Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Resurrection, the Da Vinci Code, or a third scenario?







In honour of Easter Sunday, and remembering all the hoopla last year over the film version of Dan Brown's controversial novel "The Da Vinci Code", I wanted to reflect on the whole idea of what Christendom has hung its entire reputation on, and why I think it might be a fraud.

First things first, I was raised in the Community of Christ (formerly RLDS) since toddlerhood, as I was a fifth generation member of this faith community. I was taught all the standard ideas of Christianity...the virgin birth, the crucifiction (I know it's spelled another way, but I like to emphasize the "fiction" aspect), and the resurrection. When we lived in places where there weren't an RLDS congregation around, we attended another protestant church, where the confusion only grew when I learned that no one around me had heard of the Jaredites (when we discussed the Tower of Babel) or even of Nephi and his family, who fled Jerusalem in 600 B.C. What I learned was more evangelical ideas, particularly the obsession with asking people if they are "saved."

Somewhere in my adolescence, partly due to a rebellion I had against my father making me attend youth group meetings with these evangelical hypocrites, and partly because my hero at the time was an atheist teacher I had for government class...the ideas surrounding the whole "atonement sacrifice" for the "original sin" no longer made any sense to me. That is to say, since I didn't really believe in Adam and Eve for as long as I remember (2nd grade?), the whole idea that God would tell them they could eat of anything except from that one tree, which bore the fruit of knowledge. I always saw knowledge as a good thing. Ignorance as a bad thing. What's wrong with it? Had God told me not to eat of the fruit of knowledge, the first thing I would have done would eat it. I wouldn't have been like dumb Adam, who had to be convinced by Eve to partake it. Give me the damn thing and bring on the enlightenment, baby! So, that's problem number one. Well, actually, several problems: (1) that God who created all would be ignorant of the fact that telling a person that they can't have something only makes such thing more desireable; (2) that if God truly didn't want humans to partake the fruit, he could have made it poisonous (didn't they have poison ivy back then? Or mistletoe?); and (3) that God preferred humans to live in ignorance than enlightenment.

Anyhow, a few years ago, it dawned on me that the story was probably a metaphor for drugs. When I received my most significant spiritual experience, I was in ecstasy for about a month. I've never taken drugs, but I understood why people use it. They want to feel what I felt, but I achieved my bliss through spiritual hard work (it had come after a year of being in the shadows of despair), not the instantaneous gratification of a pill or vapour or powder or weed. When I pondered the Adam and Eve story, it hit me that the only sin they committed was that they wanted to attain spiritual knowledge/enlightenment the easy way. By partaking of the fruit, they'd suddenly know all...instead of having to do the hard work to attain it. So, that is essentially how I now view the Adam and Eve story. A precautionary tale against the easy promises that drugs and anything else that's a quick fix offers.

The flaw of Christianity, though, is that they have based the entire belief system on Adam and Eve being literally true people who walked this earth a mere 6,000 years ago. And that their partaking of the fruit of knowledge was a sin. So that's where the idea of Jesus' atoning sacrifice comes in. That all of us are descendants of Adam and Eve, thus we are all guilty of that original sin and in need of a saviour to take away the sins from us because his innocent blood was sacrificed in the resurrection. Sorry, I have a hard time believing that. The reason is because I don't believe God is imperfect. Only an imperfect God would make such a ridiculous requirement in the first place. First, why would God hold all human beings responsible for something that two people have done thousands of years ago? Where's personal accountability fit in? Secondly, why would God make the requirement that the most spiritually perfect person would have to be sacrificed in order to "wipe away that sin" for all humanity? Again, that's unfair to make a perfect person the scapegoat for our sins, and it also takes away the responsibility of each individual for the sins that they commit. By marrying the two stories together, Emperor Constantine and the early Christians did a huge disservice to Christianity. It became about a false idea in which one had to be "saved" by acknowledging Jesus as one's personal saviour in order to gain admittance into the heavenly afterlife. Instead of each person paying for their own sins (through the law of karma..."what a person sows, so shall he/she reap"), they have turned Jesus into a sacrificial lamb, a scapegoat in which a mass murderer can confess on his deathbed and accept "Jesus as Lord and Saviour", while a spiritual person like Gandhi, who followed the faith of his ancestors, is doomed to an eternity in hell. Sorry...the story doesn't wash!

So, here's what I believe about Jesus. He was the most spiritually advanced person on the planet. He didn't come to earth to create a new religion, but to correct the mistakes of the one he was born into (Judaism). It had become a rule-obsessed religion which ignored the needs of the people as followers sought to live by the letter of the law instead of the spirit of the law. Because he violated so many of their laws by conversing with gentiles, women, lepers, slaves, and the like, he was seen as a threat by the pharisees and the sadducees. He had to be removed, assassinated, essentially. Rome wasn't threatened by him, but they were afraid of a Jewish uprising, so they placated the pharisees and had him executed. What happens next is a mystery. Did he resurrect? Did he fake his own death, married Mary Magdalene and moved to the French Riviera? Or did he just die a martyr and his followers were so shocked and saddened by his death that they refused to believe it? That they carried on his legacy, laying the groundwork for what would eventually become one of the world's three most significant religions?

Since none of us were around at the time of the crucifiction, it begs the question: why would God make a requirement that in order to live for eternity in heaven, one had to profess to believe that the resurrection of Jesus is true? Why is "belief" more important than one's actions? Such a requirement is unfair for untold billions who have lived from the time of Jesus until the 20th century, who have never heard of Jesus. And then there's the idea that missionaries who bring "the Good News" to heathen lands are condemning those who reject this foreign concept to eternity in hell. Where is the spiritual justice in that? In my spiritual study, I find it hard to believe that a universal and just God would ever base one's eternal standing on a mere belief. Too many people believe the wrong things, and we're counting on religious historians over the centuries to have pure motives in what they decided to include and exclude from the Holy Bible. And then there's the fact that there were many good German Christians who supported Adolf Hitler and what he did to the Jews, and a great many Hindus who followed Gandhi in caring for the poor and downtrodden. How does a Christian explain all that? What is just and what is unjust?

So...in honour of Jesus this Easter Sunday, I hope we will reflect more on why we believe so easily the traditions we are taught, without examining if those beliefs make logical sense or not? None of us were around at the time of Christ, so it would make sense that God would not judge us on what we believe may have happened or not have happened on that first Easter Sunday, but that God would judge us only on how we treat one another and if we lived up to the words we promised other people and God. That's true faith. Being tolerant of non-Christian religions and not trying to convert everyone to Christianity is the way to pursue peace in our world. After all, none of will truly know the truth of this planet's history until we're all up there in heaven to receive the unbiased account from our spiritual teachers.

With that, Happy Easter...however you celebrate it!

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