"Don't Celebrate Easter!" (?)

My friend Brandon pointed me to this article last weekend:

It asks folks (Christians in particular) not to celebrate Easter, because it's a fixation on Jesus' death rather than his life and teaching.

What do you think of that?

Personally, I appreciate the sentiment. But only to an extent. I think Christians are WAY too focused on Christ's death. And it's POSSIBLE that we're too obsessed with the resurrection, too. But only if that obsession comes from that frustrating little fear of hellfire, damnation, Hades, eternal punishment, call-it-what-you-will...

Christianity, in my view, is not about a "free pass." Christianity is as much a responsibility as it is a gift. It is an exhortation to follow the Way of Jesus, to live a life of self-emptying, unconditional love, sacrifice, hope and peacefulness. This sort of holiness is quite literally a transcendent force in the world when it manifests truthfully.

By focusing on the death and resurrection of Christ, we may find reason for thankfulness, sorrow, repentance, and solidarity. But instead, such focus can often lead us down a path of self-condemnation, which ultimately translates into unspoken devaluing and condemnation of all people.

But this - for my personal faith - does not negate the crucial importance of Christ's death. A sacrifice of love. I could list for you all sorts of theories of atonement - reasons why the cross means so much. But I don't think any of those theories is complete or sufficient for our understanding of God's love and the power of the cross. But again, I don't see the cross as a symbol of my depravity, only of my insufficiency. It's not a symbol of God's judgment, but God's humility, mercy, and even God's chosen weakness.

All that said, I really enjoyed Erik Reece's treatise on ignoring Easter. He writes:

The fact is, American Christianity has historically been focused so obsessively on the Nicene Creed -- which says Jesus was the son of God, who was crucified for our sins and rose from the grave three days later -- that it never made much room for the actual teachings of this radical Jewish street preacher. This is why I'm against Easter. It celebrates the death of Jesus nearly to the exclusion of his life. If the Easter miracle can save us from this life, then why bother with the harder work of enacting the kingdom of God here? It is, after all, much harder.

Click here to

Still I'll say: "Happy Easter to you all!" Just keep it in perspective, because that Jesus-guy said some pretty great stuff...


A. D. Hunt said...

It is my opinion that though Jesus' 'teachings' are of course profound and challenging, they are not incredibly unique. There are teachings which are just as moral in most of the great religions. Plus, locating Jesus historically asks that we re-read many of his teachings eschatologically and not merely ethically.

Turning life in the Spirit into mere Jesus-rule following is to transform Jesus from the fulfillment of the law into a new type of law (which Matthew may have been trying to do in his own unique way) which seems strange to me. "Following" Jesus is more improvisation than imitation, taking the trajectory of his Gospel and applying it to the unique situations that we face. Situations which are drastically different than they were then.

It seems to me that evangelicals focus too much on one particular aspect of Jesus crucifixion, and morbidly turn the resurrection into a weird 'proof' that there is life after death. But that is there fault. The Holy Week, crowned by the Resurrection is the focal point of the whole of Christianity, without it Jesus is reduced to a nice guy; who, if you read the gospels closely, wasn't even always that nice!

Sorry for the long comment and predictably traditional position.


Brent said...

I agree with most all you said Pete. I also like what A.D. said but not sure what he is saying about evangelicals focusing on turning it into life after death.

I personally think Catholicism has done more harm to the crucifixion than the Evangelicals. They still have Jesus on the cross. If that is what they want I don't care. I like my Jesus ascended into heaven so the Holy Spirit can be here to help me.

Josh Mueller said...

Why is their such a great imbalance in the 4 gospels already, reporting quite disproportionally the death and resurrection in comparison with the rest of Jesus' life and teaching?

If I had to answer that question, I would say that they themselves felt most empowered by what Christ did for them as opposed to just try and follow His teaching. Peter's example is living prove of this. I think there is a reason why he wrote later in his first letter, "Set your hope fully on grace ..." (1:13).

Sue Van Stelle said...

OK, so let me get this straight. Because a certain segment of the Christian population seems to get part of the meaning of Easter wrong, we're supposed to stop celebrating Easter.

Wouldn't that sort of be like cutting off my arm because it's broken?

The errors of American Evangelicalism have nothing to do with the Nicene Creed or the liturgical calendar. The first job of anyone who wishes to produce a cure is to accurately diagnose the problem.

Perhaps the problem with Evangelicalism is that it hasn't celebrated Easter enough. Or that it doesn't understand it in the first place.

nate said...

Hmmm....I'll have to disagree. Besides the fact that Easter, in the Christian sense, is a celebration of the everlasting life of Christ (the tomb was empty...he conquered death), Paul states that partial purpose of the Eucharist, a teaching/commandment of Jesus, was to proclaim Christ's death perpetually till he returns. Paul, apparently, recieved this instruction from Christ himself.

Paul was spot on when he said the cross was a stumbling block.

David Henson said...

This is exactly what I've been arguing with folks this Easter season (and before). Christianity, all of it, interprets Jesus life through his death, rather than his death through his life.

Jesus didn't live so that he could die. He died because of the way he lived. And his challenge to us (which I run screaming from because I'm chicken shit) is to do the exact same thing.

Jesus didn't come to settle some freakish cosmic score or to trounce the powers of oppression by his death. Jesus shows us what it is like to live in radical love with our fellow humans, stick up for the oppressed, and what happens when we do it.

To me, the two most important holidays of Christianity -- Easter and Christmas -- are the two least critical to the faith. They are great holidays, high drama and terrific, deep stories, but have little to do with the day-in-day-out Way that Jesus showed.

Peter said...

David! Wonderful, yes: "Christianity, all of it, interprets Jesus life through his death, rather than his death through his life." Just as we interpret Jesus through so many other Biblical voices (e.g. Paul) rather than the other way around!

Sue, I think it would be a serious shame to dismiss Easter because of a few mistakes of the Evangelical church. And that may be the assertion of the article writer, but it's not mine. I like the idea of "fasting" from certain practices, behaviors and even celebrations - if it means sharpening our senses and helping us reapproach our traditions with fresh eyes and deepened appreciation. I'm reminded of Matt Redman's church giving up music (inspiring "I'm coming back tot he heart of worship" after a year without song) and of Pete Rollins' giving up CHRISTIANITY for Lent.

Tony! Nothing wrong with being "predictably traditional." Thanks for sharing, and I agree: there is far more to Jesus than "unique teaching."

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