Friday, March 26, 2010

Reflections on Easter

As we enter Holy Week, I thought I would post something I wrote during Easter 2007. Some of my views have been clarified, a bit, since, but some I still struggle with. I think the reason I don't struggle quite as much is because I removed myself from the toxic church services I had attended, in the past, for Easter. Easter 2006 was the last time I stepped foot in a Nazarene church. This post was my anticipation of Easter, with the memory of the year prior still in my mind.

I hear people say "Happy Easter," and it bugs me. I asked my husband, "What's so happy about Easter?" Oh yeah...the resurrection. Yet, it seems that while Easter is all about the resurrection, we spend so much time dwelling on the crucifixion.

For those of you who have seen the Passion of the Christ, about an hour and a half or so were spent on the scourging of Jesus. Something like ten seconds were given to the resurrection. Church Easter plays (at least the ones I have seen) make the crucifixion the climax, and the resurrection is more of an addendum.

As a feminist theologian, I cannot help but deal with the meaning of the crucifixion. Was it an atoning sacrifice, foreordained from the beginning of time? Or was it the natural result of living a subversive lifestyle--questioning the powers that be? I am more drawn to the latter. A quote by Nancy Bedford, in one of my classes, was something to this effect: Jesus died the death of a terrorist. If you are on the side of the government, you are a solider. If you go against the government, you are a terrorist. I found this rather profound, particularly in light of the current U.S. situation.

Funny how churches spend so much time on Easter (particularly the crucifixion), but spend so little time looking at the life lived by Jesus--the people he hung out with, the sermons he preached, etc. How different would churches be if these things were given attention and taken seriously?

Last year, Easter was very painful for me. I had just studied atonement theories pretty extensively, and I saw validity in the critique of many feminist theologians. We are obsessed with the blood and violence of the cross; we are obsessed with sacrifice. All too often, these values of sacrifice, denial, and even violence are passed on as virtuous--particularly to women.

I expressed this concern--about how Easter is so bloody--to my mother. Her reply was, "Well, it's an historical event; it really happened." True. (or at least I believe it to be) Yet, I also reminded her that the way Jesus died was not special. It was the way they killed criminals during that day. (see above, as to why Jesus was viewed a criminal) Thus, it wasn't like they made the point to beat Jesus extra hard. It's just the way things were done. Seriously, if we think Jesus died an unjust death--died for doing nothing--isn't it likely that a lot of other people died unjust deaths, too? Isn't it possible that the men on the crosses next to Jesus were also unjustly killed?

So, what does this all mean? For me, the event of the cross cannot be singled out or be given more meaning than the other events in the life of Jesus. It doesn't make sense if you don't look at the entire life and ministry of Jesus to see
why Jesus was such a threat to the governing structure. The life of Jesus has just as much (or more) meaning than the event of the cross.

Yet, it still remains that Jesus was crucified. However, Jesus was also resurrected--raised from the dead. Here, I side with the
Christus Victor view of the atonement. This view stresses that in the death of Jesus, Jesus was sort of a trickster--making the powers of death and injustice think that they had won. Jesus did not retaliate--hurl insults, lash out violently, etc. However, in the resurrection, Jesus gives us hope that death and injustice will ultimately not prevail; they are not the final word.

I think one of the basic elements of human existence is suffering*. We all suffer, to varying degrees, no doubt. However, I find it strangely comforting that God, in the incarnation, chose to become human and therefore experienced suffering.

The message of the resurrection--one of hope, justice, and peace--is one that especially speaks to the situation the United States is in. It also speaks to those worldwide who are victims of governmental injustice (by the U.S. and others), economic injustice, and social injustice. May we not give undue attention to the cross this Easter, but rather embrace the hope of the resurrection.

(After writing this, it feels like an Easter sermon. Oddly, I'm not sure how this would be received at the churches in which I have been a part. But it's this message that gets me excited.)

*I should clarify that suffering seems to be an unavoidable part of human life, as a result of the sinful world in which we live. It should not, however, be a goal of life--something we seek out or feel makes life more virtuous.

1 comment: