Easter Sunday is one of my favorite Sundays. Not only does it bring people out of the woodwork (and I have no problem with C and E Christians), but it is almost always a valuable experience. Maybe it’s the increased pageantry of the day, or the music which almost always includes the Hallelujah Chorus, or the visible throng of people in colorful and festive garb, but it’s always refreshing and good. And this Easter, as usual, I enjoyed the service and felt renewed and refreshed in my faith. Though I am continuing in a time of questioning in my daily life as well as in what I believe about the resurrection, I am confident that God accepts and anticipates my doubts, and forgives them. I am confident that He remains a doting parent, watchful but willing to let me grow in my faith, in my own way.
Since this Sunday is obviously meant to be both a time for forgiveness and renewal of commitment, I took some time to focus personally on its most troubling aspects: the divinity of Christ, and the resurrection itself. The first was highly contentious even in later churches, but the second was one that was picked up quite quickly by the early church. Without it, what is Christianity, really? What I have trouble with is the fantastical nature of resurrection, especially in its typical connotations with grisly reanimated bodies. New life from something dead goes against the order of nature – and yet I believe in life after death. Perhaps this is because of my own longing for continuity, my zest for life, or the observation in the world around me that beauty does not die, but rather changes from one form to another. And how can I believe in some sort of continuation of existence after life if I question Christ’s resurrection? On the first issue, am I confident that someone who was the Son of God, who knew he was God on earth, would have the ability to be killed? And would God be so restricted by the rules of his own creation (i.e., death) that he had to live and die himself to change the rules of the game? I’m not sure if I buy that.
Still, I think Jesus Christ served as an example of something new. He was a voice of peace – highly resistant and vocal non-violence, mind you – at a time when the Hebrew people were looking for any excuse to react violently to their oppressors. And He still serves as an example to me in that aspect of life, in the responsibility to affect change in the world peacefully. He serves as a life model in many areas, and I am grateful to have that. But I’m not convinced that he thought he as the Messiah. I’m not convinced he was trying to start a new religion. I think he was a very faithful and probably charismatic man himself. The later church combined the historic view of Jesus as simply a man (albeit one with new ideas on life and teaching and resistance) with that of Jesus the Christ and Messiah. As both a human man developing through childhood to adulthood and thus supremely involved in local circumstances, and also as a being enlightened in the supreme wisdom and world plan/view of God, he could both be a figure of local change and far-reaching religious significance. Despite my respect for those attempting to understand the nature of God or Jesus in years past, I myself remain unconvinced. But I am also not convinced that such beliefs are wrong.
At a certain point in history, as new scientific discoveries were made, science has been seen as at odds with religion. Every day there are new proofs that some bit of dogma is wrong, or that our own evolutionary existence probably called for the development of religion, or that further space exploration has yet to reach a concrete Heaven. And an atheistic comment that all I gain from religion could be gotten in other ways is no doubt true. I could, in fact, get up early every Sunday morning to meet with my other fellow atheists, talk about the week, listen to some semi-professional classical music, and meditate or reflect on my week so that I have some time to process it. I am sure that if I were to do such a thing, my life would be no less full. But perhaps through my own insecurities, there comes a time at which explanations have little value in comparison with the security of knowing I am not talking to an empty, ultimately meaningless world.
Finally, I was really mad at the people shoved in close next to me in the pew on this most crowded of mornings. Yes, they were dumb. Comments like “Wow – they have, like, a whole symphony up there.” and “Look at that drummer. He’s so into it – I bet in his free time, he just drums any old drum” for some reason deflated some of my experience. What type of selfish, ornery person gets angry at others’ offhand remarks on Easter Sunday?