Current attitudes to truth are similar to those of Pontius Pilate, church leaders say

Presbyterian leader says survey found 30% of children think Easter marks birthday of bunny

 Archbishop Eamon Martin: in a joint Easter message questioned attitudes to truth. Photograph:  PA Wire

Archbishop Eamon Martin: in a joint Easter message questioned attitudes to truth. Photograph: PA Wire


Attitudes to the truth in today’s world echo those of Pontius Pilate at the trial of Jesus, the Catholic and Church of Ireland primates have said in a joint Easter message.

Pilate asked: “self-servingly and flippantly, ‘What is truth?’”, Archbishop Eamon Martin and Archbishop Richard Clarke noted.

“From Pilate’s position of power, truth is optional, inconsequential even; truth can be defined how one wants,” they said.

“In many ways it seems as though the same attitude to truth prevails in the world of today. People talk of being ‘economical’ with the truth, of ‘mis-speaking’ instead of ‘lying’, and of ‘fake news’ as the news that is inconvenient. The truth, the whole truth about the past can be covered up, manipulated, revised and presented to suit the agendas of the powerful today,” they said.

“But truth matters infinitely. Christians must not be content to keep silent in a world where truth has almost become a disposable commodity – occasionally of value, but capable of being twisted or discarded when awkward, disturbing or embarrassing.”

They recalled how “the great German theologian and martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, preaching in Berlin as Adolf Hitler was coming to power, reflected on Pontius Pilate’s question, ‘What is truth?’

“He said that although we may ask for the truth, there is also a truth that is asking for us, seeking us out. We may live in a miasma of half-truths and untruths, but the truth that is Christ himself is challenging us, on a daily basis, to take our place at his side in the name of unconditional truth and of absolute integrity.”

Commercialisation of Easter

In these weeks, we have an opportunity “to delve deeper into the mystery of the Passion and Resurrection of Our Lord and allow ourselves to be taken over by the truth who seeks us out,” they said.

In his Easter message, the Presbyterian Moderator Rev Dr Frank Sellar said that “a recent survey showed that 30 per cent of children thought Easter celebrated the birthday of the Easter Bunny.”

This, he said, was “hardly surprising given the ongoing commercialisation of Easter and how the traditional symbolism that has been associated with this greatest of Christian festivals has been subsumed by the world around us.”

It seemed this symbolism “has gradually been forgotten by society – so it’s only right that we should reclaim this imagery of hope and joy for today as we proclaim the wonderful news ‘He is risen!’ and all that this entails,” he said.