Were you raised in a Christian household? I was. I loved the stories from the Hebrew Scriptures that my family, especially my grandfather, told me. The Old Testament was full of excitement, violence, and incredibly flawed heroes. Not to mention some interesting advice in Proverbs and beautiful poetry in Psalms and Song of Solomon.
Then came the Christian half of the Bible. Over time and study, I grew to honor and respect that feisty social revolutionary whose words and teachings have largely been ignored for the past 2000 years. Love your enemy. Don’t turn sacred places into money markets. Focus on the present moment instead of hoarding and stressing about the future. Blessed are the poor. Let your yes be yes, and your no be no.
Who actually listens to that guy? I’ve tried to, along with billions of other people, but his challenges are pretty extreme.
And then comes the end of his tale. He’s nailed to a cross for threatening the power structure of a bunch of well-connected, conservative upper-class priests. And supposedly, he comes back from the dead a few days after his crucifixion.
I honestly despise this part of the Jesus story. I hate that a Father constructed a grand plan to sacrifice his own son. I hate that a politically-motivated murder seems to give people carte blanche when it comes to doing wrong. At a gut level, I’ve never understood the meaning of the phrase, “He died for our sins.” What does this phrase mean to people in daily life? That we can go on treating each other horribly, ignoring the bulk of Jesus’s teachings?
Along with misgivings about the death narrative, I have also had difficulty with the literal view of the resurrection. In fact, I remember talking to both pastors who baptized our boys about my inability to suspend disbelief over this part of the story. Do I need to believe this supernatural piece of the story to buy into Christian teachings, and to be part of what I consider a pretty awesome, progressive Christian community? Maybe, maybe not. I just read an interesting article about this question. And my wife just shared a podcast with me that goes to the core of this dilemma.
And what if resurrection isn’t literal, or if Jesus was only a literary figure. Is this entire story a call to be reborn during our lives? I think that’s how I’ve interpreted it for most of my life. Christianity isn’t the only religion/philosophy that preaches rebirth. It’s a widely explored concept all over the world, and one I started to touch on with my last post about creating a new lifestyle, and on my very first post.
I like the story after the Resurrection. I like that women were the first witnesses and carriers of the message. That was a pretty nice strike against patriarchy. I like that people are supposed to feel a fire inside of them, act upon it, and carry that passion forward. I like that there are skeptical folks like Thomas who grapple with the physical impossibility of Resurrection. It’s a cool story.
And, at age 35, I’m cool with still being totally confused by it.