George Weigel wrote a column titled “Easter vs. irony” that appeared in our local Catholic paper and it’s great. It starts out like this:
At the beginning of Lent, I was sent a moving account of the recent funeral procession of a young American soldier, which took place near his hometown in the South.
Here Weigel refers to this emotionally powerful viral email message from 2005.
What follows is a message from Vicki Pierce about her nephew James’ funeral (he was serving our country in Iraq):
“I’m back, it was certainly a quick trip, but I have to also say it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. There is a lot to be said for growing up in a small town in Texas. The service itself was impressive with wonderful flowers and sprays, a portrait of James, his uniform and boots, his awards and ribbons. There was lots of military brass and an eloquent (though inappropriately longwinded) Baptist preacher. There were easily 1000 people at the service, filling the church sanctuary as well as the fellowship hall and spilling out into the parking lot.
However, the most incredible thing was what happened following the service on the way to the cemetery. We went to our cars and drove to the cemetery escorted by at least 10 police cars with lights flashing and some other emergency vehicles, with Texas Rangers handling traffic. Everyone on the road who was not in the procession, pulled over, got out of their cars, and stood silently and respectfully, some put their hands over their hearts.
When we turned off the highway suddenly there were teenage boys along both sides of the street about every 20 feet or so, all holding large American flags on long flag poles, and again with their hands on their hearts. We thought at first it was the Boy Scouts or 4H club or something, but it continued …. for two and a half miles. Hundreds of young people, standing silently on the side of the road with flags. At one point we passed an elementary school, and all the children were outside, shoulder to shoulder holding flags . kindergartners, handicapped, teachers, staff, everyone. Some held signs of love and support. Then came teenage girls and younger boys, all holding flags. Then adults. Then families. All standing silently on the side of the road. No one spoke, not even the very young children.
The military presence, at least two generals, a fist full of colonels, and representatives from every branch of the service, plus the color guard which attended James, and some who served with him … was very impressive and respectful, but the love and pride from this community who had lost one of their own was the most amazing thing I’ve ever been privileged to witness.
I’ve attached some pictures, some are blurry (we were moving), but you can get a small idea of what this was like. Thanks so much for all the prayers and support.
Pictures are included at the very end of this post. Take a look at it to see the sights that Ms. Pierce witnessed that had enough power to turn her email into a viral phenomenon.
I forwarded the message and the accompanying photos to a friend, who responded in a most thoughtful way:”There you see a culture untainted by irony. That is exactly the environment in which I was born and lived for my first eighteen years; imagine my surprise when I reached Princeton and discovered higher criticism, debonair nihilism and the enervating paralysis of irony.”
And he brings the discussion of irony into the Easter season.
The Jesus of the Gospels is a figure devoid of irony. […]In his Passion, Jesus confronts a supreme ironist, Pilate, who imagines the question, “What is truth?” to be both clever and a rhetorical show-stopper. The sign Pilate has affixed to the cross — “The King of the Jews” — reeks of irony, as so the taunts of those who wanted a messiah who better fit their understanding of power.
Perhaps the trouble so many highly educated people have in accepting the gift of faith today is that their spiritual faculties have been dulled by the irony in which modern and post-modern high culture abounds. Very little today is what it once was thought to be: what we once regarded as good, we are now taught was base; what we once honored as noble, we are now informed was merely self-serving; what we once thought to be self-sacrifice, we are now told was just self-delusion. Innocence is ignorance; only the ironic sensibility befits a well-educated modern. Or so we are told.
The Danish philosopher Kierkegaard had a rather different view: “Irony,” he wrote, “is an abnormal growth; like the abnormally enlarged liver of the Strasbourg goose, it ends by killing the individual.” Kills, that is spiritually: for irony is no part of that child-like openness with which, Jesus tells us, the Gospel’s invitation to faith must be received. If western culture is dying spiritually, perhaps the pathogen responsible is irony.
On the cross, Jesus is crushed by the weight of irony and cynicism. Easter, then, is God’s answer to the ironic: the New Life first manifest in the Risen Lord is God’s response to the ironic, God’s definitive proclamation that the ironist will not have the last word. In the Church, the Body of Christ which is the Risen Lord’s real presence extended in time and space, we encounter the truth and love than transcend the ironic and let us see things as they really are.
Irony no longer reigns. He is Risen!
Irony, archness, cynicism are ancient ways of thought. They plagued the ancient Greeks just as much as they plague the post-modern thinkers and hippies of today, who are none other than exponents of the Cynical School which has been maintained on life support past its time of brain death.
Irony dwelt in Pilate’s heart and caused him to mock Jesus Christ as the King of the Jews on the cross on which Christ died. Yet Irony could not destroy Christ. Christ and his message overcame Irony, the Christ Killer, and brought the Truth of God’s new covenant to the world. And the clear-eyed knowledge of God’s Truth conveyed in the Christian Church is available to people such as those who lined up by the sides of the road in these pictures.
Trackposted to The Virtuous Republic, Rosemary’s Thoughts, Adam’s Blog, Right Truth, Leaning Straight Up, Big Dog’s Weblog, Conservative Cat, Adeline and Hazel, D equals S, third world county, DragonLady’s World, The World According to Carl, Pirate’s Cove, The Pink Flamingo, Right Voices, Rosemary’s Thoughts, and Eric’s Writing Corner, thanks to Linkfest Haven Deluxe.