I am reading through a manuscript for a friend which is partly a memoir of his growing up during ‘the troubles’ in Northern Ireland. As I’ve been doing so, I was reminded of a quote by the Irish journalist Jack Holland, who wrote that
“the tragedy of Northern Ireland is that it is now a society in which the dead console the living”
Thankfully, though I have to tread carefully as I’m way outside my area of expertise, I think this is changing, and the final withdrawal of British troops from there is cause for some celebration.
When the dead console the living, there is always an element of deathwish: in the final analysis, people chose death rather than forgiveness or grace, so that they might be re-united with those who have already fallen. And so the bitterness circles round. Breaking that cycle, drawing people from a place where they gain energy from what is living, rather than from what is dead, is difficult.
We see the cycle in the latest round of shootings in Manchester. Gunmen actually attacked a wake for another victim, killing a man. Death circling and taunting; bitterness driving by and corroding all it touches.
Christianity without resurrection would have been just this: consoling memories of a great man, unjustly murdered by an oppressive regime. An acidic religion this would have been; it is one that many seem to follow. Always harking back, always cursing the breakthrough of the new. Finding comfort in opposition, solace in hostility.
But, thankfully, we are not a death cult. The resurrection event, and the words ‘forgive them father’, demand that we don’t find solace in the dead, but new life in resurrection. It’s that resurrection hope that I pray continues to spread out in Northern Ireland, that resurrection hope I pray will really impact the lives of communities in Manchester – and beyond.