The Dead Console the Living?

DerryI 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.


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3 responses to “The Dead Console the Living?”

  1. Wow – what an amazing thought. Social liberals like me tend to think that Christianity would be a lot simpler and easier without the Christ, the crucifixion and the resurrection. This is a beautiful reminder of why all of those are so vital.

  2. I join you in this prayer.
    Anyone who knows grief knows what it’s like to have to leave the dead behind. I am wondering if we just need to let time round out the wisdom of those who grieve in Northern Ireland. I am looking forward to what comes of it. I sense that there are necessary stages even for different age groups. It takes patience to allow each their voice and time.
    But no one who desires a spiritual life can remain in a death-cult mindset. We have to keep being brave in our heralding of Resurrection. If we loose imagination of this, we loose everything.

  3. Time is critical – I know here in the states, people are telling the families of the 9/11 victims to forgive and move on – this while remains of body parts are still being discovered at the site not to mention the ongoing war being fought that uses this event as the excuse to go to battle. I am also saddened that the US has failed to make the connection to 9/11 and the other Ground Zeros that have taken place in Belfast, Dresden and the list goes on and on and on … Desmond Tutu’s book “No Future Without Forgiveness” blew me out of the water on this very subject.