EIGHT REASONS TO TAKE THE RESURRECTION SYMBOLICALLY

 

1. The four gospels present different resurrection stories with contradicting details. If the early church were trying to present prove of an historical event, it probably would have made more effort to get the stories straight. If they were presenting a symbolic truth about life, the differences in narrative wouldn’t be a problem. Mystical rabbic teaching stories would be a part of the early church’s heritage.

2. The stories are placed around the time of the Passover, which puts the whole narrative near the vernal equinox. Listeners would recognize the equinox as the time when other “saviors” had died, been taken underground and then rescued by a loving parent. Those stories were often understood as revelations about the life process, not merely magical events that happened to individuals.

3. The resurrection happens the day after the Sabbath which, in mystical lore, is the “eighth day,” which happens in consciousness rather than in fact. One way of understanding the “eighth day” is when we are struck by something beautiful and step out of time. In Jesus’ day, the eight day also represented the birth of the sun, or the renewal of all life.

4.The resurrection also happens on the third day after Jesus’ death, which is also the length of time before the moon is “reborn” after it has waned. The rebirth of the moon was a popular symbol of the circle of life. People of the time would have already heard the story of an empty tomb in the religion of Attis.

5. In the resurrection stories, people don’t recognize Jesus or mistake him for other people like the gardener. That is a strange detail to add if the point was to convince people that the resurrection was an historical event. It makes perfect sense to add the detail if one point of the symbol is to see Christ in others.

6. The earliest gospel, Mark, does not include actual resurrection appearances like the later gospels. In the earliest manuscripts, Mark ends with the empty tomb. It makes much more sense to assume that the later gospel writers would write mystical imaginative hymns to the resurrection event, than to assume that Mark would leave them out.

7. Paul and other writers insist on the resurrection being real, but that is not the same thing as it being literal. Some things are real but cannot be put into words. The laws of physics can only be deeply expressed in symbols. The depths of subjective human experience, the province of religion, are also beyond words.

8. If the symbol “God” is referring to something that is everywhere, it cannot be born and die. Something which is omnipresent cannot have a second coming because it is already here. It is our minds that need such images to lead us to the threshold of awareness, but none of them can capture the mystery to which they refer.

Not everything is a discussion

Well-meaning people can make matters worse by treating oppression as if it were a debate topic with two equally valid sides. Imagine a typical news program discussing the Holocaust. It would give the Jews and Nazi’s equal time. It would probably note that both sides were equally extreme, both equally intolerant, and then it might conclude that the mature solution would be meeting somewhere in the middle. If we do not wish to betray the vulnerable, we must first address the power imbalance in which the oppressed are being crushed. Only after both parties have equal power can a genuine dialogue happen. The hurt feelings of the oppressor when confronted, should never be put on the same scale as the actual pain of the oppressed.

HAPPY EQUINOX!

Pagans celebrate the Vernal Equinox. In Christianity, the same time is celebrated as Easter. In Judaism this is the time of year to celebrate Passover. In Buddhism, this time of year is celebrated as Higan- passing over the river of existence to nirvana. In Zoroastrianism, it is called “Nowruz” and marks the new year. Baha i and Hinduism also note this time of year. Secular people celebrate Earth Day at this time of year.

The deeper we each go into the roots of our respective faiths, the more we should recognize each other. Our various approaches will create a symphony if we each remember to tune to a common chord.

FREEDOM

There is no point in fighting for our freedom of speech after we have lost the capacity for critical thought. If we are not going to question capitalism, the American Empire or religious orthodoxy, then we will have no trouble speaking our minds. Laws are not needed to protect conformity, only resistance needs protection. When there is no resistance to the systems that dominate us and threaten our very humanity, our precious “freedoms” are the flight dreams of a caged bird.

DOES RELIGION MAKE A LIFE OF REASON IMPOSSIBLE?

During my seminary training, as part of my doctoral program, I took off a year for training as a hospital chaplain. I discovered that the formulas I was learning in seminary did not always speak to the real lives people were living. The theological formulas I had been taught were not really answering the questions people were asking. Instead they were getting people to forget what they had asked in the first place.

After seminary I began to pour over the teachings of the early church. I discovered the early writings of the church were, like the Sermon on the Mount itself, more about living than believing. Reason was not an enemy to faith but was more understood as what faith grows into.

Looking at scripture, I realized the Gospel of John begins with a philosophical essay on the logos (reason) and then proceeds to tell stories that may be illustrations of that essay. Was it possible that religion could be a complement to reason and science? Could it be that religion can build a bridge from scientific truth, to meaning in life?

I ran across passages in the early church like this statement by Justin Martyr written not seventy years after Jesus’ death. I was stunned to discover teachings that would probably get this early saint kicked out of most of the churches I know.

“Whatever is rational is Christian, and whatever is Christian is rational. The Logos endowed all people with reason and freedom, which are not lost by the fall. Christ scattered seeds of truth before his incarnation, not only among the Jews, but also among the Greeks and barbarians, especially among philosophers and poets, who are the prophets of the heathen. Those who lived reasonably and virtuously in obedience to this preparatory light were Christians in fact, though not in name; while those who lived unreasonably were Christless and enemies of Christ. Socrates was a Christian as well as Abraham, though he did not know it.” -Justin Martyr

I don’t think Justin should be heard saying that reasonable Jews and philosophers are really Christians but don’t know it. That would be arrogant. But he can be heard echoing a sentiment shared by the Jewish philosopher Philo, that all who are reasonable and loving are of one faith, even though we have different names.

ON BLOGS AND FLOWER VASES

ON BLOGS AND FLOWER VASES

You have to have thick skin to do a blog. Almost anything you say will be interpreted as hurtful by somebody somewhere. Throw in the times when I actually am insensitive, and it is a recipe for misunderstandings.

I am really trying to push the envelope when I write, and human language is so ambiguous that without voice tone and body language it is sometimes impossible for us not to project intent upon one another.

I’m still learning the art of blogging. I can’t count how many times I have tried to make a point using an example, only to have that example heard in ways I never would have expected; meanwhile, the one thing missing from the conversation is the point I was trying to make.

Sometimes that misunderstanding occurs because I have misspoken, other times it feels as if I tried to give someone a vase of flowers, and they took out the flowers, broke the vase, cut themselves with the shards, and then asked why I attacked them.

Much to learn.

I am not a partisan

What I am trying to say isn’t really partisan, although it can sound that way until the point is understood. Respect for our planet and universal human rights are the foundation for any meaningful dialogue that will not be based on the domination of any one of our groups over the others. I do not trust myself to rule over others any more than I trust others to rule over me. These two core values make meaningful dialogue possible. They should not be on the table as bargaining chips.

Mystic

MYSTIC

I’m not an atheist nor a theist, I am a mystic. This means I hold our universe to be the manifestation of a vast unspeakable mystery which we cannot know, but must never forget because it is our ultimate home.

I refuse to choose between religion and science. I believe in science because it draws my mind closer to that mystery. But I also believe in religion because it addresses the mystery in terms understandable to my heart.

Through science, I seek to understand the infinite offspring of the one mystery, but through religion I feel my call to serve them.

God or No God?

God or no god?
They are like the positive and negative poles of a magnet.
Do not choose between them.
Instead, ask yourself,
What is the mysterious energy flowing between them both?

I WAS RAISED TO BE “PRO-LIFE”

I was raised to be “pro-life,” but the more life experiences I had, the more I realized that my worldview was simplistic. I came to realize that women live in the complexities of the real world, not in the simplicity of the world I had imagined for them.

I will never forget the day I realized the red curtain in an anti-choice poster was actually a woman’s uterus. In focusing only on the fetus, I had dehumanized the woman within whom the pregnancy was happening.

I realized that robbing a woman of agency in her own life was not “pro-life” but was itself an act of violence.