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Easter Earnestness

I like Easter as a celebration of Spring, a time of rebirth and new birth.  However, I don’t celebrate it as Christianity does.  I don’t believe Jesus died and was revived as proof of his divine status.  Nor do I think it is wise to tell children he died for their sins, and if they believe strongly enough, they won’t die or go to hell. 

What a cruel lie to tell children and a twisting of the person Jesus was!  Jesus said, “Let the children come unto me.”  He didn’t say, “Believe in Me – or else!”  He was a far different “Son of God” than the earlier Alexander the Great had been, who showed his alleged divinity by conquest. 

Poor Jesus – mislabeled for two thousand years by Christianity, used by them more than to inform their teachings, historically and lately.  The Catholics show him on the cross.  The Protestants show an empty cross.  Both pick the wrong symbol.  The original symbol of Christianity, the fishes of abundance, has been forgotten.  The kind of person Jesus was gets forgotten and forsaken as Christianity morphs.  “Christ” was a label assigned to him, not his last name.

I see Jesus differently, honoring and actualizing the natural goods we’re all built of.  These goods are said to have been created and valued by the creator-God, Elohim, of Genesis One (found on page one of the Bible).  The six stages of an evolutionary nature (called “days”) were generated and called “good” by God in that creation account.  The cosmos, earth, and all life, including humans – male and female – are good.  We are built of the natural, and the natural is good. Whether it is here because of The Creator or creation, it’s still good.

Use the Bible; don’t be used by it or those who wield it for their purposes.  The Bible can be viewed as morality tales that affirm or offend God’s original and natural goods.  Genesis One doesn’t establish God’s goods, it affirms that the natural, evolutionary process that births and sustains us is good. I see Jesus as affirming and actualizing the good we all are.  Christianity lately offends that goodness.  It ignores the goods we are to instead have us just believe.

Instead of praising and developing our intelligence and conscience, it would have us believe in miracles, use this world as a mere stepping stone to some imagined afterlife, be ashamed of our intelligence and sexuality, and obey those who mislead us.  It dumbs us down to believe in the fake.  Then, the fake takes over.

Just before Easter, former president Trump hawked a $60 Bible (plus copies of the Declaration, Constitution, and Pledge of Allegiance), claiming “We must make America pray again.”  That vile, violent man poses as pious, plotting to regain power, using the Bible and prayer as props. Does he pray or prey?

I contributed this to the Religious News Service forum on Trump’s promoting the “God Bless the USA Bible”:

Between Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and Trump’s sort of Christianity (and his being adulated by evangelicals no matter how vile he is), I am increasingly disgusted with the Judeo-Christian Heritage.

There are aspects of the Judeo-Christian Heritage I admire and value, just as there are those I dislike and devalue. I value a secular America that allows religion but isn’t ruled by it. Our faith is in “we the people” – all of us, not just those pushing their narrow faith.  The sort of religious revival America needs is the Enlightenment we are founded upon.

Trump’s hawking a $60 bible is as sincere an act as his holding up one upside down as a sleazy prop as he powered his way through protesters to pose by a church he never attends. 

I return to the Founding Fathers, especially Thomas Paine. Not only did he write the pamphlets that led to the Declaration of Independence and the war for it (donating his profits back to that cause), but he also wrote The Age of Reason, one of the best deconstructions of the Bible and Christianity ever written.

We have freedom of religion and freedom from it. We are founded as much in Freethought and against religious rule by popes, so-called divine kings, and insistent sects as much or more than any Christian Nation nonsense. When Trump pushes the Bible and the Flag, he sullies both.  

We should use the Bible, not be used by it or those who foist it on us as if it is truer than true.  Our founding documents for America claim we are “endowed with inalienable rights,” not by “Jesus” or “God,” but by the “Creator,” a Deist term more than a Christian one.  Included also are those who just aren’t religious, the go-their-own-way valued types of our heritage.  We all are endowed with inalienable worth and rights.

I’ll take it further.  Thomas Paine (and the resulting American affirmation of a self-run, humanistic democracy) and Jesus (the kind and brave man) both exemplify the goods of God as told in Genesis One.  They live up to themselves, meeting their times in their ways.  In the Bible, I’d add Ecclesiastes, Job, and others as living the faith that we are good.  Some parts cherish and further those goods; other parts show the loss and ruin of the good.

Too bad the subtle deceiver of Genesis Two/Three has tricked us into alternate goods and evils.  We aren’t as fallen as the teachings claim we are.  It is fallen to teach that every word of the Bible is the Word of God and that any phrase carries authority to prove any convenient case.  It is fallen to have to believe Jesus was the Christ to get into heaven. 

Belief has replaced goodness.  Being good doesn’t mean taking care of each other and our precious world as Jesus did, it means believing in preposterous scenarios and miracles beyond the workings of life and physics.  Sin away, for you’ll be forgiven – if you’re a believer.

The original subtle deception was later exemplified by Paul, insisting that Jesus rose from the dead and that by believing in his expiatory sacrifice we’ll rise too.  This robs Jesus of his humanity and lets us avoid ours. 

The deception was deepened by Augustine, who taught us not to trust our senses.  He misleadingly explained that when you put a straight stick in the water it appears to bend.  Hence, he “reasoned,” don’t trust your senses, trust the Church instead, for it knows the Reality behind reality.  The church knows and works; you don’t.

The church later declared which books of the early Jesus Movement were part of the approved canon and which were to be discarded, denying the writings of Thomas, Philip, and Mary.  The church went on to declare which sects were the right ones, torturing and killing those it deemed wrong and evil.

It took the thinking of the Renaissance and Enlightenment to buck the stifled hold on the Western tradition.  It took science to explain the refraction of water as the reason the stick appears bent.  Despite much of established religion, it took the innate good intelligence and conscience in us to slowly object to the stifling of science, the genocide of Natives, the exploitation of Slaves, the injustice of inequality, and the decimation of Nature.

What’s good is us and this planet we share, not teachings that divide us from both.  We are dimly the saviors we seek.

This is not to disparage those Christians who find meaning in their faith and solace and meaning in their relations to Jesus.  The goodness they seek, they entered with, disguised as spiritual yearning.  What they seek and find is of the goodness we all are.  Their belief is precious to them and I respect that.  I object to the theology, not the believers. We humans try to find or describe it in our traditions.

But what about Easter?  “If He did not rise, our faith is in vain,” Paul preached.  “Perhaps he didn’t and it is,” I reply.  Believing it is other, we miss who we are.  As Jesus probably knew, faith starts within and shows in our lives.

Typical crucifixions took three days to kill the victim; Jesus was brought down in three hours (ironically, to not offend the Sabbath).  Three women were to retrieve him – his mother Mary, Mary of Magdaline (whom he favored and had earlier rescued from the judgmental crowd), and Martha.  They said the stone had been rolled aside and he was gone, resurrected.  I prefer to believe they rolled the stone aside and revived him.  He later showed up and showed his wounds to his disciples. 

Generations later, Paul and others magnify the story to fit their prophecy.  Matthew even created a lineage that spanned from Abraham to David, including Isaac and on, until Jacob begot Joseph, the husband of Mary, who hadn’t slept with her.  God was the alleged father.  There is no icky sperm in this Immaculate Conception.  How God got into this only Gabriel knew. 

Lately, making Jesus into God who fixes our sins and gets us into heaven is Christianity.  The earlier Jesus Movement had a more humanistic view of Jesus. some of the rejected scriptures of that time (found at Nag Hamurti in 1945) were mystical, and some were humanistic.  Philip was rational.  Peter was jealous that Jesus would kiss Mary on the mouth. 

I prefer to believe Jesus and Mary of Magdaline left town.  Who wouldn’t?  Both Jews and Romans were blinded by their beliefs.  They were mean.  Various legends claim the couple went to Gaul (France) and India.  There’s a tomb in northern India where Jesus and his sons were said to be buried.  I’d like to think he and Mary had a decent life after the interrupted execution.  I’d like to think this good earth isn’t just an expendable staging ground for an eventual afterlife.

If there ever is to be a “Second Coming of Christ,” let it be to remember how kind and brave he was, modeling how we can live up to ourselves.  By that, I don’t mean to accept injustice and crucifixion.  Rather, let us each come alive to our kind and brave goodness.  Let us increase the loaves and fishes of our time. Let us come out of our cave.

The word earnest means stemming from an intense and serious state of mind.  This is my Easter Earnestness: Let each of us come alive in our innate goodness in our unique ways, just as Jesus was in his.  The Creator manifests in us as we love creation.  This good earth needs our good selves to affirm, enjoy, and care like we’re built to.

Byron has been using his writing and public speaking to engage, challenge and inspire audiences for over 40 years. Reverend Carrier's mission is to rescue and revive our earthly Eden, including our human worth and potential. If you enjoy his work, consider supporting him with Patreon.

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Teja Ray
Teja Ray
3 months ago

I like your Easter Earnestness: Let each of us come alive in our innate goodness in our unique ways, just as Jesus was in his.

Amen to that, Byron Bradley!

Teja Ray
Teja Ray
3 months ago
Reply to  Byron Carrier

I copied that from your last paragraph above! That’s your own summary!

Teja Ray
Teja Ray
3 months ago
Reply to  Byron Carrier

Yes, you’ve been quoted!

I should have put your words in quotes, I usually do…. I guess I neglected to put the quotation marks because I said “your” prior to the colon!

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