I hate for any blog I write about Jesus and the Truth to be too clever, so I am hoping that the title of this blog is the most clever part about it. So now I’ll hopefully just talk as straightforward as possible.
This blog is about Easter. One of my least favorite holidays recently. Some people might ask why, if I love Jesus, I could be so adamantly opposed to a holiday that celebrates his resurrection. So hopefully you’ll allow me to explain, because I do love Jesus, and if he doesn’t exist in the form of a resurrected Son of God, I am definitely someone to be pitied.
First of all, Easter bears all the hallmarks of a pagan celebration, from the rabbit and egg symbology, to the day being held in the spring, and even to the use of pastel colors to represent new growth. Ancient Christians took pagan rituals and Jesusized them so that other people were forced to remember a deity from a separate religion every time flowers started to bud. And I feel like this last trick is what bugs me about Easter the most. More people attend church on Easter and Christmas than any other day of the year, whether they have a love of the truth in their hearts or not. I feel like this sudden need to practice some kind of religious spectacle is worse for the weight of the truth than if they had avoided church altogether.
Because it feels fake.
It reminds me of the moment Bilbo turns to Frodo and tells him that his long life feels empty. “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.” It’s like I’m watching an actor trying too hard to actually be his character. No matter how hard he acts, he will never be the star he wants people to think he is.
And this brings me to the title of this post. I remember reading fervently the Left Behind series of books when I was a teenager, completely enthralled in the first book, and totally lost by the fourth. I remember wondering how this could be the end of the world, and how the main character could possibly believe that by killing the Antichrist (capital “A”,) he could somehow be doing God’s will. I wondered how the authors missed the central message behind Jesus’ sermons and actions, and even his image as the suffering servant, to turn their laughable “hero” Rayford Steele into a caricature of fundamentalist America. And when I got to college, I wondered how my evangelistic upbringing, based primarily around the teachings of Jesus Christ, had produced such egotistical and self-serving individuals like myself. It was then that God began calling me back, I think, and it’s been a journey to discover His grace ever since.
The more I have buried myself in the life and teachings of Jesus, the more I realized that I may have been fooled for a very long time. God is not, as I previously imagined, a doting and lovable genie that grants strength and bullets to the fiercest defender of some popular theology. Men do that. Men give honor and glory to the man who is the best at what he does. And there have been some really fierce defenders of fundamentalist, evangelical America. Notice I did not add Christianity to the end of that sentence. These people have fooled MILLIONS in America, and I do not write that hyperbolically. They have convinced so many people, including myself at one point, that they were defending the ancient tenets of the faith, that I wondered, “how could they be so wrong?” And yet Jesus knew it would happen.
“For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect...Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”
Pretty strong words.
And here is where the greatest irony begins, and where Easter has become something of a lukewarm celebration of my country’s gullibility. Not that it is surprising, but simply disheartening. Millions of people have professed to believe the Jesus of America, complete with flag and rifle in hand, and millions of people have come to believe in the antichrist through American politics, slapped with the image of Jesus on them. Why is it that Christianity is the predominant religion of Republicans, the group most responsible for promoting self interests and the interest of the hard working individual, and the people promoting group interest is predominantly Democrats, a group of people whose religious allegiance is often questionable or even nonexistent?
I believe both groups are pursuing power for the wrong reasons, and they will never achieve the victory they think is so close all the time, but how can it be that the group who associates themselves with Christ is also the group who would be most likely to shoot you for being gay? That is weird. I think homosexuality is a sin, the same as adultery or greed, I just don’t believe that by forcing yourself to be heterosexual, you are somehow more holy.
“For ALL have fallen short of the glory of God.”
Following God is hard. That is what Jesus told us it would be like. People are going to hate and despise you. You have to deal with it. Slapping a Jesus bumper sticker on a pagan holiday doesn’t make it real. So I would like to urge people to be real. I want people to attempt to struggle, at least, with the possibility that Jesus will not protect you from imprisonment or danger, and that serving him will often mean letting go of so many dreams. It is very possible that the antichrists are here, actively working against the mission Jesus began with his death and resurrection on the cross so many years ago. Don’t be fooled by them. Don’t become twice the son of hell they are. The kingdom of God, until He returns, will be fully resisted while the world continues to follow its own passions and desires, and that means followers of Jesus will suffer.
But that is hard teaching. Hopefully the treasure is worth it.