Easter a time to celebrate the 'raw facticity' of resurrection


By Reggie Ponder

Friday, April 19, 2019

Easter has arrived once more.

It seems like just yesterday that it was Easter 2018 and now here we are at Easter 2019.

I love celebrating Easter and proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus and would never say or do anything, at least intentionally, that would detract from my conviction that the resurrection of Jesus occurred in history as a real event. I never wish to relegate the resurrection to being merely a metaphor for hope, redemption and resurgence.

Years ago a wonderful teacher was teaching about the resurrection accounts in the Gospels when a member of the class asked if the empty tomb that is referenced in the narratives was not simply a symbol of faith. The teacher replied that he never would yield one inch on the “raw facticity” of the empty tomb.

That has stuck with me in the more than 20 years that have passed since then, partly because as a lover of language I am captivated by the phrase “raw facticity” but even more because it reflects my own view so completely.

With all that in mind, though, I do believe the Easter message includes a broader element of hope in addition to the foundational truth of the historical resurrection of Jesus. Resurrection, in other words, is a meaningful metaphor for dramatic turnarounds that might not involve literal death but nevertheless reflect a movement from a death-like state of mind or state of existence into a full and abundant embrace of life.

Since that’s all way too theoretical, let me get specific.

I recently saw the historically based “Best of Enemies,” which stars Taraji P. Henson and Sam Rockwell as a civil rights leader and KKK leader, respectively, who end up co-chairing a community input process on the proposed integration of schools in the city of Durham at the beginning of the 1970s. The two not surprisingly begin the process with enormous suspicion toward one another but gradually develop a begrudging respect and eventually become friends after the KKK leader renounces his membership in the hate group.

Having grown up on the outskirts of the Durham area I was familiar with the real life history of Ann Atwater and C.P. Ellis, but seeing the drama unfold onscreen was still enormously moving for me.

Watching Ellis give up the death-like fear and hatred of the KKK for a life of trust and love was a reminder of the way resurrection continues to happen in the lives of people today.

Reggie Ponder is a staff writer at The Daily Advance.