Today is Good Friday. According to Christian belief and tradition, it’s when Jesus was arrested, tried and crucified. It is a day when fundamental and evangelical Christians prepare for Easter Sunday secure in the knowledge that this act paid for their ticket to Heaven. Not so progressive Christians. Well, this progressive Christian; I probably shouldn’t speak for others. It’s not like we’re some monolithic bloc who agree on everything. One of the more appealing aspects of progressive Christianity is that orthodoxy isn’t an overriding concern. According to Roger Wolsey, UMC pastor and author of “Kissing Fish: Christianity for People Who Don’t Like Christianity“, a progressive Christian “emphasizes orthopraxy over orthodoxy (right actions over right beliefs)” and “does not claim that Christianity is the only valid or viable way to connect to God (is non-exclusive).” Progressives, along with many emergents, also embrace doubt and questions which is one of the reasons I’m a member of both camps. And, recently, I’ve been questioning what this whole Easter thing means.
As I said earlier, Easter is a “for certain” thing for some people. They “know” that Jesus had to be crucified because humanity was so miserable that God’s justice demanded some sort of payment, the more gruesome the better. Okay, I added that last bit. I say “the more gruesome the better” because they seem to glory in the atrocity that was Roman crucifixion. Sort of a “My God suffered more than yours did” kind of thing. For them, this sacrifice is really all that matters. As you might guess, I’m not one of those people. The idea that the Easter story is the central element of the Christian faith discounts the rest of Jesus’ life, His teachings, His ministries. It reduces His death and resurrection to little more than a business transaction. It cheapens everything He did by providing you with what is, essentially a “Get of Jail Free” card.
But, even if I do think they’ve gotten it wrong, some evangelicals have at least thought about what Easter means. All too many people don’t put much thought at all into their faith, preferring instead to take the easy road and swallow whatever their preacher says hook, line and sinker. Even if their belief (or are told to believe) matches my own, I’d rather they believe the exact opposite as long as it was arrived at through study and prayerful analysis. Faith is the framework for how you live your life and it’s just too important to be arrived at flippantly.
The title of this article is “What it Means”, the it being Easter. I could spend pages and pages talking about atonement theory and working to show why the one I believe is the right one. But I don’t think the answer can be found there. For me, it’s found in the idea that God loved us enough to take human form, come to Earth and show us what love really looks like. And, on a Passover more than 2000 years ago, that meant going willingly to a horrible, humiliating death. I’m not worried about the mechanics of how it worked, I’m just glad it does.