Posted tagged ‘synchroblog’

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.

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

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:

How To Train Your Dragon

August 10, 2011

So my post is a day late… again. But here it is regardless!

This summer’s guilty pleasure is the movie How To Train Your Dragon.

I know: it’s from last year. I’m frequently behind when it comes to movies. Let me just say that I find this movie to be timeless.

One of the things that I love about so many of the animated features over the past 10-15 years is their explorations of being different in a different-is-good way. Characters like Shrek and Fiona, Belle in Beauty and the Beast, everyone in The Incredibles (okay, so not Buddy/Incrediboy — I kept waiting for his redemption. But I digress, as usual.)

For one thing, How To Train Your Dragon has beautiful music. It’s worth it to watch just for that.  It also features a boy who is basically a loser who doesn’t relate to the values being impressed upon him by his father in particular and his society in general. Here’s the thing: he’s not perfect. He makes mistakes. But he learns from them. He also teaches everyone else in the process and saves the world, but that’s the fantasy part. And we loved the dragon Toothless. Toothless looks and acts a lot like our semi-wild cat Ernie.

As a queer person, I also saw queer subtext in this movie. Don’t get me wrong: I see queer subtext in lots of things where a non-queer person might not. It’s my own filter. But I saw Hiccup (the main character) as a gay boy growing up. I also saw Astrid as a baby dyke — after all, she was the only character in the movie who carries a labyris. (Even though there was the intimation of budding romance between these two characters that isn’t necessarily in the happily-ever-after part of the script.)

Anyway, both Melinda and I love this movie, and we’ll probably watch it over and over again!

Finally, here’s a sort of tongue-in-cheek review of this movie:

Do not let your children watch this movie! I, like any good parent, screen movies before allowing my children to view them. And what I saw made me physically ill:

There is a young boy who is growing up in a village that kills dragons. This young boy wants to be like everyone else but there is something different about him (incidentally his mother apparently died when he was very little). No matter how hard he tries he cannot fit in. Then one day a certain event causes him to realize his true inner feeling: he wants to study and understand dragons, not hunt them. Now let me point this out: This is exactly like gays! They start out like everyone else but some traumatizing event in their lives causes their minds to start acting a little off! Obviously a gay analog.

Of course if the movie had just stopped there and had been about the boy overcoming his sinful feelings and becoming a fearless dragonslayer, all would have been well. But of course he explores his new feeling, all the while trying to hide them from his dad. At one point his dad comes in to his room while he is writing dragon stuff down in his journal and he frantically hides it (obviously a reference to gay magazines). Now here’s the worst part, and is a warning for everybody else: the boy spreads his love of dragons around the village, and soon everybody is a dragontamer, not a dragonslayer. It’s just like in real life! One gay man starts talking about how gay he is, and pretty soon everybody in the whole country is as gay as can be!

And… since this is part of a Synchroblog, here are the other posts on the subject of Summer Books and Movies:

God Made Me Queer

August 10, 2011

I grew up in church. I’m of that post-WWII Baby Boomer era when just about everyone went to church. My parents didn’t, but they thought that we kids should, so one of them took us to church and dropped us off and then picked us up afterwards. They — especially Mom — said that it was optional (but we knew that it pretty much wasn’t). We went to the Presbyterian church because the lady up the street invited us to go there, and she had taken us for awhile until they moved away. My family was pretty much poor, but she drove a beautiful gray 1953 Cadillac that I loved riding in. I guess that’s the foundation of my theology.

I took church and religion and God and Jesus seriously as a kid. The pastor invited me to use his office — his “study” — and I got to sit alone in this wonderful book-smelling semi-dark room and explore his library. I don’t remember when this was, because I always went to Sunday school and I always went to worship. It’s just one of those vague memories without a particular framing. But I got to read and look at his religious art books and feel the Spirit.

How’s that for growing up queer?

Then life happened. Yeah, high school and all that in the late 1960’s. War, foment, assassinations. No wonder we took drugs. And all the while a feeling that I was …different — a feeling without a name.

My plan was to go to college, then seminary, and then to become a minister. I’d never met a minister who was woman at that time, but that didn’t matter: I felt God’s strong call.

But first, a break. I left high school to go on the road for awhile. I hitchhiked around and worked here-and-there and saw the country and looked for myself, trying to figure out that …difference. I went off to college having not figured it out, my plan delayed but still intact. As a matter of fact, I went to Sonoma State, only about 30 miles from San Francisco Theological Seminary.

And then… I fell in love. I’d dated a little, but it was always pretty much like going out with a friend or even a brother, with no special attraction or sexual feeling. But when I fell in love — and it was with a woman — all of a sudden, there was that zing! and I knew what that …difference had been about all along.

Sonoma State in the early 1970s was a relatively easy place to be queer — at least for lesbians. But when I came out to my parents, it wasn’t so easy. My mom — who hadn’t been a churchgoer through my childhood — went to the pastor of the church. I now believe that it was his ignorance due to they times, but in essence he tried to counsel me to be straight. Not in that evil, go-to-ex-gay-therapy kind of way, but in that heterosexual assumption kind of way. But despite my new queerness, I knew that I had finally found myself, so I knew that his suggestion was absurd.

I didn’t see my parents for the next three years. I didn’t see the inside of a church for the next twenty years.

[Fast forward…]

Well, needless to say, I didn’t go to seminary. After almost nine years in my coming out relationship, I was single again. I moved to San Francisco. This was in the early 1980s. I had a well-paying, dress-up corporate job by day; I was a wild party dyke riding a motorcycle by nights and weekends. And my best friend was a gay man. There was lots that was great about life at that time, but there was a newly-emerging reality: AIDS (even though it was an unnamed mystery disease at that time). We watched as it began to decimate the community around us. We saw it move into the circle of our friends. At that time AIDS was quick and it was deadly. So I got involved in meal delivery and hand-holding projects. But it wasn’t enough.

My best friend had also gone to church as a kid. He also hadn’t been in a church in many years. He too felt the void. So we decided that we would go to church together. After all, MCC San Francisco was only a few blocks from where I lived. But just thinking of it dredged up the old pain. So we talked about it but didn’t go. Finally, we decided this was the week. He came by and we walked up the street, only to find a sign on the door: “We’ve all gone to Sacramento. Come back next week!” So instead we went to brunch — a queer religious ritual in itself. The next week, when we approached the church, I read the sign out front: this time it said: “Preaching this week is Janie Spahr.”

For me this was a coming home. Janie was a Presbyterian minister. She had been on the staff of MCC-SF, but was then the director of Ministry of Light, an LGBT ministry in Marin.

I attended MCC for awhile, but it was never quite right. But what I loved about being there is the way that MCC does communion. First of all, it’s every week. Also, it isn’t just a little mumbo-jumbo say-the-magic-words and pass-the-plates ritual. Communion at MCC is a deep sacrament, a holy experience, which includes prayer and reconciliation. It’s a queer experiencing of connecting with the Christ.

[Fast forward again]

Another girl in my church youth group also felt …different. When I fell in love I came out to her. She was then married to a man and living in Ohio. Ten years after I came out, she came out; and, coming out and falling in love, she wanted me to meet her partner. They came up to San Francisco to visit me. I would see her, and them, and sometimes just her partner over the next number of years. It was a nice friendship.

And then my friend died. She went into rehab for alcoholism, but when they did the medical intake they transferred her to the hospital — and it was too late. I came to Southern California for her memorial service. During the process of mourning her death, her partner who had also become my friend and I fell in love. I returned to San Francisco, but it was only three months until we knew that we wanted to be together forever.

Melinda wanted to go to church. The church where I had grown up was close by; this was where her partner’s memorial service had been held. The pastor had told Melinda that it was a More Light church (Presbyterian for open and affirming, LGBT inclusive). After a couple of weeks we had the pastor over for tea and cookies, and then we joined the church.

In 2008 when we had the opportunity, Melinda and I got married. We’d never had a public ceremony of any kind, but we knew that we wanted to share this occasion with our family and friends, our neighbors and co-workers. We knew that it was more than a legality, but a Christian marriage as well — and we wanted it to be in our church. Our then-pastor officiated at the service, and we had around 30 ordained clergy and numerous elders attend. We had witnesses, and we were a witness.

So what is all this? It’s my crazy hodgepodge of a story. It wasn’t the post that I’d intended to write, but the one that ended up writing itself. Words. God. Words describing my life, a queer life inseparable from my experience of God. Me telling my own story for myself. No apologies.

And as we sang in my youth group all those years ago:

God likes me just the way I am.
I turned out just right.
But I’ll sing it again in case I forget,
And strange as it seems, I might.


Queer Theology Synchroblog info and links to other posts can be found here.

Wild Goose Synchroblog

July 7, 2011

The Wild Goose is a Celtic metaphor for the Holy Spirit. Last month, the first Wild Goose festival was held near Chapel Hill, NC. This festival is a North American arts, music, justice and spirituality festival. Inspired by Greenbelt in the UK, the festival hoped to provide a space to deepen growth for those who want to connect faith and justice, and provide inspiration and energy for fresh expressions of Christianity in today’s world.

For more information about the festival check out The Wild Goose blog.

The July synchroblog is an open invitation for stories, thoughts, experiences and impressions that emerge from The Wild Goose Festival.

Of course, we’re looking for lots of stories from those who participated in the Festival. But we want to hear from you whether you were there or not! We still want to hear your story of how the Wild Goose (holy spirit) has made herself known in your life. Or, another option might be to write on why you wish you’d gone to the festival yourself. As always, we are looking for as many perspectives as possible!

I’m not participating in this month’s synchroblog (mostly having to do with this coming right after the Independence Day weekend–I’m just too busy right now to do the subject justice), but I want to lift up the folks who have, so here’s the list:

December Synchroblog — Advent: The Journey

December 8, 2010

Here are the contributions to this month’s synchroblog:

An Advent post: Christmas WILL happen!

December 7, 2010

When I worked in the corporate world, I worked for awhile in a software development team. It is a maxim in software that there is never any time to do things right–or at least not completely right: the attitude is that “we can always go back and fix it later.” There was just a rush to get things into production.

Somehow, that reminds me of Advent. We’re in such a rush to get to Christmas that we want to light all of the candles of the Advent wreath all at once. We want to tear open the little windows of our Advent calendars RIGHT NOW and discover that Christ is born and in our midst once again.

We can’t stand letting the world be quiet for awhile. We want to skip right past hope, peace, joy and love in order to rush to the manger and the baby Jesus.

I’m a cook. I love the process of thinking about what I’m going to prepare, then doing the chopping and the cooking, layering the flavors together so that everything turns out as close to perfect as I can make it. I like to think about what I’m doing, to determine if a shallot would be better than an onion, if fresh herbs are better than dried. I enjoy the growing aromas filling the house as the dishes come together. I like setting the table, seeing it as a blank canvas ready to be painted. I like when people sit down and eat, enjoying the flavors as well as one another’s company, and I appreciate the declaration that “this is good.”

Advent is like cooking a nice meal at home. It can be simple or it can be fancy, but it can’t be fast food. It needs flavor. It needs color and texture. And it needs to be a unique experience–not something manufactured for us by someone else. That manufacturing process, after all, is much that has ruined Christmas for many of us.

Everything in life happens in order and in its own time. After all, when the angel came to Mary with the amazing news that she would be the mother of the Savior of the World, she still had to go through nine months of pregnancy. Maybe we should view the four weeks of Advent as a quick symbolic representation of the coming of Jesus embodied in the expectancy of Mary. I’ve never had children of my own, but I’ve known lots of pregnant women. Whether this time is difficult or easy, the one thing these women all go through is waiting. There is no choice, for the child will not come until it’s time for the child to be born.

Sure, we can anticipate the arrival of Jesus. But he’ll be here before we know it. Also, waiting can make the actual experience that much richer! As Gene Peterson (The Message) retells Isaiah 25: 9-10:

Also at that time, people will say,
“Look at what’s happened! This is our God!
We waited for him and he showed up and saved us!
This God, the one we waited for!
Let’s celebrate, sing the joys of his salvation.
God’s hand rests on this mountain!”