By Brent Woodard 

Anglican/ United Church

The word “Easter” domesticates the radicalness of what it commemorates – crucifixion and resurrection. Crucifixion was the form of state terrorism that the Roman empire used in the time of Jesus to keep people from rebelling. 

It was not used for common criminals. It was reserved for those who threatened, in some way, the legitimacy of the state. Dissenters were hung on crosses in public spaces. 

To say it crassly, crucified bodies were billboards communicating the message, “if you threaten the state, this will happen to you.” Sadly, what Jesus did was not a one-off, not by a long shot. 

The death of Alexei Navalny on February 16 this year is seen as the result of him being an opposition leader and anti-corruption activist in Russia. Many people who attended his funeral have been put in jail. Some people are now asking “who will be the next Navalny?” That is not a small ask in a country where a person may die for speaking out against injustice and the harm the state is doing to others. 

It was 59 years ago this week, on March 21 that marchers set off on their third attempt to walk from Selma, Alabama to the state capital at Montgomery. They were drawing attention to the violence and murder of black people seeking their rights, and to the measures the state had taken to prevent black people from voting. It was consequential to dissent in Alabama 60 years ago. 

Apparently, the civil unrest in Iran has now subsided, but it was striking how many people demonstrated after Mahsa Amini was arrested and died in custody on September 16, 2022 for allegedly violating Iran’s mandatory hijab law by wearing her hijab “improperly” while visiting Tehran. 

Let’s not domesticate the crucifixion. It’s significant what Jesus did in his context, what other people have done in their contexts, and what could be asked of us depending on the context in which we live. 

Resurrection. We domesticate this also when we say it is about fertility symbols like bunnies, or it is about spring after winter, or even if it is just about life after death. Crucified people aren’t just dying. They are being executed so that a system of domination and fear and injustice can continue. 

Resurrection may be a sign that these people are not afraid, or that they are awake, or that they are living by another program than the one the totalitarian state wants them to live. 

Resurrected people, if I can say it that way, make totalitarian states nervous because they can’t use fear to control them any longer. Resurrected people have awoken to a different centre of their lives, a different identity to who they are, a different purpose to why they are here. Resurrected people can change the world.