This Sunday, people all over the world will be celebrating Easter by dressing up, taking family photos and going to a church to hear a story they know by heart. Before they head home for some ham, they’ll sing songs celebrating that after they die, they will be going to heaven to be with god forever all because a poor, homeless, brown, Jewish Rabbi from Palestine was brutally executed by an evil alliance of Religion and State 2000 years ago but came back to life in 3 days and floated up to heaven telling his followers to spread the word that everyone who ‘believes in their heart’ that this story actually-legit-happened-for-literal-reals, gets into heaven and those who remain unconvinced, will go to hell. This is sometimes called the GOOD NEWS. Hmmmmm.
Granted, there will be less people doing it all this year, as Christianity is currently the fastest shrinking major religion on earth according to the most recent pew research. As for me, I still have a fondness for this particular story. Its not because I’m one of the, ‘it happened for reals’ folks, but because I see the metaphors of transformation, awakening and salvation/healing/wholeness playing out in similar and familiar ways, all the time. And about that, I DO mean ‘for reals’.
No matter what one believes about the Easter story, I think it can serve as a reminder that the new resurrected life we all long for only comes after we submit to the death of the old one. Death, burial and resurrection is ultimately a pattern of transformation to follow, not a supernatural story to simply believe and defend.
I often wonder how long before thinking people start admitting that they don’t really believe all the supernatural magical stories and start consciously choosing to live ethically anyway, without appealing to the gods or a sacred text to make ourselves feel better about death or to scare others into behaving the way we want them to. It feels insane to me that people are still trying to make this transactional religious concept work for modern people. The idea that someone was executed ‘for your sins’ makes absolutely no sense for people who don’t live in a culture steeped in religious animal sacrifice. Its not only horrifically violent, its illogical nonsense. How do they connect? I heard a comedian reference this when he said, “I hit myself in the face with a shovel… for your mortgage”. Thats about it, right there.
But does that mean the story is meaningless? That’s really up to you. I don’t think it has to be completely discarded. The idea of ‘god’ being LOVE itself seems useful to me. And to take that further and suggest that the power of love is the one truly transformational energy in the universe and that you can’t kill love because love is immortal… that seems like a myth to live by.
The Jesus story is full of mythology that still speaks with a voice of authority. The pattern is universal! To become your true, glorified, ascended self, you have to submit to a bit of a crucifixion. It may feel like you’re dying! But we have to trust that this process is fruitful and that after a season of mourning and darkness and difficulty… after your hopes have been buried deep in the earth… something new can emerge.
I believe it. I’ve lived it. The cycle will play out many more times in my life, I’m sure.
It doesn’t make sense to me anymore to spend Easter singing happy-clappy songs about being in the right religion and going heaven because we believe in a magical-murder, but I DO like the idea of getting together to talk about the kind of human beings the world needs right now. And this struggle of transforming into such people will require a pathway, a practice and a supportive community that is committed to seeing their own garbage and doing the hard work of dying to a false, contracted sense of self, letting go of fear, and trusting the voice of love within. To me, this is the meaning of Jesus’ saying “take up your cross and follow me”.
Turns out, Jesus didn’t ‘pay it all’, he led the way.
It’s up to us to follow his pattern …and save ourselves.