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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Just another day of Resurrection denial.

Yeah, the Reporter again, this time by Carol Meyer:


Artist Ron DiCianni spent two years painting the largest mural ever of the resurrection, some 12 feet high and 30 feet wide, soon to be housed at the Museum of Biblical Arts in Dallas.

Sounds cool. Looks good, from a small version. Probably have to see it in person to get the full effect.

In a video about this work, he says, “The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the single act in history that separates Christianity from every other religion, every other philosophy, and every belief system. God gave me this incredible idea of having Christ emerge from the tomb which I've never seen done before. I wanted to stop a moment in time, when Jesus grabbed the sides of the tomb and walked out.”

Yep--that's the bold, central claim of Christianity--the Easter faith in the Risen Lord.

Naturally, Ms. Meyer will have none of this crass, fleshy misinterpretation.


As much as I admire DiCianni’s artistic skills and honor his perspective, I don’t agree with it. Like many, he takes a very literal approach to the resurrection, focusing on the biblical accounts as historically accurate. Even top-notch biblical scholars cannot fully unravel the mystery of what happened after Jesus’ death based on the resurrection narratives — what might have been fact, myth, or projection by the early Christian community. After all, no one caught it on camera.

Ever notice how the cultured despisers and intellectual wreckers come pouring out of the woodwork around Holy Week?

Even those who insist on calling themselves Catholic have to get in on the fun.

Not to be crass, but WTH? Historical accuracy in the Resurrection accounts interferes with the Triduum these days? What are you celebrating this week, then?

Why, the "he's alive in our hearts!" pseudogospel, apparently.


It’s freeing that we don’t have to spend our precious energy trying to figure it out. Faith is a lot more than an intellectual belief in a doctrine, which does little to give us the inspiration we so sorely seek.

Who's this "us," kemosabe? Frankly, I'm not inspired to pattern my life on the example of a grotesquely misunderstood failure who spent hours suffocating to death after being scourged to within an inch of his life. Hell, if I have to pick Roman execution victims, I'm going with Spartacus--at least he got to whomp on his tormenters for a while. Die with your boots on, and all that.

What we want is to have “our hearts burning within us,” experiencing the same thrill as the Emmaus disciples who knew that Jesus still walked beside them, not in an occasional physical way, but a constant spiritual one.

Which has to be the right way to read the Emmaus Road account:

And their eyes were opened, and they recognized their sorrow had caused them to hallucinate the whole thing. And once they realized this, he "vanished" from their sight, having not really been there in the first place, but somehow still alive in their hearts, kind of like when you remember a loved one who's reached room temperature unexpectedly. They said to each other, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, or could it have been bad mutton? What about when Mr. Sublimated Agony of Loss projected himself onto certain passages we fixated on from the Scriptures? That's kinda like him being right here, when you think about it!" And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, "OK, he's still deader than Herod, but can't we agree that he's really alive in our hearts anyway, because we really miss him? Especially Simon, who may or may not be feeling guilty, depending upon how you regard the historicity of the denial/cockcrow scenes." Then they told what had happened on the road, and how they felt really bad about him still being dead, but fixated back on that last possibly Passover-like meal, which Jesus really went through all that hard work of preparing--well, maybe, depending on how you feel about the historical accuracy of the whole thing, which may or may not be some kind of projection in and of itself--even breaking of the bread and all that, before dying his pointless death."

Sign me up!


The question we might profitably ponder this Easter is: What profound reality is God trying to communicate through the resurrection and how can that have significance and power for us today?

Apart from taking it literally, you poor poor soul whose ahistorical, delusional perspective I nevertheless assure you I honor. Deeply.

God knows our world is a mess, so surely a reality this central to Christianity has something vital to say, some great grace to impart. It's not just something that happened once and for all in the past.

As I look around me, I see a lot of fear and hopelessness, which is quite understandable if we just look at the material side of things, which is what Jesus’ disciples did after his death.

Which was understandable, given that he was irrevocably dead and had died for nothing. Major buzzkill.

Things appeared totally dismal to them. But God awakened in them an intense realization that Jesus’ courageous death resulted in new life for him, them, and the world.

And that realization was....?

To help them and us to “get it,” the resurrection is portrayed in the Bible as an event bigger than life. There’s power, glory, dazzling angels, the earth quaking, stones miraculously moved —a n explosive, brilliant event, big enough to convince us that God’s saving love permeates the universe and is always with us even in the face of loss and change.

Ta-daaaaaah! The good news is that God's saving love permeates the universe! And how do we know it? Because the Gospel writers made up, whole cloth, some inspiring, earthshaking bullshit story about Jesus rising from the dead and added some Michael Bay-esque special effects to the tale! Think of it as Jesus' last parable, even if he was in no condition to tell it.

I mean, don't misunderstand--he's still deader than a doornail, probably even eaten by wild dogs in a trashheap somewhere, but still--can you feel it? God's saving love permeates the universe and is always with us!


This Easter, God is once again calling us to trust that death is a precondition for rebirth, disintegration undergirds reintegration, and dying seeds sprout new life, not only in our personal lives, but on a cosmic level.

I have no idea what this means. I am certain, however, it does not mean anything about life after death as understood by Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants prior to the madness of the 20th Century.

One of the reasons I stay hopeful in the face of so much bad news is that I know something of evolutionary history, and how God and the universe have always fashioned something wonderful and unexpected out of the demise of the old. With this inspiration and the witness of Jesus who went willingly to his death, maybe we too can embrace the death of much of what we hold dear, confident that something better will replace it.

Poor Darwin--press-ganged into shilling for something outside of the scientific purview again. Usually, it's an atheist doing it or possibly some cad defending his caddishness by citing to evolutionary biology. This time, it's a panentheist playing Wayland Flowers to Darwin's Madam.

Our problem is that we’ve only put stock in the physical aspect of things, and failed to see the numinous, divine light that infuses it, and goes beyond it.

Thank you, Yoda. No, seriously--that's a paraphrase of dialogue from The Empire Strikes Back.

We’re stuck, scared and quivering, in a confining tomb, when God has rolled back the stone of unconsciousness and invited us to emerge into the light. We are more than matter. We are cosmological, spiritual beings yearning to experience God and the infinity of which we are a part.

Perhaps panentheism is not quite right--the disdain for the physical is starting to redline the gnostic meter.

Quantum Theology author Diarmuid O’Murchu expresses it this way, “The concept of resurrection helps us to contextualize our affinity to mystery, to make real and tangible the awe and apprehension that is deep within our being. It embodies our yearning for infinity, stretching back over billions of years and serving to connect us with the infinite eons that still lie ahead.”

Dole Office Clerk: Occupation?

Comicus: Stand-up philosopher.

Dole Office Clerk: What?

Comicus: Stand-up philosopher. I coalesce the vapors of human experience into a
viable and meaningful comprehension.

Dole Office Clerk: Oh--a bullshit artist!

Comicus: *Grumble*...

Dole Office Clerk: Did you bullshit last week?

Comicus: No.

Dole Office Clerk: Did you *try* to bullshit last week?

Comicus: Yes!


This is something of how I felt when I read Embraced by the Light many years ago. As the author described her near-death experience with its glimpse of unbounded existence and awareness, my heart thrilled as it went on the journey with her in imagination. I knew in my soul that I was part and parcel of this divine matrix which filled the universe.

Back to panentheism. I'll only add that it is interesting to contrast the complete credulity here with the skepticism toward the Resurrection accounts.

It helped me to see that there is no duality, no opposition between earthly existence and the spiritual realm.

Except, of course, that earthly existence comes to an irrevocable end in this philosophy. Not to mention the spiritual is pitted against any kind of physical resurrection. At that point, the duality becomes the Berlin Wall.

The resurrection does not imply that we should merely endure life in this world because all that matters is life after death, an error that has resulted in many sad consequences throughout history.

And no trashing of the orthodox understanding of the Resurrection would be complete without the Ceremonial Ignition of the Straw-Man.

Foomph!


God is one and our world is one in all its dimensions. The resurrection proclaims that the Cosmic Christ is with us fully, permeating every atom of matter, working redemption in all things, even in the groaning of creation. There is a seamless continuity and unity between matter and spirit, death and life, this world and the next.

Except, of course, once you shed this cloak of crude matter--Tik Tok--you ain't coming back.

So let us not be disbelieving, but believing, living out of the powerful, loving, creative force of Jesus’ enduring presence, allowing Him to transform us into heroic disciples, so desperately needed in today’s world, then our minds and hearts are free to soar with new insights to transform our lives.

Woot--he's with us in spirit. Careful you don't get yourself killed.

Jesus’ enemies thought they could be rid of him by killing him, but they were wrong. They didn’t count on the fact that, bound no longer by physical limitations, his spirit would be unlimited in its influence. The resurrection proclaims to those who destroy, “You can kill the body, but you can’t kill the soul. There’s another whole spiritual realm to be reckoned with over which you have no power.”

Yeah, you crucified him as the false messiah and king, and, OK, fine--he's still dead. The stone's still over the tomb, you aren't accountable for your crime and you've triumphed utterly--but you can't stop us, 'cause we've got spirit--neener, neener, neener!"

On the surface, evil often seems to win out, but it never does ultimately. There is more than meets the eye. Good always has its reward and prevails. The lesson might be to be bold in doing what is right and standing up for justice and God’s values no matter the cost because you will be vindicated in the end. The story doesn’t end with death. Death is just a transition into another realm, not the end of you.

Here's the funny part--I agree with her here. But...only because the Resurrection really, physically happened. If Ms. Meyer's version were the truth, the Jesus movement would have been as dead as he was by 40 AD, with as many followers today as those still following the false messiahs chronicled by Josephus. Who no doubt also really, really didn't want their messiahs to be executed by the Romans, either, yet still didn't hallucinate a faith into being.

I see the tomb and stone in front of it as symbolic. Often we live in a cramped, limited space of our own making. It’s very time and earth-bound, and ego-based with minimal consciousness. But once we let God roll the stone away, we emerge glorious as Jesus did, our eyes opened to the infinite possibilities in front of us.

In death, we let go of our bodies, and are released into a potential relationship with the whole of universal life. Easter is symbolic of victory after suffering for what is right. Evil doesn’t prevail. You can kill the body, but not the soul.


Yes, that's Easter faith all right. Welcome to the universe, nice and glowy in your Jedi suits--unless God decides he wants Hayden Christensen redigitized over you, in which case, gnashing of the teeth. This is the faith delivered unto the saints? Sadly, it isn't. And the last four words are particularly wrongheaded as we prepare to greet the Risen Lord on Sunday.

12 comments:

  1. I'm surprised she put the bong down long enough to write this tripe.

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  2. After attended a retreat led by Diarmuid O’Murchu, someone I know said, "I'm surprised he's still allowed to be a priest."

    Of course, being someone who attended a retreat led by Diarmuid O’Murchu, she meant it as a compliment.

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  3. Hi, Dale!

    If Christianity is not true, if Our Lord did not literally rise from the dead, then there's no point in being a Catholic. Far better, in that case, to be an Orthodox Jew!

    So, I decline either panetheist or Gnosticism!

    Sincerely, Sean

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  4. Below you joked that when charged with being a Pharisee we should retort with calling the accuser a Sadducee. In this case it would be the literal truth.

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  5. Twenty-First century arrogance is so amusing. "I thank some vague indefinable higher power that I am so much more enlightened than those who came before me. I look down upon those benighted masses with contempt and compassion. I do not have the time to fully comprehend what they believed, upon what evidence their beliefs were based and why they believed what they did, but I am sure that their beliefs, because they are older than the year of my birth, are wrong." Brilliant fisk Dale. No doubt I'll stea---er, borrow, some of it for TAC next week!

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  6. By my count, her piece is 1,132 words long.

    1,132 words and she manages to say absolutely *nothing.*

    Dale, your fisking was absolutely priceless. I laughed so hard I have the hiccups.

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  7. If you want a quick read on just how dumb this lady is, look at her opening where she describes the mural as 12 x 30 feet.

    The Resurrection Mural is in fact 12 x 40 feet.

    Not surprising she missed 1/4 of the mural since her article shows she's only got a handle on about 75% of the Gospel too.

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  8. Jesus’ enemies thought they could be rid of him by killing him, but they were wrong. They didn’t count on the fact that, bound no longer by physical limitations, his spirit would be unlimited in its influence. The resurrection proclaims to those who destroy, “You can kill the body, but you can’t kill the soul. There’s another whole spiritual realm to be reckoned with over which you have no power.”

    Is this whole article about Jedism? "If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine."

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  9. Not surprising she missed 1/4 of the mural since her article shows she's only got a handle on about 75% of the Gospel too.

    You're being way too generous in that assessment.

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  10. This Easter, God is once again calling us to trust that death is a precondition for rebirth, disintegration undergirds reintegration, and dying seeds sprout new life, not only in our personal lives, but on a cosmic level.

    I have no idea what this means.

    It means that good stuff comes from fertilizer. The crap of His Life is the mulch from which we may affirm ourselves.

    Blech.

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  11. I kind understand Christianity and I can understand atheism or even some agnosticism, but I find it hard to understand the queasy states in-between.

    Faith should be hard, or else it doesn't actually mean anything.

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