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In a Scrolling World, Are We Numb to the Resurrection’s Shock?

Can you remember any top world news headlines from April 9, 2023? What about headlines from April 17, 2022, or April 4, 2021? Probably 2020 was the only Easter in recent memory when you might remember what was happening in the world—but even that will fade from memory sooner than we expect.

What we can remember about Easter last year, and every year going back nearly two millennia, is that scores of Christians across the world confessed, sang about, and celebrated their belief in the deity of a human who actually walked and talked on this earth for a time.

This man is named Jesus. On Easter Sunday every year, people from nearly every nation and language, every class and ethnicity, worship him as Lord. They confess he suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead, and buried in first-century Jerusalem; and supernaturally rose from the dead three days later.

Consider how absurd this sounds. Consider how shocking it’d be as a headline if it were reported by some time-traveling newswire service to people in any BC kingdom or culture. We’re talking about the most outrageous headline of the year, and it happens every year: On Easter, a third of the planet’s population honors the day in history when Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

It’s an insane headline because it speaks to the fact that, even today—in our modern scientific age—more people than ever believe in a supernatural event that science says cannot happen. The headline’s enduring repetition, year after year for centuries, proves the legitimacy of the event at its center (the resurrection) or highlights a mass delusion of unprecedented scale. Either way, it’s utterly newsworthy.

And yet on this year’s Easter Sunday, any number of soon-to-be-forgotten occurrences will claim “lead story” status in newspapers and newscasts worldwide. Instead of what 2.4 billion Christians claim and celebrate, “Breaking News!” alerts will compel millions to click on infinitely less newsworthy items. More people will probably click on articles about Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce on Easter Sunday than will read a Gospel account of Jesus’s resurrection. For American college basketball fans, the big news of the day will be which teams made the Final Four.

Why are we numb to the resurrection’s shock and seemingly bored by history’s biggest event? Why does the headline “Billions worship a man who rose from the dead and ascended to heaven” seem like old news that barely registers as a trending topic? Here are a few theories.

1. It’s old in a world obsessed with new.

Part of why the resurrection feels like “old news” is that it is old news, especially in a culture of increasingly short-term memory. Few of us can remember what was newsworthy a week ago, let alone a year or a century or two millennia ago. The digital age has eroded cultural memory and our capacity to think beyond the “now.”

We’re talking about the most outrageous headline of the year, and it happens every year.

According to the algorithm and push notifications of our devices, what matters is what’s happening, not what happened or what will happen. Digital capitalism is built around ephemeral consumerism, and technologies are formed to funnel our attention into present-tense tasks, distractions, and attention-occupying experiences. The “old news” of Christ’s resurrection doesn’t serve the algorithm’s interests.

2. It’s familiar in a world addicted to fresh.

What’s familiar tends to bore us. This is our nature going back to Eden. Rather than being content with the given, we’re curious and hungry for the exotic, the unknown, the novel.

This has never been more true than in our algorithmically structured world, where money is made insofar as attention is held, and attention is held by a steady stream of novel amusements, hot takes, and “haven’t seen that before!” twists. There’s little currency in the familiar, which fails to engage audiences conditioned to swipe past what they’ve already read, watched, or listened to.

Incidentally, this dynamic is part of why many contemporary pastors often dread Easter: they feel the annual burden of coming up with a “fresh spin” or relevant packaging of Resurrection Sunday. Pastel-hued, sunrise-heavy branding and “He is risen!” slogans feel passé and unpalatable in an easily bored, novelty-addicted age.

3. It’s fanciful in a world unsure of what’s real.

Reality feels elusive in a deep-fake world. As AI continues to destabilize the integrity of any image, video, or text we come across online, our already shaky epistemology is now in steeper collapse. A hermeneutic of suspicion becomes a survival mechanism. When everything feels tainted by bias or fodder for some tribe’s conspiratorial narrative, we start to question anything with a whiff of fakery.

Certainly an ancient cult that developed around a Jewish rabbi who claimed to be God, and whose followers claimed to encounter his reanimated corpse, checks that “sounds unreal” box for many.

That doesn’t mean it’s not an appealing story for people. As movies like Dune Two attest, narrative tropes of supernatural messiahs still compel modern people. But in a digital landscape of competing spectacles, where ever more of life is experiential artifice and virtual reality holds greater appeal than reality, the “truth” of things doesn’t matter as much as how they resonate and fit into the vibe we’re curating for ourselves.

That’s why the resurrection of Christ feels less like “shocking news” than like one cultural artifact among many that might be adopted, rejected, appropriated, or integrated into a person’s bespoke collage of expressive identity.

Unrivaled Importance

These dynamics are at work not only in the hearts and minds of secular folks but in believers as well. In a world like this—growing ever less enchanted by the wonder of Easter and ever more numb to its shocking truth—Christians have to fight not to follow suit. If we become bored by the annual declaration “He is risen!” what hope is there for unbelievers to take interest?

The ‘old news’ of Christ’s resurrection doesn’t serve the algorithm’s interests.

Christians should reclaim the shock, awe, and world-altering, life-transforming, society-reshaping magnitude of Christ’s resurrection. We should boldly rehearse it not just as an aesthetically pleasing, family-friendly, feel-good holiday mood but as a historical fact.

The orientation of our Easter practices must go beyond brunch plans and pastel matching outfits for the church’s photo booth. The Easter church worship gathering ought to be a high point of our year, along with (ideally) church gatherings at other points in the week leading up to Easter (e.g., Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday). Beyond just “another thing in my last week of March,” in between Little League games and tax preparation, Easter ought to occupy a place of unrivaled importance. It is, after all, the commemoration of a historical event of unrivaled importance.

Think about the biggest “world news” events of recent generations: the September 11 attacks, JFK’s assassination, D-Day. It’s normal to mark anniversaries of these events, but usually, annual commemorations die out after a few generations. I doubt my grandkids will even notice when September 11 comes along each year.

Yet Easter is an annual remembrance of a historical event that’s still being celebrated, arguably on a greater scale than ever, nearly 2,000 years later. That’s because it’s the biggest news story of your life, or any life—even of those who shrug it off or scroll right past it.

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