The Christian celebration of Holy Week is in full swing once again- the annual passion play based upon historical fiction and Jewish midrash writings. Yet, to many Christians, it is real. They have not investigated recent biblical scholarship and/or choose to bury their heads in holy water. Of course, Mel Gibson’s infamous film, The Passion of Christ, solidified the beliefs of many of the faithful- beliefs in the supernatural and deities. That’s the stuff of my youth and I’d imagine it is a fairly widespread experience of American Christians.
The main article in this week’s Time Magazine, Rethinking Heaven, by author John Mecham, calls into question the concept of Heaven; Hell, too. Many recent biblical scholars have overtly stated that neither exists despite what is said in Sunday School. Of course, with that reward-punishment concept gone, the leverage of ‘the church’ is also weakened. For it is in the pews where good Christians are taught and warned about sin, where the carrot of Heaven and the stick of Hell are dangled over their heads by the good preacher. But, what if it was all just a hoax? A ruse? A control-agent? Well, then, there wouldn’t be a need for a Sunday worship service. And no money in the collection plate.
Holy oils, holy incense, holy smoke and mirrors! Holy Week.
Bishop Spong and others do not believe that Jesus died for our sins; he was not a sacrificial lamb, a scapegoat for all of mankind. And further, they do not believe that he rose from the dead. Nor do they believe that he was the first-born Son of God, a deity, who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. No, he was, as the song from Jesus Christ Superstar says, just a man. A good man, if he actually existed- a man who became a fully-functioning and loving man. A man who taught his followers how to find ‘god’ inside of him by conquering the ego. A whole man, a wholly man.
The sad thing is that the life of this fairly ‘simple’ man has been transformed into something that Jesus was not- not at all. He did not proclaim that he was a Deity; he did not suspend the natural world with miracles and bodily healings. The did not rise out of his grave. All of that is fiction written by those who actually did not understand the man, but hoped that he was more than his life portrayed. They didn’t get it. Many today don’t either.
Rather they believe that he did all of the hard work for them in his scapegoat role. That he will reward them after this life with goodies [forever]. Yet he never said that. He said follow me. Just follow my example. Look how I loved; do the same. Become whole, not holy. Become a fully-functioning adult who finds what we call ‘God’ within, not in Heaven.