Since this is the holiest and most joyful time of the year for Christians, that means it’s also time for various non-believers and political activists to make the holiday their own, with a bit of help from the media, of course. From Down Under, David Ould reports on Stand Firm that the Dean of the Anglican Cathedral in Perth wants us to leave all that physical resurrection stuff behind:
The Resurrection of Jesus ought not to be seen in physical terms, but as a new spiritual reality. It is important for Christians to be set free from the idea that the Resurrection was an extraordinary physical event which restored to life Jesus’ original earthly body….
Jesus’ early followers felt His presence after His death as strongly as if it were a physical presence and incorporated this sense of a resurrection experience into their gospel accounts. But they’re not historical records as we understand them. They are symbolic images of the breaking through of the resurrection spirit into human lives….
Jesus lived … as a transformed spiritual reality.
The effect of this is to reduce Jesus to the level of any other inspiring person–Gandhi, George Washington, Joan of Arc, whoever floats your boat–whose “spirit” continues to live within us. For me, that person is Groucho Marx, who I guess is therefore as much a “symbolic image of the breaking through of the resurrection spirit” as Jesus was for Peter and the gang.
Then there the Washington Post, which in its “On Faith” section featured four “Easter Voices:
1) The Post‘s own Claire Hoffman, whose “Under God” column was entitled “Easter Sunday in Mexico City,” but was mostly about Good Friday and the bizarre things some Mexicans do to observe the day, including a mock crucifixion that she found hard to take
The crowd was quiet and mostly riveted. It was high decibel and gory and hard to watch. Fay and I slunk away after 20 minutes of screaming and moaning. “I guess that’s what they call living religion,” I said to Fay. We went to the market and bought neon colored Virgin candles and went had a beer.
Among other religious activities, she went to a wrestling show that evening, and wrote of the crowd, “The audience was equally passionate and captivated and it was hard not to see parallels of the passion play and the wrestling match.”
2) Rock star and theologian Melissa Etheridge, who talks about painting Easter eggs with her children:
My spiritual path has been an amazing and rewarding one for me. I have opened my heart and mind to the thought that we create our reality. I believe we are on a beautiful heavenly planet that is spinning in perfect balance with the rest of the universe. I believe we all have the capacity to open the Christ consciousness within each of us….
Yes, my children and my wife and I will be decorating eggs. See, I believe in traditions; and the tradition of the vernal equinox is the celebration of the earth coming into the newness and everlasting life of spring. It has been celebrated every year by every culture of people who have ever walked this earth….I know that the winter equinox is when the sun stands still on the horizon for three days and then is “resurrected” on the third. I also know that we are coming to the end of this Piscean age and rolling into the next one, the Aquarian. And I believe that we will all come together in our beautiful differences to discover we are all one.
3) Then there’s the sage of Newark, John Shelby Spong, who writes about “Jesus for the Non-Religious”:
I do not believe that the deceased body of Jesus was resuscitated physically on the third day and was restored to the life of this world as, at least, the later gospels assert, but I do believe that in him and through him people found a way into that which is eternal and so they portrayed him as breaking through and transcending the limits of death.
Whatever that means. There’s a lot more about what Spong doesn’t believe, but you knew that already.
4) Finally, there’s author Anne Rice, a former writer of horror stories whose return to the Catholicism of her youth is serious and intense:
Look: I believe in Him. It’s that simple and that complex. I believe in Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the God Man who came to earth, born as a tiny baby and then lived over thirty years in our midst. I believe in what we celebrate this week: the scandal of the cross and the miracle of the Resurrection. My belief is total. And I know that I cannot convince anyone of it by reason, anymore than an atheist can convince me, by reason, that there is no God.
A long life of historical study and biblical research led me to my belief, and when faith returned to me, the return was total. It transformed my existence completely; it changed the direction of the journey I was traveling through the world. Within a few years of my return to Christ, I dedicated my work to Him, vowing to write for Him and Him alone. My study of Scripture deepened; my study of New Testament scholarship became a daily commitment. My prayers and my meditation were centered on Christ.
And my writing for Him became a vocation that eclipsed my profession as a writer that had existed before.
She’s now in the midst of a series of works on the life of Christ that, because of her name, may well open up the road to Christian faith for many people who have never before considered it.
So the Post‘s “Easter Voices” include a reporter with an eye for the weird, a New Ager, an atheist in a collar, and a committed Christian. Imagine a similar line-up discussing the deeper meaning of Eid.
Also celebrating Easter by issuing a commemorative message was the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, who jumped from a perfunctory reference to the resurrection into Goracle territory:
Your Easter celebration undoubtedly has included lots of physical signs of new life –– eggs, flowers, new green growth. As the Easter season continues, consider how your daily living can be an act of greater life for other creatures. How can you enact the new life we know in Jesus the Christ? In other words, how can you be the sacrament, the outward and visible sign, of the grace that you know in the resurrected Christ? How can your living let others live more abundantly?
We are beginning to be aware of the ways in which our lack of concern for the rest of creation results in death and destruction for our neighbors. We cannot love our neighbors unless we care for the creation that supports all our earthly lives. We are not respecting the dignity of our fellow creatures if our sewage or garbage fouls their living space. When atmospheric warming, due in part to the methane output of the millions of cows we raise each year to produce hamburger, begins to slowly drown the island homes of our neighbors in the South Pacific, are we truly sharing good news?
The food we eat, the energy we use, the goods and foods we buy, the ways in which we travel, are all opportunities – choices and decisions – to be for others, both human and other. Our Christian commitment is for this – that we might live that more abundant life, and that we might do it in a way that is for the whole world.
I’ve gotta say, the ability to go from the resurrection of Jesus Christ to cow emissions in the space of a couple hundred words is truly extraordinary. I believe she may have a future as a speechwriter for politicians. Or perhaps for these people, who according to the Chicago Tribune:
Six Iraq War protesters who were arrested on felony charges for disrupting Easter services at Holy Name parish had minimum $25,000 bails set Monday by a Cook County judge.
The six disrupted the beginning of Cardinal Francis George’s homily Sunday to shout their opposition to the Iraq War.
They began squirting packets of fake blood over themselves and nearby parishioners, drawing the ire of congregants and the attention of the media stationed in the auditorium to cover the services.
All six are charged with felony criminal defacement of property and two counts of simple battery for defacing church property and the worshipers’ clothes with the fake blood.
The protesters, part of a group called Catholic School Girls Against the War despite their male and female membership, could each face up to 5 years in prison if convicted.
Way to win friends and influence people. These people are clearly disciples of the Country Joe McDonald School for Public Policy. Country Joe, you may remember, told the crowd at Woodstock during a sing-a-long of his “Fixin’ to Die Rag” that “I don’t know how you expect to ever stop the war if you can’t sing any better than that.” Me, I wonder how the Chicago 6 are going to stop this war if they can’t find a better way to influence decision-makers than to throw fake blood on church-goers during Easter Mass. Next time, maybe they’ll use the real thing. Yeah, that’s the ticket.