This, has caused something of a spat on Twitter.
Sadiq Khan is the current mayor of London, member of the British Labour Party and one of the world’s 500 most influential Muslims.
For some, Mr. Khan’s Easter greetings, or, more precisely, his greetings to those who celebrate Easter, are an indication that he is treating London’s Christians as “outsiders”, and for others his message is a slight on Christian Britain. A cursory glance at the associated thread will give an indication of the strength of feeling.
Far from simply making a contribution to London or to Britain, we should realise that Britain is a Christian country:
“The whole country is Christian, along with our culture!”
“We do not make a contribution WE are this country.”
And some have taken exception to his use of the word “our”, as in “you (the Christian community) make a massive contribution to ‘our’ city.”
Whether this is an inclusive ‘our’ or an exclusive ‘our’ will be difficult to establish without further explanation from Mr. Khan himself. What intrigues me more are his comments about what and why Christians celebrate.
“This is a special holiday time when Christians rejoice in the resurrection of Jesus…”
Indeed, but it’s not the kind of statement which should roll off the tongue easily.
The latter part of the same sentence, “… and reflect on the values of love, forgiveness and faith that he embodied,” is a lot easier to say.
The latter part of the sentence is also quite lovely and rather agreeable, and probably as useful an illustration of the religion of our age as any. Anyone, after all, might reflect upon or draw comfort from the values of almost any religion or philosophy without having to accept them as true.
And therein lies the trouble, and a trouble it is, because if the Christians are rejoicing in the resurrection of Jesus, and if politicians are happy to recognise that this is what the Christians are doing, then that provokes, or ought to provoke, a question.
That they might remember His birth or His death is understandable, but they are rejoicing in His life after His death, and they are really quite serious about it.
And in light of the question and its potential answer, the concern that Mr. Khan might be treating the Christians as ‘outsiders’ pales into insignificance.
For if Jesus has, indeed, been resurrected, then it is altogether irrelevant whether Christians are ‘insiders’ or ‘outsiders’ in the city, any city. As it is irrelevant whether or not Britain, or any other country, is perceived to be a Christian nation with a Christian culture (whatever a Christian culture is).
What matters more is that the Christians are making a statement of historical fact. They are saying that Jesus died, and rose again; that Jesus is alive; that He more than an embodiment of hope, and is, rather, the King of all the nations. And the Christians wherever they are in the world, and whichever city they live or die in, will, in fact, not die, but live and reign with Jesus forever.
This is the Christian’s message of Easter and the reason for their rejoicing, and it is the reason for their hope, whatever the current predicament of their Church.
Mr. Khan is correct, the Christians are celebrating and rejoicing in the news of the resurrection of Jesus.
But it’s not the kind of news which ought to solicit kind greetings or nationalistic fervour about Christian nations—it’s the kind of news that requires us to bow. For it means that there is only one true King, and every hope for the forgiveness and leadership we need rests only in Him.
Easter then, is not really a time for reflection, it’s a time when the Christians say that Jesus is King and Caesar is not; which puts one in mind of the words inscribed above the high altar in the capital’s abbey:
“The Kingdoms of this world are become the the Kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ.”
And whether the Christians are insiders or outsiders, and whether the nation’s culture is Christian or not, the bigger question is whether or not the world will accept it.