Easter: Maybe It’s Not Up to Us?
Here is a follow-up to my own post-Easter piece on New York Times columnist, Nick Kristof’s, conversation with Union Seminary President, Serene Jones.
Colleague and friend, Matt Fitzgerald, also responded to the Kristof/ Jones piece in an essay at the Christian Century website. It’s terrific.
The Century titled Matt’s short piece, “The Same Old Easter Debate about Whether or Not We Believe It,” which gets at a good part of the reason that the Kristof/ Jones piece was so tedious.
Same old thing . . . do we, do I, believe in the resurrection or not? Who put us in charge? Well, modernity did, of course. It’s all up to us.
Or maybe it’s not?
“And thus modernity’s wearisome debate grinds on. We have placed ourselves in a ridiculous bind. Religious sophisticates deny the resurrection and then try to build a flimsy faith on the back of the very symbols that flimsy faith derides. True believers accept the resurrection by putting on a pair of blinders that block out the modern world. You believe, or you don’t.
“It’s a binary argument—but the two sides only seem like opposites. The truth is, both leave the believer in charge. The choice is yours: accept the resurrection or don’t. Either way, you’re the boss.
“In regards to God, everyone in this argument seems too committed to what Avivah Zornberg calls ‘the obscenity of understanding.’ And no one in this argument seems ready to acknowledge that God’s boundless work might defy the boundaries of the human mind.”
Don’t you love that last line? “And no one in this argument seems ready to acknowledge that God’s boundless work might defy the boundaries of the human mind.”
And the phrase from the Jewish scholar, Avivah Zornberg, “the obscenity of understanding.” Wow!
All things subjected to whether or not they make sense to me.
Zornberg is currently on a lecture tour in North America. Alas, she doesn’t come to the west coast. But those of you in Toronto have several opportunities to hear her this month. Check her website for the dates and locations.
To extrapolate a bit . . . this gets to the heart of mainline churches dilemma and shrinkage. It’s not that we aren’t credible in and to “the modern world.” It is that we bow to modernity’s constrictions. In so doing, an active God is ruled out, leaving religion with an ethical component alone.
So, going through the mail after our trip, I open the UCC Annual Fund appeal that comes emblazoned with the slogan, “Let’s Create a Just World for All.” While one can’t exactly disagree with such a noble sentiment, it’s all about us and our ethical responsibility.
My observation is that thriving churches get that it’s not all on us. They have a powerful sense of an active God “whose boundless work might defy the boundaries of the human mind.”
Encountering such a God in worship people leave empowered for life rather than being overwhelmed by it. If you’re not sure what that might look or sound like, visit almost any African-American church and see if you don’t feel a difference.