I almost never do guest posts on my blog, but I really wanted you all to see this. This was written by my friend Lars… A person I’ve never met in real life, but a person I respect and love. It is an Easter sermon for those of us who find ourselves feeling less and less welcome within the walls of traditional Churches. And it is powerful reminder of the distinction between the fake, Americanized, fundamentalist, self-serving, gun-toting, wall-building, poor-people-demonizing, diversity-hating “christianity” that continues to throw its support behind the immoral leader of this nation… And the sacrificial, empowering, liberating, neighbor-loving, badass narrative of Jesus of Nazareth. It fits right in with my usual “Jesus, Politics, & Bathroom Humor.” Enjoy!
Easter is weird, you guys. And this year marks an interesting milestone. I have now been “church-free” for 10 years, as many years as I was actively involved in the Evangelical community. During the first decade, people called me “Pastor Lars.” I forsook grad school and went into full-time ministry out of college because I had a white-savior complex, among many other issues I’ve been working through. Nine years ago I cleared the room and sat alone with my mom, who had taken her last breaths ~2 hours before. Multiple people had “prophesied” over me that I had the “gift of healing” and “would raise people from the dead.” So, I laid my hands on my own mother and begged God to raise her from the dead. Her body only got colder. Meanwhile, Evangelicals across the country, including in my own church, regaled their politicians that the proposed health care law that would eventually be watered down into the Affordable Care Act was a tool of the anti-Christ to establish “death panels” under the banner of “socialized medicine.” As if our broken health system needed any assistance in the former, and as if one’s health wasn’t an intrinsically social phenomenon in the latter. As if my mom’s uninsured life wasn’t worthy of saving.
I have come to hate “Easter.” The stupid bunnies and eggs and “He has risen!” platitudes that are completely divorced from what the world would actually look like if followers of Jesus embodied the power of the resurrection in a world intent on imploding upon itself.
Easter, despite its appropriation of astrology and pagan fertility rituals (seriously, early Christians were either fucking snowflakes or syncretistic buttholes), should actually catalyze the restructuring of society as we know it, should Jesus’ followers give a damn.
You see, Easter, the resurrection, is rooted in the story of the Exodus, which is the controlling narrative of the Hebrew Bible and Christian scriptures. A people enslaved and brutalized by a foreign kingdom are liberated from bondage through a series of miracles that make their survival viable. Yet, rather than catch their breath and return to whoop the ass of the occupying empire, the former slaves are called by God to create communities where everybody has enough and nobody has too much. The post-Exodus followers of God are called to establish a society defined by equality. Organized into 12 distinct groups, this community of communities is called to be a beacon of a new way of life in the face of a brutal empire. When the life-sustaining manna fell from heaven, the greedy bastards who hoarded their culinary currency found their excess rot before their eyes each day. Those who could not gather enough – the poor, the blind, the disabled, widows, etc., miraculously had their portions filled. Every. Single. Day. The God that liberated this community reminded them ad nauseum that “You have been slaves in Egypt, don’t you dare do to anyone the horrors you’ve experienced yourselves.” Of particular emphasis in these messages was caring for the poor, orphan, widow, and immigrant. Everyone, particularly the outcasts, were to be welcomed, if not highlighted by the new society.
But, God’s people fucked it up. As we do. So, God sent her kid to clean up the mess. And amidst the healing, and the miracles, and the radical teachings are these weird occasions where a bunch of people are hungry and won’t leave God’s progeny alone. And so this dude, Jesus, tells his 12 buddies to make everyone sit down in groups (see above), and proceeds to feed the undeserving masses from a ridiculously small amount of food on hand. Nobody “earned” it, none of it was “means tested.” If you were there, you were split off into a group and fed. Period. Until everybody had enough and nobody had too much. We know this because a ridiculous amount of leftovers were gathered, and of all the amazing things that occurred that day, this is one of the few observations that was documented. Think about that.
And then God’s kid gets in trouble with the law through no fault of his own. And yet he actively walks toward the state that wants to kill him for insurrection. He *literally* holds his hands up, and out, as armed agents of this state proceed to torture and execute him. As his mother watches. As his best friends watch. As the community watches. He is mocked by talking heads. He is murdered.
And then this miracle happens where the dude appears again and we don’t believe it, then we do, then we don’t, then we do. And the story of Easter stops here because we operate on linear Western chronology now and don’t have the capacity for hindsight and context that previous societies did, and we’re now “saved” because of this badass defeat of death that Jesus did. Saved. From what? You can’t be saved from something that isn’t oppressing or threatening to oppress you. Meh, most of us will carry on with our lives and tell this cool story over beers, pretending as if we were there and it was amazing…
And yet a few people were there. And they didn’t do that. They followed the guidance of this crazy-ass miracle dude and waited for his command for their next steps. Yet, when they came, these directions weren’t to kick the Empire’s ass. Weren’t to plunder the fuckers who oppressed them and their friends. What was the immediate response after the miracle dude blew through town? The dude’s followers sold all of their possessions and gave to those in need. They established radical communities where everybody had enough and nobody had too much. The dudes who lied about having too much got struck dead (kinda harsh, IMO), while those without were miraculously provided for.
This isn’t an accident. All 3 of these stages confirm the Exodus as the controlling narrative of Scripture. Folks steeped in the Christian tradition should readily recognize these 3 stages as “Father. Son. Holy Spirit.” though they aren’t taught that way. The idea that God’s purpose for society is to liberate those in bondage that they may then become agents of radical communities where everyone has enough and nobody has too much is completely antithetical to American society. We live with mindsets of scarcity. Of “Death panels” and fear of “socialized [insert something that helps others].”
Evangelical Christianity no longer looks anything like the Gospel. Like anything associated with Jesus or the badass narrative above. Which is why I left.
But that doesn’t mean the ideals are worthless. That the radical upending of society isn’t worth pursuing. Liberation from the clutches of empire catalyzing a new way of living where everyone has enough, nobody has too much, and everyone… *everyone* … is welcome is literally the point of Easter. Anyone who tells you differently can go squeeze a goddamn egg from a bunny.
Thank you, Lars, for these honest and challenging words. Thank you for a life spent working toward building the Kingdom of God. And thank you for giving me permission to share this with the people who read the stuff I write. Happy Easter!
It’s interesting – as I find the stink of politics more and more repulsive I long for more and more of that badass miracle dude. I want to be more like him and see his vision for the world. The more I want this the more I am opposed and corrected by people of faith who are sure that I have lost my way. Excellent post. Thank you Lars.
Wonderful post. And, thank you, Lars, for putting into words what many of us have long struggled with. God bless you.
This is a Christianity a non-Christian like me can easily get behind. The problem with this, the reason that this is such a radical idea, is that no one profits from it. Church leaders (not restrictive to Christianity) have been using religion as a cash cow for millennia. I wish teachings like this would get a foothold in society. Thanks for sharing.
That was a good read. Thanks. Yet it leaves me grieving because while you’ve retained the practical application of the gospel of Christ, you’ve hollowed out its heart.
“Literally the point of Easter” is that we — all of us — were estranged from God, doomed to die in our sins, and he gave us a way out. As you say, everyone is welcome to partake in Christ’s redemption. As you say, living the gospel means respecting and welcoming all people, trying to build a world where everybody has enough and nobody has too much. And as you say, many in the traditional church don’t get this.
But you can’t leave out the sin-and-redemption part. If you do, you miss everything.
Estranged from God? Doomed to die in our sins? What god are you worshipping, mister? He’s worthless (and non-existent) in my opinion.
I don’t conclude that the text which Christians call “The Old and New Testament Scriptures” are revelation from “God” (nor that any other text is from any deity)…However…as an atheist/agnostic who studied the entire text exhaustively and extensively, I agree that that text teaches a message that equally emphasizes both “sin-and-redemption” as the way to become a “Christian” and “practical application” as the way a Christian is to subsequently live.
The text is certainly ambiguous to a degree that varied (sometimes conflicting) plausible, sincere interpretations of those “ways” are not only possible but unavoidable among readers/believers.
However, to eject either of those ways, or to minimize one to such a degree as to make it insignificant seems to me a refusal to be objective and honest with the text (often done by those who refuse to accept the version of “god” depicted and demonstrated throughout the text; because the attributes they’ve pre-decided a deity must have contrasts with the version of deity described in the text, they radically subjectivize the text to fit their preconception of deity; their subjectivity often includes accepting or emphasizing only the passages and verses of the text which agrees with that preconception).
So, while iIdon’t agree with you that the bible is in any manner “a special revelation from God”, I do appreciate your attempt to be consistent with your reading of it. Those who ignore, deconstruct, or dismiss passages in it because those portions prima facie contradict what they want to believe about “God’ and “Iesus” come across to me as “wanting to have their spiritual cake and eat it too.”
“But that doesn’t mean the ideals are worthless.”
And, as I’ve offered to BOESKOOL and now to you LARS — those ideals require no “christianity” nor supernaturalism at all to both hold and seek to implement. They’re ideals concluded through rational, empirical reasoning, being logical outworkings of the recognition that we humans are biochemically wired for social interdependence (even apart from our more psychological needs for social interaction, our species exists by heterosexual reproduction and parental care of our altricial infants, both which are impossible without social interaction of at least three people: a man, even if merely a sperm donor, a woman, even if merely a surrogate womb, and a baby, who requires care from others), and that, to optimize human interactions, those ideals serve better.
Supernaturalism hinders if not prohibits that reasoning process, as your experience among ‘the faithful” demonstrated, because, “the faithful” inevitably recourse to what they believe their deity has established as truth and to their varied and often conflicting interpretations of that, rather than applying their reason and logic to realities.
As a 62-year-old who spent ages 25 through 44 as a bible-literalist “born again” Christian (the last nine of those years as an apologist), but ultimately acknowledged at age 44 that there’s not adequate evidence that any deity even exists…and who has been an atheist/agnostic (NOT an anti-theist) since…I encourage you to keep thinking. As the New Testament Scripture text itself puts in the mouth of Iesus, “Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”