we might do better in the future.