I vowed that I would think positively all day on Easter, even about right-wing Christian fundamentalists who want to shove their chosen religion down everybody’s throat. But my vow ended when I chanced to hear a few minutes of the Jeff Kropf talk show on Portland’s KXL.
Kropf, a conservative Oregon state representative, started off by extolling the glory of Easter and the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. That was fine with me. He was expressing his personal religious beliefs positively and passionately. Nothing wrong with that.
But then he got rolling on the Terri Schiavo case. He said that it was an outrage for Schiavo to be starved to death on Easter weekend. He called her devoted husband, Michael, a scumbag. So much for his expression of Christian love.
During the past week I’ve watched a lot of television interviews with the Schindlers, Terri Schiavo’s parents, and with Michael Schiavo. I’ve never heard Michael make a single negative comment about the Schindlers, while they and their children say horrible untrue things about him.
Go figure. The people who are claiming to be the most godly act the most hatefully. Michael Schiavo doesn’t broadcast his faith through a bullhorn; he simply acts out with dignity and compassion his love for Terri. Which gets me to the title of this post: Jesus’ resurrection—does it matter if it happened?
This was the question that a caller to Kropf’s show asked when Kropf took a break from his ranting about Michael Schiavo and taking back America from judicial activists, and talked to a listener. The man, whose name was Steve, I believe, said that he was a history major. He had spent a lot of time reading books on both sides of the “Was Jesus for real?” debate.
His considered conclusion was that it doesn’t matter. What mattered, said Steve, was Jesus’ message, not the man.
This made great good sense to me, but Kropf went bananas. “What do you mean, it doesn’t matter?! If Jesus wasn’t resurrected from the dead, then there is no Christianity!” Steve respectfully disagreed.
“Let’s suppose for the sake of argument,” said Steve, “that Jesus was a charming con man. He was a great talker who could persuade people that he was the son of God. He said all the right things, convincingly. When he died, his followers missed him so much they imagined that he had come back to life. So what? What is important is Jesus’ message, not the man. He taught love. If people learn from him the importance of love, then it doesn’t matter whether Jesus was resurrected, for his teachings live on.”
Steve clearly had thought much more about the essence of Christianity than most fundamentalist Christians have. It was obvious that Kropf didn’t have a clue what Steve was talking about. So Kropf thanked him for phoning in and went on, I assume, to speak with less challenging callers (I turned the radio off to preserve what was left of my Easter spirit).
I wonder if holier-than-thou Christians like Kropf really listen to themselves. Do they ever wonder about the incongruity between their purported beliefs and their evident actions? When they call Michael Schiavo a scumbag, a murderer, a wife abuser, do they ever think, “What would Jesus say?”
It doesn’t matter if Jesus actually lived if Christians can’t live out the loving teachings that he left them. It doesn’t matter if Jesus really rose from the dead if Christians can’t rise above hate, egotism, and sanctimoniousness.
Plus, ritualism. Kropf was all over Michael Schiavo because he didn’t give permission for his wife to receive communion today. So what? She received communion when her feeding tube was removed. And does Kropf believe that God is going to love Terri any less because a few drops of wine, or whatever, failed to enter her body?
Isn’t the soul more important than the body? Kropf called America a “culture of death” because in this country we allow people like Terri Schiavo to die with dignity. I call this a culture of life.
Every authentic spiritual tradition recognizes that the body is a shell for the spirit. Soul can exist apart from the physical frame. Each of us should take good care of our God-given body for as long as it is habitable, but when it is worn out, there is more divinity in letting go than in clinging.
Here’s a quote from a “pagan” Greek mystic philosopher, Porphyry. To me he sounds much more Christian than a lot of Christians.
Nature releases what nature has bound. The soul releases what the soul has bound. Nature binds the body to the soul, but it is the soul herself that has bound herself to the body. It, therefore, belongs to nature to detach the body from the soul, while it is the soul herself that detaches herself from the body.
…Likewise to receive life and to lose it, to feel passions that are its consequence, can refer only to the composite of soul and body. Nothing similar could happen to the soul, for she is not something compounded out of life and lifelessness; she is life itself…Let then your mind follow after God, and let the soul follow the mind, and let the body be subservient to the soul as far as may be, the pure body serving the pure soul
…Now the divine law cries aloud in the pure region of the mind: “Unless you consider that your body is joined to you as the outer covering to the child in the womb and the stalk to the sprouting corn, you can not know yourself!” Nor can anyone know himself who does not hold this opinion. As the outer covering grows with the child, and the stalk with the corn, yet, when they come to maturity, both are cast away, thus too the body which is fastened to the soul at birth is not a part of the man.
…Often men cast off certain parts of the body; be ready for the soul’s safety to cast away the whole body. Hesitate not to die for whose sake you are willing to live.