An Easter Tradition…
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had trouble understanding Easter. I grew up in the church, so for the vast majority of my life I would attend sermons on Easter Sunday in which the pastor described in gory, grisly detail the macabre minutiae regarding Christ’s time on the Cross. Eighty percent of the sermon would be spent discussing how Christ suffered, ten percent would talk about how awful hell is, and the final ten would be an altar call so we can make use of the gift Christ gave us and save ourselves from fiery damnation. I understood all of that. What really threw me off was that they would say that this was a day of celebration.
Celebration? Really? I may have been young enough to think “astronaut” was still a valid career path, but I was mature enough to realize that no part of this equation sounded like something we should be reveling in. Suffering, death, punishment, fire, and if you repeat these words after me you can continue living your life like normal, but make sure you feel guilty for doing anything wrong.
The other kids got an Easter bunny. Lucky bastards.
Jesus Is Just Alright
So even into adulthood, I’ve been conflicted about Easter. Not just the celebratory aspects of it, but the work that Jesus did on the cross. Was it just to rescue us from hell? Was that the whole point? It felt like the Easter story was a negation of living life on this planet. Like, if you boiled Jesus’ life down, really reduced it, that was the only thing he ever said or did that mattered. And what does that amount to? An invisible idea that we like to believe allows us to continue existing even after we reach our inevitable ends. It just felt… small. Listen, I know the salvation of humanity is no small feat, I get that… but… What about now? Didn’t this life matter at all?
I feel like mainstream Christianity’s answer to that question has been a resounding “No.” Most Christians would agree that when Christ sacrificed himself and came back to life, he demolished the old rules and laws that we were required to live by. Instead of running with that, Christianity began building new rules and laws in the form of dogma and orthodoxy. There’s nothing wrong with that, if those rules and laws help us know and understand God better, but eventually they were having the opposite effect. They were keeping us separated. In American Christianity, this led to two types of Christians: Casual and dedicated. The casual Christian did whatever they wanted, and the dedicated Christians judged them for it. As long as you tossed a prayer over your shoulder afterward, everything was alright.
Like Water Into Fire
Lately, I’ve felt my paradigm shifting. As I come to know Jesus, as I try to truly understand who he is and what he stands for, I’ve realized something: Jesus’ came not to create religion, but to set us free from it.
What if by sacrificing himself, he got the ball rolling on an entirely new way of life in which we weren’t beholden to man-made standards of right and wrong? Instead, he simply commanded us to do two things: Love God. Love people. His death was intended to wash us clean; not only of our sin, but of our guilt. Of our fear. Of our dogma. What if Christ’s goal wasn’t to create Christianity, but instead, to unleash an entirely new type of person onto the world: People that gave of themselves freely, people that stood up for justice and the environment and all the things in this world that are good and noble? What if our calling as Christians isn’t to discuss the details of what we believe and why, but rather to simply to love God and love people? Is that not simpler? Is that not freeing? That sounds like something worth celebrating.
Paul Allen is the editor of Hunting for God. After growing up in an Assemblies of God church, he attended Johnson Bible College for two years before dropping out. In the time since, he has more or less figured out the whole “adulthood” thing, gotten married, and holds a steady job by day and writes movie scripts by night. He currently resides in Knoxville, Tennessee with his wife Leah and two cats, Ego and Karma. HfG on FB