EASTER challenges us all on the problem of evil. The Easter
proclamation is that the world is redeemed. But it is left to us to
work out what redemption looks like, especially when evil seems to
have the upper hand.
I have found myself thinking a lot about Andreas Lubitz, and
what made him crash his plane, with such appalling consequences, on
the Tuesday of Passion Week. I understand the tendency to seek a
bureaucratic focus for blame: the possibly inadequate checks on
pilots' capacity to fly; the confidentiality that prevented Mr
Lubitz's doctors from warning his employers. It is comforting for
us to be able to say that the system failed, and could be corrected
if we tried harder.
But the evil temptation that overcame Mr Lubitz was surely both
banal and subtle. He was both perpetrator and victim of his crime.
Christian realism insists that there is a reality of evil, and it
easily intertwines with human personality; it plays on our
vulnerabilities, prodding us always in the direction of
catastrophe. Evil usually offers a short cut, a dramatic and
premature exit from the struggle for integrity to which we are
Easter speaks to the victims of the crash, and to the bereaved,
with the difficult but ultimately life-giving hope that death is
not the last word. Christ has conquered; love has won. Nothing and
no one is finally lost. This is hard in an age when so many have
given up on any hope of life beyond death. There is an aching
injustice in Mr Lubitz's deed which perhaps only the Easter message
We must extend our hope to Mr Lubitz too, but with the awareness
that the promise is inextricably linked with judgment. He may have
sought oblivion in the mountainside crash, but he is still a
creature; a beloved child of the God of love. Redemption for him is
no escape from the nightmares of the mind; indeed, the therapy of
God's love must require him to face up to what he did.
Some, of course, will believe that the person who was Mr Lubitz
is now in hell, for ever beyond the love and mercy of God. But
Easter will not let us stop there. Easter, as the Orthodox say,
is, simply is, the forgiveness of sins. It is not
nonsensical to imagine that the therapy that Mr Lubitz both sought
and evaded on earth is now held out to him by God. He will have had
to confront the face of God, the face of absolute suffering and
absolute love. We do not know whether his final encounter with
reality annihilates him, or initiates a slow and perhaps agonising
process of redemption.
At Easter, truth and love are one - for us, as well as for him.
Redemption is freedom, but also justice.