Suffering At Christmas

by Zoë Pollock

The Pope's Christmas thought of the day for the BBC created quite the stir:

… it was not a political liberation that [Jesus] brought, achieved through military means: rather, Christ destroyed death for ever and restored life by means of his shameful death on the Cross.

Richard Dawkins was outraged. In a promising new blog, Eric MacDonald glimpsed the larger lesson after witnessing his wife's long battle against MS:

But one thing, during all those years of increasing disability and loss and pain, became very clear. Though we celebrated Jesus’ suffering and death at Christmas time, even as we sang carols about his birth, people did not want to hear about suffering, real human suffering and loss. As I mourned the dying of the light, watching someone I loved so dearly disintegrate before my very eyes, no one wanted to hear about real suffering at Christmas. They did not want to be reminded that people still grew sick and died, amidst the tinselly joy of Christmas time. Some were even offended if I mentioned it, even though they could see, year by year, Elizabeth’s abilities degrading more and more. ...

But there is something, to my mind, even more shameful.

It is the claim, made without the slightest apology, that death has been destroyed and life has been restored. Like the meaningless mumblings of all religions, this is a scandal, to tell someone who is suffering and dying that death has been destroyed, to say that the misery, the pain, the humiliation, the disintegration that happens to people as they die, has been already destroyed, that the torment and torture are past and the horror gone.