Thursday, July 23, 2015

But not the risen Christ

I must be a dullard, or a country bumpkin, or a simpleton. I’ve suspected it, but I wasn’t sure till this morning. I used to take it for granted that Christians, whatever their doctrinal slant, believed that Christ died on the Cross to save us and literally rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and so on. I knew some who believe in Jesus go so far as to deny His deity (Jehovah’s Witnesses), but even they know that the rest of the story is true—or maybe not, don’t they celebrate the death of Jesus instead of His resurrection, and say the ‘rising from the dead’ was spiritual, or something like that? I guess even the ‘learned’ can have mistaken ideas. It all depends on who you hang around with.

This morning, my confidence in other Christians (at least that’s what they call themselves) slipped down another notch. In commenting on a harmless article about Mary Magdalene (now, popularly called ‘Mary of Magdala’—I guess that sounds better) an educated ‘Christian’ man wrote,

I have no idea what the “Paschal Mystery” is and what the “Risen Christ” is. But I am very certain that whether Jesus` bones remained in his grave or not does not make a difference to my faith. I am also pretty sure that Mary of Magdala was married to Jesus. At the time, a man who was not married did not have credibility. You simply had to be married. Why have the Christian churches been so intent on propagating the myth that Jesus was single? I have no idea. It probably has something to do with the sexism that is so all pervasive in all the institutional churches.

Gulp! I thought this kind of thinking was hiding out in covens of believers in things like The Gospel of Judas, who don’t know any better. Thank God, I am now an elderly man and know for sure that I know next to nothing about anything, and so it’s not worth the bother to try to correct or teach anyone! But this guy (also looks elderly from his profile picture) seems never to have grown up. In my college days over forty years ago I entertained such thoughts, but it didn’t take me very long to see through them all. One thing I noticed was that he has an ax or two to grind, and everyone’s the enemy.

A woman just as simple as me responded to his comment briefly.

If Jesus hadn't died for us, we'd still be living in sin. It is precisely because He died for us that we can believe in a life after death.

Apparently what he wrote went over her head, as her response didn’t address any of his concerns, just restated a (what to her and me is) simple truth. He didn’t miss another opportunity to give her and the rest of us boobs more of his enlightened bombasm. (I had to edit out her name.)

[Your view] is old and medieval thinking. It does more harm than good. It opens up religions to ridicule and sets it against all reason. Young folks cannot relate to this kind of view. To stick to the old thinking creates divides and separates us. We need to move on, find a new language, find new ways. Let's put the old pictures of holy looking people with halos around their head into the museum. Forget about what you've been taught.

Yes, brother, ours ‘is old and medieval thinking,’ maybe. Old, yes, medieval, well, now I can see that you don’t know what you’re talking about, because though I may be an infant when it comes to knowing about God, I do know my (human) history lessons. You might say, that’s my specialty. The rest of his comment doesn’t elicit any response from me. You see, I’m not about arguing points. I don’t even want to argue his main criticisms or assertions about Christ and the Magdalene. As for the resurrection…

I also ‘have no idea what the “Paschal Mystery” is and what the “Risen Christ” is,’ on two counts. First, I can’t have an idea what the Paschal mystery is because even if I did, it wouldn’t help me much. Second, the same goes for ‘what’ the risen Christ is, again, no idea is really helpful. And besides, it’s not ‘what’ but ‘Who.’ Ideas can’t really help us here, only experience can. That’s something not I or anyone can give to another human being. It’s true. Salvation can’t be bought, isn’t transferable, but once received is like the ‘forever’ postage stamp, always enough, always good, yes, forever and ever.

Again I ponder. The ‘hole’ in this man’s or anyone’s arguments about this or that in the Church or even about Christ, His nature and how ‘He does it’ comes down to ‘what the Paschal mystery is’ and Who is the risen Christ. It doesn’t help that the first can often be shrouded in terms and ceremonies delightfully obscure and the second flaunted from flapping lips attached to flabby souls. How glibly people speak of ‘the risen Christ’ who, if they only knew, I mean, had they the experience of that ‘risen Christ’ as some do, might find it difficult to find the words. The latter live as though the resurrection were a fact, because it is a fact, and an act, of God. It didn’t take place long ago and far away. That was only where it started, and where I am standing at this very moment is the leading edge of the wave it has created that will soon engulf everything in creation. Talk about tsunamis! No, talk about d‎‎ýnamis!

Yes, for touching this, experiencing this, the Paschal mystery is no mystery, ‘it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile’ (Romans 1:16). Yes, the power—δύναμις (DHEE-nah-meess)—is what’s missing when all you have is abstract thinking. You can think yourself into hell, but not into heaven. We draw closer to it as we follow ‘the risen Christ,’ we get used to it as we get used to Him. The arguments that deafen the world and bore it to disgust whether they are won or lost are swallowed up in the stillness of the Divine Nature, Who await us with Their welcoming eyes and outstretched arms, God as Man, and Man as God.

Yes, religion as some conceive it can be ‘old and medieval thinking,’ but not the risen Christ.

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