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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Easter - Take 2

I am not trying to perform an attack on anyone's Easter thing. Religion is a very personal thing. I'm just struggling with my own theology this season.

I've realized that at the root of my Easter problem is the fact that Unitarians do not buy into the trilogy. That is why they are not called Trinitarians. Even if Jesus is of the divine, he is not God, said early Unitarians. This got them a toasty place at the stake. They've been around, by the way, since the first century.

So, deep in my bones there is this tradition of a human Jesus who died and suffered and was an amazing person whose message was powerful enough to change the lives of those around him and the lives of people living more than 2000 years after his death.

Reading John Shelby Spong's book resurrection: myth or reality? has been helpful for me. It made me realize that I don't hate Easter. Good Friday got somehow tangled up with Easter for me because I BELIEVE in Good Friday but got lost on the way to Easter.

Once I untangled Good Friday and Easter, I realized that I didn't have as big a problem with Easter. My problem then is with the literalness of the resurrection.

Spong doesn't assume a literal risen Christ. It is a fascinating look at scripture with a historical background and an attempted reconstruction of what may have happened.

If the resurrection of Jesus cannot be believed except by assenting to the fantastic descriptions included in the Gospels, then Christianity is doomed. For that view of resurrection is not believable, and if that is all there is, then Christianity, which depends upon the truth and authenticity of Jesus' resurrection, also is not believable. If that were the requirement of belief as a Christian, then I would sadly leave my house of faith. With me in that exodus from the Christian church however, would be every ranking New Testament scholar in the world -- Catholic and Protestant alike...

...There is no exodus of this group from the Christian church because we are convinced that the reality of Easter is not captured in the words of the developing Christian legends. We can reject the literal narratives about the resurrection and still not reject the truth and power of the resurrection event itself. That is the distinction that must be made. We would not have the legends unless there had been a moment so indescribable that legends became necessary to explain it.
I'm okay with that. I have no trouble understanding myths that are far away from the Christian tradition. It is in trying to understand Christian myths that I have the most difficulty. I think it is because I've never spoken with anyone who thinks that Thor really lives in the clouds.

But I've met plenty of people who believe that Jesus was the living God and rose on the third day. And that Eve ate an apple to earn us pain in childbirth. And that the earth was created entire in six days.

It's hard for me to mythify someone's reality. And I guess it is not the myth of Christianity that speaks to me, but the history and the reality of the message. A transforming and powerful message of love, peace and justice. Radical.

This is the Jesus who is alive, who cannot die, who dwells within.

Happy Easter.

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