Archive for the ‘Synchroblog’ category

Synchroblog: The Resurrection Hoax

April 10, 2012

Here’s the invitation:

For the April Synchroblog, we want to explore this question in more detail. We want to ask, “What if the resurrection is a lie?”

The invitation to write continues, “We believe Jesus rose from the dead. But what if it was all a hoax? How would the world and our lives be different?”

I’ve heard people say that if they had cancer or were faced with some other dramatically life-altering experience, then they would respond in certain ways. Here’s the thing: no one can know unless they’ve actually stood face-to-face with those things. We can guess, and we can hope — but we can’t know for certain.

In the same way, it’s impossible for me to respond to some questions. What if I hadn’t been born with blue eyes? What if I’d grown up rich, or on the East Coast, or what if I were deaf? I can vaguely speculate, but I certainly can’t definitively say, “Here’s what I’d be like, and here’s why,” because those aren’t part of my existential reality.

What is part of my reality is that I grew up Christian, going to church every week. I grew up in a time when that’s pretty much what people did. There wasn’t the proclamation that “America is a Christian nation” in the same way as we often hear it now — because there was no need to state what was pretty much obvious. I left the church because of life circumstances I’ve talked about elsewhere, but I never lost my faith. I returned to the church twenty years later, again because of life circumstances, and was deeply involved for another twenty years. Right now I’m in limbo. Or on a sabbatical. Take your pick. But I haven’t lost my faith. As a matter of fact, separation from the institutional church and the resultant self-examination only makes my faith deeper.

But… here’s the thing: I don’t believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus. I also don’t believe that God created the world in seven days, or that the earth is flat or many of the other things that the bible says.

However, I do believe in the resurrection of the Christ. To me it’s not a hoax at all. I believe that the Christ transcended death and went to rejoin the Almighty One after being with us here on earth. I believe that the Christ appeared to the women, to the twelve, to those on the road to Emmaus. I believe that the Christ sent the Paraclete — the Advocate — the Comforter — to be with us. I believe that Jesus was and is the Christ, one of the three “persons” of the Trinity.

The introduction to a forgotten novel I read a long time ago said something like, “Everything you read here is true, whether it happened or not.” We tell stories in ways that help us to understand what we think and, more importantly, how we feel. In my life that is the part that matters, and how I can describe how I relate to the resurrection story. Maybe I’m wrong, and I know that many would describe what I say as heresy. Maybe Jesus the human being was lifted up in bodily form. God is infinite, and does many things that I cannot comprehend. I know that. But, again — to me that doesn’t matter. What matters are the consequences of the resurrection. Christ was born; Christ is risen; Christ will come again… and again.

It’s different than what I’m saying, but related… Far better than I ever could, John Dominic Crossan answered our question in this way:

The Communal Resurrection of Jesus

In the great Rotunda of the ancient Church of the Resurrection — or Church of the Holy Sepulchre — in Jerusalem is a tiny free-standing shrine known as the Aedicule or Chapel of the Tomb and Resurrection of Jesus. It is a tiny space and pilgrims are usually lined up waiting their turn to enter a few at a time.

A processional banner was hanging to our right as we entered that shrine-chapel in May, 2008. It is kept there, presumably, to be used in liturgical celebration on Easter Sunday. It is bright red with golden lettering down either side. To left is the word “Christ” and to right “Is Risen” — both in Greek upper-case letters. No surprise there since that is Easter’s celebratory greeting in Eastern Christianity. But in between those words, in the center of the banner, is a diamond-shaped image. And it surprises us.

That image does not show Jesus arising in splendid triumph from an opened tomb. This is not — even in miniature — a Titian or a Rubens with Jesus emerging in muscular majesty. But emerging, however majestically, in magnificent and lonely isolation. Instead, four other individuals are with him in this parabolic vision.

Jesus himself is at the left of the icon. He holds a small cross in his left hand and stands on the bi-fold gates of Sheol, Hades, or Hell which are shattered into a cross-shaped structure beneath his feet. Jesus is bending forward — gently, tenderly, graciously — and, stretching out his right hand, he grasps and pulls on the rather limp wrist of Adam. Beside Adam stands Eve. Behind the two of them stand a youthful Abel, with shepherd’s staff, and an older John the Baptist, with beard and long hair. They are the first martyr of the Christianity’s Old Testament and the first martyr of its New Testament.

At the top of that diamond-shaped image, lest there be any mistake about meaning, is the word Anastasis, Greek for “resurrection”. But is not Easter about the absolutely unique resurrection of Jesus alone, so why are any others involved and, if others, why precisely these others? The answer reveals a major difference between Easter Sunday as imagined and celebrated in Eastern Christianity as opposed to Western Christianity. It also reveals for me the latter’s greatest theological loss from that fatal split in the middle of the eleventh century.

When you look at Eastern Christianity’s images, either for the great feasts of the liturgical year or for traditional events in Jesus’ life, they are all — save one — quite recognizable to Western as to Eastern eyes. The great exception is how Eastern Christianity portrays the “Resurrection,” that is, in Greek, the “Anastasis,” of Jesus. Across vast stretches of time, place, art, and tradition, icons and illustrations, frescoes and mosaics show always a communal and not an individual resurrection for Jesus. We can watch that magnificent tradition develop across half a millennium — from 700 to 1200 — before its varied elements and successive stages are fully established.

First, the various elements of the tradition. Jesus is shown breaking down the closed and bolted gates of the Underworld — as Sheol, Hades, or Hell — the abode of the Dead, the prison of “those who have slept” — that is the same Greek term used for them in both Matthew 27:52 and 1 Corinthians 15:20. The personified Hades, Prison-warden and Gate-keeper of the Dead, is shoved to one side or even walked on as Jesus barges in to liberate his prisoners. Jesus is usually carrying a cross, his wounds are often very evident.

Only six individuals are identified from the crowd responding to Jesus’s arrival among the dead — they appear chronologically across the tradition’s development in this sequence. First, bearded Adam and youthful Eve appeared. In almost every single image, Jesus grasps the wrist of Adam to pull him alive from his tomb. Later, David, with crown and a beard, along with his son Solomon, with crown but without a beard, were added. Finally, as seen above, those twin martyrs, the Shepherd and the Baptist, joined the others. So, in summary, two ancestors, two monarchs, and two martyrs are singled out from the crowd. Still, if Adam and Eve are freed, who is not?

Next, the successive stages of the tradition. In the first stage Jesus is always approaching — as we just saw above — and grasping Adam’s wrist. A next stage shows him leaving — often looking backward or forward as he drags Adam by the wrist with the others looking on. A third or facing stage is similar to that last one except that now Jesus looks not backward or forward but straight out of the image — at you, the beholder.

Finally, there is the last or doubling stage and I must admit that it is my favorite. Jesus has put down the cross — sometimes an angel holds it for him — and Adam and Eve are now on opposite sides of Jesus instead of, as earlier, both on the same side. Each gets a hand at this stage. We finally have an equal-opportunity resurrection of the dead.

In the western Christian tradition we call that tradition the Harrowing — or Robbing — of Hell and keep it carefully distinguished from the individual Resurrection of Jesus. “He descended into Hell,” says the Apostles’ Creed, “on the third day he arose from the dead.” But in the eastern Christian tradition it is the communal Resurrection of Jesus. We, to our loss and my grief, have forgotten that corporate vision of Easter.

Eastern Christianity’s tradition of the resurrection of Jesus reminds our Western Christian imagination that only poetry — be it verbal or visual — speaks to our profoundest hopes, deepest dreams, and greatest insights. It also reminds us that theology is — no more and no less — the poetry of transcendence.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-dominic-crossan/the-communal-resurrection-jesus_b_847507.html

I’ll post a list as others post on this synchroblog topic.

Here is the list of the other posts on this topic:

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Abbie Watters – What if the Resurrection were a lie?
Carol Kuniholm – Risen Indeed? The Hermeneutic Community
Christine Sine – If the Resurrection did not happen, how would the world be different?
Ellen Haroutunian – Is There a Christianity Without the Resurrection?
Glenn – Kingdom Come or Kingdom Now?
Jeannette Altes – What if…
Jeremy Myers – What if Jesus Did not Rise?
Josh Morgan – The Role of the Resurrection
Kathy Escobar – Jenga Faith
KW Leslie – Supposing Jesus is Dead
Leah – Resurrection – Or Not!
Liz Dyer – The Resurrection I Firmly Believe In
Marta – On Faith Seeking Understanding, Truth, and Theology
Minnow – Resurrection Impact
Sonja Andrews – The Resurrection and the Life
Tim Nichols – How Would Life be Different if Jesus did not Rise?
Travis Mamone – If the Resurrection was a Hoax
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The women: named and unnamed

March 20, 2012

The inspiration for my post began with Carol Howard Merritt’s recent post “Love and Lent: How my faith was formed in the midst of betrayal.” I highly recommend that everyone read that–whether you continue with my post or not. Go ahead: I’ll wait…

  • My mother paces the kitchen a few more times. Instead of grabbing the phone again, she picks up a big basin and places our plushest guest towels inside of it. Then she yells out to the quiet house, “Car-ol! Let’s go!”
  • My mother takes the basin, walks into her friend’s kitchen, and fills it with warm water. She carries it to Margaret’s feet, taking off Margaret’s shoes, she cradles her soles as if they are the most precious things in the world. Without a word, mom puts them in the water and washes them.
  • Margaret begins to cry and it doesn’t take long before the tears smear all of our faces. Mom takes Margaret’s feet out and dries them on the soft towels. Throughout the entire ritual, we don’t talk, but we know what’s being said. I even understand the depth of it, at my young age. Margaret is about to face some of the worst public betrayal, as people began to pick apart the indiscretions of her husband.
  • Mom wanted Margaret to know one thing in the midst of it. Margaret would be cherished, even to the end of her toes.

Luke 10

38 As they traveled, Jesus entered a village where a woman named Martha welcomed him to her home. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who seated herself at Jesus’ feet and listened to his words.

John 11

32 When Mary got to Jesus, she fell at his feet and said, “If you had been here, Lazarus never would have died.”

John 12

Mary brought a pound of costly ointment, pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus, wiping them with her hair. The house was full of the scent of the ointment.

John 13

Jesus—knowing that God had put all things into his own hands, and that he had come from God and was returning to God—rose from the table, took off his clothes and wrapped a towel around his waist. He then poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and dry them with the towel that was around his waist.

So here we are, four weeks into the season of Lent. Lent: the time in the church year when we are called on to walk with Jesus on his road from Galilee to Jerusalem–to see him experience the time of trial, his humiliation, his execution. Even while trying to walk that walk, we know that in the end Jesus will triumph over death in the Resurrection.

But today, thanks in part to Carol’s remarkable story, I find myself thinking not of walking, but of being at the feet.

My beloved spouse Melinda has bad feet. In her job, she calls on customers in manufacturing plants; typically these are cold, concrete-floored facilities. When her day is over, there is nothing she loves more than to have her feet rubbed. Several times a week, I try to save up enough energy from my own day so that I can slather her feet with cream or lotion (“ointment”) and rub them until she can relax and go to sleep more comfortable, so that she can sleep without getting foot cramps during the night. These are intimate moments, most often silent ones, where the only thing that matters to me is trying to make her feel better.

At the end, Jesus washed the feet of his most intimate followers–despite the protestations of Peter–in a demonstration of one of the most important messages of the bible, that of hospitality. This is not only intimate, but it is a way of elevating something unclean to an elegant sign of God’s love. Jesus’ feet were washed by Mary; he, in turn, washed the feet of his friends.

But what happened to Jesus’ male friends after his death? We know that at the very least Mary of Magdala (and maybe other women) went to the tomb to prepare Jesus’ body for burial. Dead bodies were also considered to be unclean, so the preparation for burial was a task performed only by women. Peter and the other disciple came to the tomb after Mary to see that the tomb was indeed empty, but then they left. Mary, who had gone to Jesus to perform an intimate-yet-unclean duty, was the one who then had an intimate post-death, pre-Resurrection encounter with Jesus.

While there are certainly many acts in the bible and now of men who act in faith, today I am inspired by the stories of the Marys as well as the story of Carol’s mother and many other women–women who go about their daily duties–performing their intimate, unclean acts–and I am grateful for their examples.

Bible verses from The Inclusive Bible: The First Egalitarian Translation by Priests for Equality.

This post is part of this month’s synchroblog “All about Eve.” Here’s a list of all the posts:

 


Synchroblog – The Devil Made Me Do It

September 14, 2011

Okay, so I wasn’t going to participate this month. The topic is just too weird, and there are way too many bizarro things out there attributing things to an evil entity with lots of names.

… what are some weird, whacky or just plain different things you’ve heard taught about Satan as you’ve been a member of this tribe called Christian? What do you think of those ideas? How have they shaped your perspective (or not) about Jesus and this tribe? This month is wide open for being fun or being serious … because this subject could run in many different directions depending on the tradition you come from. So as you write and as you read, please remember to have grace in abundance for the journey that each has been on.

And then… I ran into this. (Don’t ask how I got there. I can’t even remember because this strangeness chased it right out of my head.)

Gays Make New Devil DNA Squirt Gun

Yes, once again teh gays are in cahoots with Satan, this time to homo-convert young boys via “playthings.” And remember: “Nothing is worst than homosexuality.” Tyson Bowers III (who I’d never heard of before, and who apparently has no life of his own so he has to spend the time that God gave him attacking others) says so right here! Sigh…

You can find all of the posts on this month’s synchroblog here. Now excuse me because I have to go wash my mind out with soap to get rid of this stupid ridiculous, homophobic imagery.

Other posts from this month’s synchroblog: