This is the script of this morning's Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4's Today programme:

When I got back from the Easter celebrations in Wakefield Cathedral yesterday I had no idea what was about to happen in Lahore with the deliberate targeting of Christians in a Taliban suicide bombing. The contrast between the celebrations here and the cost for those in Pakistan could not be stronger: death and resurrection are not just theological notions, but lived realities. However, what had been on my mind up to then was Karl Marx. He talked about the cost of turning people into commodities, making people and ideas into things.

What triggered this line of musing was the report that Easter is becoming the new Christmas. Apparently, increasing numbers of people are now sending Easter cards, buying and exchanging Easter gifts, and, while seeming to reject notions of resurrection or God, seem happy to deify a bunny rabbit with eggs in a basket. As they say, it's a funny old world.

What struck me about this was summed up in a media report I read following the Archbishop of Canterbury's statements about fixing the date of Easter itself. The responses seem to refer only to the impact that this might have on shopping and the sales of stuff. Everything has a price and everything ultimately gets reduced to its economic value or usefulness as a cog in the economic machine. I guess this is the final outworking of a language that replaces the social market with a market economy.

But, I am not sure this is ultimately helpful to us as individuals or as a society. People must surely be worth more than the mere economic value they represent either as producers or consumers, even if a couple of extra days holiday – perhaps even shopping – are welcome. Christians celebrate Easter as the day the promise of Christmas became surprisingly real: that the light that has come into the world cannot be extinguished even by death or violence or destruction. Yet, as I have walked with Jesus and his friends through Holy Week to death and resurrection, the light has looked pretty dim in a world in which the power brokers flex their military and economic muscles to keep the small people in check.

Easter is an invitation to face the darkness, to stare into the empty tomb to where death is supposed to be an end, and is the opposite of escapism or fantasy. Resurrection does not deny the power of destruction or evil; rather, it looks it in the eye and goes beyond it to new life. If Christmas represents – as one songwriter put it – “earth surprised by heaven”, then Easter surprises us with the whispered hint that there is more to life than death, and more to death than destruction.

Jesus objected to people being used as mere cogs in anyone's machine – even for their own theological purposes – and, so, met his bewildered friends in their abject darkness, met them where they were. They were surprised to find that their future was open, that they could be free even when oppressed. And that is what Christians call hope.

I managed to miss Bonfire Night (5 November when we celebrate the burning of Catholics – although that bit is usually forgotten when we chuck the guy on top of the pyre) and the first instalment of Diarmaid MacCulloch’s History of Christianity on BBC4. Instead, I was enjoying a visit to a multi-ethnic parish in Thornton Heath (which has just planted a new Ugandan congregation as a ‘Fresh Expression’) and didn’t get home till 11pm.

A quick glance at the news made me pause. The Prime Minister is to make a statement today on the war in Afghanistan. This follows a number of deaths in the British camp and the growing unease in this country about why ‘we’ are there in the first place. Pity anyone who has to lead a country in circumstances such as these – even if they did lead us into it.

Afghanistan flagWhat worries me is this: what would it look like if the war in Afghanistan was ‘won’? Would there be a western-style democracy? Would tribalism be ended? Would there be an ‘uncorrupt’ leadership backed by highly-trained and well-equipped armed forces? Or would it be that children were attending schools and women were working openly in the professions? I could go on.

I think several things worry me about the campaign in Afghanistan:

1. I closely followed the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. Paying no great attention to the demands of a human rights world, the Soviet armies went in and applied all the might they could to overpowering the ‘peasants’ from the mountians. Ten years later – and with a huge casualty list – they left with their tails between their legs. Huge firepower and determined violence failed. The arguments used by the West about that invasion/occupation then are now (ironically?) being used by the West to justify its own ongoing involvement. I am not sure that Afghanistan can be ‘re-ordered’ by outside powers to serve their own interests.

2. This campaign is struggling in Afghanistan itself and is clearly being lost in the pubs of Britain. I guess this is because of two things: (a) we see constant images of violence, death, repatriated coffins and weeping relatives of the casualties, and (b) it is hard to find anyone who can easily articulate the rationale behind our presence there. That is not to say there isn’t one; but if it can’t be clearly and simply articulated, then it can’t be communicated – and if it can’t be communicated, it can’t be owned by people who don’t have access to all the arguments and facts.

3. It is hard to know what ‘victory’ might look like, but it is equally hard to know if ‘defeat’ is the only other option. Is it not possible, having learned from the experience, to put armed support into bolstering the security of Pakistan, ring-fencing the Afghan opium trade and persuading more ‘acceptable’ forces to bring order within Afghanistan itself (such as other middle-eastern countries)? A peace-keeping force that was not made up of provocative western types might be possible and would call the bluff on the Taleban’s claim that they are only fighting to get the westerners out.

Afghan War

And isn’t it weird how Iraq has almost fallen off our screens and newspapers now that our troops have left? Aren’t we fickle when it comes to deciding what is important in the ‘news?