Sunday, April 08, 2012
Agnostic query on Easter Sunday
There are very few areas in the vast, mind-boggling expanse of the Christian creed upon which its billions of adherents have attained enough agreement to achieve any kind of coherence. Easter celebration, the discovery of an empty tomb in Golgotha, is one such, however. Christians choose this day, arrived at through an archaic calculation involving the first Sunday following the full moon that occurs after the year's vernal equinox*, to celebrate the day that Jesus rose from the dead, revealing Himself as the Christ.
It's a fascinating and wondrous story with moral and spiritual meaning worthy of a lifetime of examination. What is the significance of Christ's death and resurrection? As Judas Iscariot asks in the 70s rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, "Who are you? What have you sacrificed?"
Seeking the answers to those questions is fascinating and rewarding.
But, in order to be Christian, one must believe in the literal truth of the story. One must believe that the broken and tortured body of Jesus was restored and reanimated and walked again among the living before ascending to Heaven. In fact. Actually. To be Christian, one must believe that, had you been there, you would have seen the healed wounds, might have witnessed Jesus being lifted from the Earth. For yourself. With your own eyes.
In other words, in order to be a Christian, one must believe something which is counter to everything we perceive in the world around us.
The Gospels tell us that Jesus, Himself, revealed His wisdom in the form of parables. He told stories that conveyed lessons for those who would learn them. The literal truth of the parables was not important. What was important was the wisdom, the Truth, that the parables revealed.
So, why is the Resurrection story different? If one spends one's life pondering the story of Jesus' death and resurrection, examining it for meaning in one's daily life, striving to see how it reveals truths that might be otherwise unattainable, why does the literal truth of the story even matter? The same holds for the Virgin Birth, and for Jonah and the Whale, and for Noah and the Great Flood.
Respectfully, Christians, I have to ask: Why must the story be literally true? What difference does it make?
*The tie to the equinox is a dead-giveaway that the early Christians supplanted the Pagan vernal celebration with Easter as a way to facilitate conversion, ce n'est pas?