Well, it’s Holy Week and I can’t resist the temptation to write about it. The problem is I’m not exactly sure what I want to say. Of course, I could do the whole theological navel-gazing thing and blather on about whether there was a physical resurrection or not. And, there’s always the atonement argument. You know, what Jesus’ death on the cross really meant? But, after 23 years as a firefighter, I’m an action-oriented fellow and omphaloskepsis (literally navel-gazing) doesn’t come naturally to me. Unfortunately, finding a way to integrate the Easter story into my humanist outlook requires a little contemplation. You see my dilemma, right?
It is here, I think, that a secular humanist has an advantage over a Christian one: they’re not all that concerned with ancient stories and feel no need to reconcile their beliefs with them. I’ll be honest, there are times I envy that simplicity. But, I am a Christian and I am drawn to the story of this man called Jesus. What he said, the way he lived and the way he died exert an irresistible pull on me and I am compelled to follow. It’s not easy, but it does have its rewards.
Are those rewards different from what I would see if I came at this from a more secular angle? Maybe, but I honestly couldn’t say because I’ve always been a Christian. Even during the times I wanted nothing to do with Christians and the church, I never completely abandoned my faith. It may have gone underground for a while, but it never went away. Growing up in the south at a time when being an atheist or agnostic wasn’t a viable option has something to do with that, I’m sure. But, the idea that, through Jesus, God loved humanity enough to buck the system and challenge the dominant culture to bring the world a new way to live is hard to ignore. The fact that Jesus did so knowing that it would likely result in a very gruesome death makes it even more so. Try as I might, I can’t escape that.
Unfortunately, for many people, the Gospel has been turned upside down. It has gone from being a hopeful story of God’s boundless love for humankind to a fearful one of punishment and retribution. In that story, the Crucifixion is a guilt trip rather than an example of that amazing love or the thing that gives us victory over death. And, the Resurrection doesn’t always get the billing it should. If the church and the Christian faith is going to survive, that has to change
It seems to me the church has lost sight of its original purpose which is found in Luke 4:18-19, not providing a glorified “get of jail free card”. In the next couple of posts, I hope to show you a different way of looking things. Will it work? That’s for you to say.