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A more grown up Easter

A more grown up Easter

Roger Wolsey has written an article on Elephant Journal: “A Kinder, Gentler, more Grown Up Easter.”

The article, with fantastic visual illustrations, explores the challenges of triumphal Easter:

The problem is that Christians started incorporating the ways of empire into their expression of their faith. From the most ancient of days, from warring tribes to the Roman empire—and on through the British and American empires—dominating forces sang victory songs and held grand victory celebrations and parades. Celebrating their conquests and might—as well as mocking and taunting their defeated foes. Pax Romana! Hail Caesar! Rome Rules! Long Live Caesar! Down with the Huns! The Greeks are sissies! Rule Britannia! Christ the Lord is Risen Today!…

Now it makes sense that Jesus’ earliest followers would’ve felt incredible comfort, vindication and outrageous joy upon their realization that even the worst that the Roman powers that be could dish out wasn’t enough to defeat Jesus and the Kingdom of God that he sought to usher in. They experienced an empty tomb and a risen Christ, confirming the truths and teachings that Jesus taught and showing that unconditional, vulnerable love is indeed the way, the truth, and the life—including loving our enemies. This (and the infusion of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost) emboldened them to continue on, and spread, in spite of severe hardship and persecution.

Over our first 300 years, the early Christians were brutally, harshly and systemically oppressed. Many hundreds, if not thousands, of them were crucified, torn apart by lions, or lit up as human torches along the city streets. Then, in 313 AD, Constantine ended the persecutions, converted to Christianity, (it’s debatable how fully however), legalized it, and eventually, it became the official religion of the Empire. In time, and arguably in part due to the spread of Christianity, the Roman empire collapsed and… drumroll…one could say that God had the last word and reclaimed for Him/Herself the titles that the Caesars had been claiming for themselves—including “God,” “Son of God,” “Savior,” “Divine,” “Lord,” and, even “Prince of Peace.”

Hooah!

And yet, it is that human impulse to gloat in the defeat of our enemies that’s the problem. You see, it isn’t what Christians are called to do. Relishing in the defeat of others isn’t what Jesus did or would do.

Wosley goes on to look at our hymns and compares them with sports fans taunting the other team and their fans:

Rather than love their enemies, they prefer to engage in the theological version of over-excited football players who spike the ball in the end-zone and gloat with dances and taunts.

I don’t deny the reality of the resurrection, and I certainly enjoy a great Easter celebration—and consider every Sunday throughout the year as a “mini-Easter”—heck, everyday for that matter. I’ve experienced resurrection power in my life and have witnessed it in the lives of others.

That said, I’m not willing to pretend. I’m not willing to pretend that Jesus’ resurrection completely defeated evil—a quick glance at a newspaper will disprove that.

And the ending is particularly powerful:

I waited until after Easter to submit this blog—as I didn’t want to rain on any of our parades—at least not on the day of them. I realize that my voice is a dissenting and minority one and that I may be shouting to the wind. Future Easter celebrations aren’t likely to change very much, but then again, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus weren’t very likely either.

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tgflux

Is it just me, or do the last couple of (verbose) threads here seem rather, well, bitchy for Bright Week?

Let's try to let it be known we are followers of the Risen Christ By Our Love, 'kay?

Joy!

Joy!

Joy to the Heart!

And all in this good day's dawning! (Hymn 196)

JC Fisher

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Jeffrey L. Shy, M.D.

I have often said that it is most helpful to "experience" the resurrection as a "witness" than to talk about it. Perhaps this is a "cop out" but it does avoid concretizing something that could never make sense as a concrete and physical reality (IMHO).

From the standpoint of the non-theist, I do not necessarily believe that Jesus came back from the grave, nor that I will have a conscious disembodied life after the death of my body. As such, my experience of Easter is more "metaphorical" as it were. I do not have problems with the hymns and narrative as long as I can have the opportunity to understand them in my own (admittedly minority) way. Perhaps the best way to "verbalize" our diversity of beliefs re the resurrection would be simply to admit the diversity. We all "touch" and experience it, but we understand and verbalize our experiences diversely?

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Lois Keen

So, in the name of the God of Peace, shall we argue and even fight with one another about how to celebrate appropriately? I love a lot of the Easter anthems - The strife is o'er, for instance - with battle themes. I've never thought about the words themselves. It's really the tunes that rouse me from my Lenten fast and mourning - tunes that I want in my body. Now, because of Mr. Wolsey's article, I will think more about what words these are that I am singing, and maybe even think about whether or not they are words I really want to come from my mouth.

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Josh Magda

There are many ways to understand Jesus' victory over death, and death itself (Francis and Paul again- spiritual death? principalities and powers?) that do not involve the apocalyptic overturn of the systems of nature. It may be that on a different plane (new earth?) death will no longer be, but that is not the world we live in now.

Death is not the enemy. We have the hope of life after death, what we're here to do now is life before death.

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Keromaru5

And while mystics like Isaac of Syria and Silouan of Athos do say that a truly merciful heart even prays for the devil, they still mourn for sin, and treat the devil as an enemy to be reckoned with. That's why they pray for him!

And I also don't read them as necessarily advising this for every Christian. Rather, they describe this as the result of constant prayer. It's a state you attain as you become one with God. I think the original article had it closer: to pity Satan.

Also, I would submit that Francis could only speak lovingly of Death because it had already been subjugated by Christ's victory on the cross. Same goes for the early martyrs of the Church--they had no fear of death, because Christ had transfigured it through his sacrifice. Now it was a new birth they could look forward to.

Christus Victor and Christian Love and humility are not mutually exclusive, especially not in TEC. And I think C. Wingate's right that it's best seen as a paradoxical victory, involving Christ's humility and grace as it does.

As far as I'm concerned, the real damage comes from penal substitution and "washed in His blood" theology, which can get morbid to the point of sadism. I always thought it was those churches that promoted Rambo-Jesus (though personally, I prefer the Slacktivist term: TurboJesus).

In fact, I'm not convinced that TurboJesus really has anything to do with Easter. It seems to come more from discarding the paradoxes in Jesus' ministry, and focusing more on his victory in his second coming. Really, I'd say (to be uncharitable) if anything, it's built on a sense of shame that he achieved his victory through submission, and projecting violent and worldly right-wing fantasies onto a figure for whom Left and Right (especially the American Left and Right!) don't really apply. Christ's victory isn't on Easter, it's at the end of time, when he takes the sword from his mouth and gives the wicked what they deserve!

Needless to say, that is not how I read the language in our liturgy, prayers, hymns, or in the Church Fathers. If anything, they promise that the same victory can be ours, and depending on which Caesar it is, much the same way.

But yeah, it's not about which one we choose: Christ the Lamb of God, or Christ the Victor over Death. It's how well we integrate them.

-Alex Scott

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