"Having a blog is like wandering around your house naked with the windows open; it's all very liberating until someone looks in the window. However, while being caught unawares is one thing, it is quite another to stroll up to the window and press your naked, flabby body against the coolness of the glass in a hideous form of vertical prostration for all the world to see..." These posts are the smudges that are left behind on the window.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Denying the Resurrection

"...we were having an argument about the resurrection, whether or not it had happened and whether or not it could be proved. One of my friends shared the story of how she had asked a liberal bishop if he actually believed in the resurrection. "Believe it?" he answered incredulously. "I've seen it too many times not to!"
This story comes from Diana Butler Bass' most recent book, "Christianity After Religion". She goes on from there to explain how we often get tied up in arguments about what we believe about the resurrection, and end up completely missing the more important question of "Do you trust in the resurrection?" What does she mean by that?

The cross is the most recognizable icon of Christianity. It wasn't always that way, but it is now. We see it in our churches, we wear it around our necks, we get it tattooed on various parts of our body, we put it on our bumpers - it's everywhere. Despite the many artistic variations of the cross, they can all be broken down into 2 basic forms: one depicting Christ on the cross, and one where the cross is empty. It seems protestants prefer the empty cross, while Roman Catholics and Orthodox prefer the the one with Christ on it - and each has their reasons for their preference. One emphasizes the death of Christ and Good Friday, while the other emphasizes the resurrection and therefore Easter Sunday. But I think this emphasis, as subtle as it is, is a mistake. It is a form of dualism, where we choose one over the other, when we should be embracing both equally.

Jesus came proclaiming the Kingdom of God, and showing us what that meant. He turned the rules of the day upside down with self sacrificing love. And when they nailed him to the cross for it, God vindicated him by raising him from the dead - in effect saying "See, I was right". Jesus on the cross shows us how much we are to love our neighbour, while the empty cross confirms that it's the right way to live.When the bishop says he has seen the resurrection too many times not to believe it, he is saying that he has seen people who's belief in the way of Jesus is so strong that they are willing go beyond normal forms of sacrificial love; that they are willing to embrace the radical, self sacrificing life of Christ. And when they believe in this way, their lives are raised from the death and decay of self destruction and emptiness to something beautiful and transformative.

The empty cross is the reason we believe, while Christ on the cross is how we live in response to that belief.

When Peter Rollins is asked if he believes in the resurrection, he answers "No". Then he goes on to explain that whenever he thinks a bad thought about someone, or whenever he fails to help a person in need, or whenever he acts in a selfish way - when he doesn't go the extra mile, or treat his neighbour as himself - he denies the resurrection. He is in effect saying, "I don't really believe in the resurrection, because if I did, I wouldn't do these things".

Do you believe in the resurrection? Do I?

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