I am back! It has been a very busy few weeks, with Holy Week and Easter services to prepare for, and I have found it difficult to update this blog. That is the challenging thing about writing – it comes from a space of critical thinking and creativity, which requires the mind to be free of distraction and worry.
In addition, I have been wondering how to broach the topic of Easter with the readers of this blog. During my days as a religious skeptic (if I may not still be classified as such), the Easter story seemed to me one of the most unacceptable claims of Christianity. God raised a man from the dead? If God exists, and if God is capable of raising people back from the dead, why hasn’t God brought more people back from the dead in the last 2,000 years? I can think of some good candidates. I bet you can, too.
The traditional view of Jesus’ resurrection is based on the accounts of people who lived nearly 2000 years ago, and their testimonies were passed down verbally for several generations before being committed down to paper. The traditional version of the story still holds tremendous truth and power for people rooted deeply in religious tradition, but for those who understand the world primarily through a modern scientific and historical lens, this version of the story alone is unbelievable.
Some Christians seek to adapt the Easter story to the modern perspective by speaking of Jesus’ resurrection as a “spiritual,” or non-physical, event. Unwittingly, this perspective suggests that the tradition of the church has little bearing on the present and that religion is nothing but fantasy. Our modern, secular world is desperate for faith that is real and tangible. No wonder this version of the resurrection story has failed to captivate or inspire.
When I began to embrace Christianity in college, it was the life and teachings of Jesus that won my affections, not Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Easter story remained an obstacle to my embracing Christianity fully. This year, something changed. For the first Easter ever, Jesus’ resurrection has become real for me. It has become real not spiritually but in a physical way. In my own body, in my own flesh, the resurrection story speaks to me as if I were there. On the one hand, the change has been subtle. I have had no conversion moment, nor have I rejected modern scientific and historical analysis. Yet now, without reservation, I can join in that ancient greeting and say, “Christ is risen!” “He is risen indeed!” To know and to feel that is nothing subtle.
There are many ways of understanding the resurrection, and our understandings will inevitably change throughout time. I believe that the resurrection is something to be experienced, not to understand, but if you want to understand the Easter story, ask the tough questions! Jesus himself said that it is in asking that we receive, and that it is in searching that we find. Though the church is often afraid of such questions, it is only in the ensuing dialogue that the church has any room for opportunity and growth.
Thanks to Marcus Borg for this lively discussion about the false choice of a “physical” vs. “spiritual” understanding of the resurrection. http://www.patheos.com/Resources/Additional-Resources/Resurrection-of-Jesus-Marcus-Borg-04-18-2011.html.
Also of note, just in time for Holy Week, Lady Gaga released another religiously themed song! In “Judas,” she sings as a Mary Magdalene who is in love with Judas, the man who betrayed Jesus. Not exactly Biblically accurate, but an interesting and catchy tune. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aAWpkZSCMXU